Cycle Wayfinding to convert the masses

Journey planning apps for cyclists are preaching to the converted. In order to convert the masses to cycling a broader approach to cycle wayfinding is necessary.

The best cycle wayfinding system would enable a local authority to decide the best and safest routes for cycling, then get people to use them. These recommendations would be combined with Strava-type data about actual users for maximum value. This system would also allow investments in infrastructure to be flagged, publicised and its use encouraged.

So how do you convert the masses using cycle wayfinding?


Cycle wayfinding guiding principles

The following principles were established in a study for Transport for London. The study was carried out by Arup in 2010.

Journey planning information

  • Should offer complete routes with clear information and journey type options.
  • Safety hot-spots should be clearly marked with alternative options available.

On-street signage

  • Should stand out and be easily identifiable.
  • Cyclists should not be required to stop often, interrupting their journey.
  • Clear instructions are required, especially where space is shared with pedestrians.
  • Cyclists need regular reassurance that they are on the right route, and in the safest position.
  • Areas which are dangerous to cyclists require advance warning and alternative suggestions.

On-street maps

  • Should have an optimal amount of detail to assess safety conditions at a large scale.
  • The most relevant landmarks for cycling should be clearly marked to aid orientation.

Other on-street signage

  • Should be consistent and easy to identify as belonging to a single system.
  • Cyclists require regular confirmation of their route.
  • Different signage types can link together as part of a larger system.
  • Distances are important information for cyclists.

Temporary and digital information

  • Should be used to highlight disruptions and dangers to cyclists, with suggestions for safer routes.


Good cycle wayfinding examples:

Directional signage and cycle safety warnings are combined with a small network map in these consistent, eye-catching designs by Aspect Studios.

Merri Creek Trail, Victoria, Australia

Merri Creek Trail, Victoria, Australia by Aspect Studios (Photographer Andrew Lloyd)


This visually strong directional signage can be used to compliment a wider system and reassures riders while allowing them to keep cycling. Cardinal directions are colour coded and landmarks are referenced to help cyclists draw a mental map in their mind. Wayfinding like this makes cycling more predictable, efficient and enjoyable.

Winner of the 2011 ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers) Design Award, Jun Kwon

Winner of the 2011 ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers) Design Award, Jun Kwon


A set of different information types can be used to follow cycle journeys to their conclusion. A system which starts with “station this way” then follows up with visual reminders should be carefully thought through and needs managing.

Frome Street Bikeway, Adelaide, Australia by Aspect Studios

Frome Street Bikeway, Adelaide, Australia by Aspect Studios (Photography: Don Brice)


Distance and gradient information, as well as consistent and easily identified information characterise this cycle wayfinding system by Maitena Goitia.

Geopark Cycle Network, Torbay (UK) by Maitena Goitia

Geopark Cycle Network, Torbay (UK) by Maitena Goitia


Safety hot-spots should be clearly marked with alternative options available, as in this example from Portland, USA.

Portland bike map

Portland Bike/Walk map


Maps should show enough detail to assess safety conditions. This New York cycle map, part of the WalkNYC wayfinding system, is an example of such high level detail.

Walk NYC bike map

WalkNYC city wayfinding system


Distances are important information for cyclists. This example from the Legible London wayfinding system shows a clear indication of journey times as a schematic representation along a recommended cycle route.

Legible London cycle information

Legible London city wayfinding system


A system for managing the above

A comprehensive cycle wayfinding system such as these requires careful planning and management. Each information type, including cycle symbols and arrows, are wayfinding assets which contribute to the whole.

A core cycle information database is the best way to store all the planned and existing infrastructure in one place.

The Legible London and WalkNYC examples above use a core database to store the data in such a way that it can be used directly on cycle wayfinding information. This has the following advantages:

  • Zoom to different scales as appropriate as the data is aligned to a range of map scales
  • Consistency across all information types includes harmonising with pedestrian wayfinding and public transport information
  • An Abundance of maps is possible from the system, which offers economies of scale
  • Formats are adaptable to suit a complete range of wayfinding information

A well planned and managed system for cycle wayfinding, using well organised data, will go a long way towards converting the masses and creating a cycling culture.

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