Cycle Mapping in the UK and the ‘London Cycle Map’

Henrietta Sherwin, S. Melia

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This scoping report explores issues around cycle mapping and the use of maps by cyclists, potential cyclists and organisations seeking to promote cycling, including particularly, local authorities. It also seeks to evaluate the experience of an individual innovator, Simon Parker, in his efforts to promote a ‘tube style’ cycle map for London-the London Cycle Map. Part 1 explores broader issues around cycle mapping, through a literature review and interviews with stakeholders from local authorities, map-makers and cycling organisations. Sections 15 and 16 focus on cycle mapping and signage in London. Part 2 evaluates and analyses the specific experience of the innovator, drawing on the literature on policy communities and diffusion of innovation. The study revealed a diversity of representational styles in cycle mapping in the UK. This partly reflects the lack of national standards, around what constitutes a ‘cycle route’ or a ‘traffic free route’, for example. Cycle maps in the UK vary from, general purpose maps, such as those published by Ordnance Survey (OS) to schematic maps such as the Edinburgh cycle tube map (Figure 10, page 23), which are intended more for promotion than wayfinding. Many local authorities and some cycling organisations have produced maps to promote their cycling infrastructure. Some are schematic; others are grafted onto a detailed map base as in Bristol (Figure 1 page 10). The Bristol map and wayfinding system also uses colour-coded routes, similar to, but simpler and more limited than, the London Cycle Map. Cyclenation, the Federation of Cycle Campaign Groups in the UK and Ireland, produce a map (Figure 8, page 19) that grades roads according to their suitability for cycling. Public authorities and organisations with a valuable brand, such as Ordnance Survey have embraced open data maps, with some limitations, but not open source (where the public creates the data). Quality control and the commercial, political and possible legal consequences of misleading representations are the key concerns. Demand for paper maps has remained more resilient than some in the industry expected, despite the growth of online and mobile forms of wayfinding. Some of the stakeholders identified shortcomings of mobile wayfinding technology, such as vulnerability to breakdown and the inability to show the ‘big picture’. The limited available research suggests cyclists are mixing use of a growing range of tools, in which paper maps are likely to have a place for the foreseeable future. Cycle mapping and cycle routes are highly political issues, particularly in London, with the division of responsibilities between TfL and the boroughs. Localism is likely to make coordination and agreement on common standards more difficult in the immediate future. There was little evidence in the literature or the interviews of systematic evaluation of different styles of mapping: paper-based or electronic. A systematic trial is now needed. The interviewees expressed different views about the London Cycle Map. Parker’s concept is about more than a map. It implies a fundamental change in approach to the development of cycle routes. As an individual outsider to the ‘cycling policy community’, he has understandably struggled to gain acceptance for his ideas. As online and mobile wayfinding systems continue to develop, the principles behind this Map: its grid form and use of colours, would also merit a trial.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIdeas in Transit
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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