Two-way cycling in one way streets

two way cycling in one way roads

One-way systems that were created to prevent rat-running in residential streets can force cyclists to take long detours, often onto busier roads.

We recognised early on the benefits of allowing cyclists to use some one way streets in both directions and put in a number of conventional contra flow cycling systems comprising of small islands in the road and cycle lanes. However, the heavy demand for kerbside parking and the narrowness of many side roads made it increasingly difficult for us to provide more contra flow cycling in this way. So we decided that where there was sufficient space for cyclists to cycle against the traffic flow, safely, we would make provisions to allow them to do it.

In 2009, we began a trial allowing cyclists to travel against the flow in five one-way streets. We did this without installing expensive contra flow cycle lanes and splitter islands at the entrances to the roads. In the two busiest streets we put in cycle lanes, but in the other roads we made no dividing line between cyclists and oncoming vehicles; cyclists were left to navigate their own paths. This was a far more cost effective and visually attractive option than the old style contra flow cycle layouts and did not result in the loss of much needed kerbside parking. two way cycling sign

Initially the Department of Transport (DfT) required us to use the so-called ‘flying motorcycle’ sign to show that motor traffic was not allowed to enter these streets. However, our monitoring showed that too many motorists did not understand this sign, and we persuaded the DfT to allow us, and other boroughs, to use the more intuitive combination of ‘No Entry’ signs with a smaller ‘Except cycles’ sign underneath.

We carefully monitored road safety statistics in the participating one-way streets and found that two-way cycling in one-way roads poses no more of a danger to motorists, pedestrians or cyclists than traditional contra flow schemes.

By April 2012 we had 16 sections of one-way street where cyclists can travel in both directions, as well as other roads with older contra flow lanes. We plan to extend the scheme further across the borough to other appropriate one-way streets. We believe that allowing two-way cycling in more one-way streets will be especially useful in creating new “Quietways” for cyclists – a key part of the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling.  

If you know a road where you think this system may work to benefit cyclists please tell us at [email protected].

Last updated: 8 March 2022