How user experience might influence design choices when providing for cyclists

I am not an engineer or a designer, but I cycle to work frequently and have been thinking about my how user experience might influence design choices when providing for cyclists. While I am not designer, I lead the development of business cases which often consider how to provide for cyclists and so I have an opportunity to influence the design outcome.

I live in Christchurch, which is generally flat with a mostly grid road network that has many route options. My ride to work is 10km each way and along that journey I ride on a 60km/hr arterial road, a quiet rural road, under a state highway, and along a bunch of urban roads with various characteristics from 40,000 vehicles a day to a neighbourhood greenway with 1,800 vehicles a day.

My number one fear is parked cars and a door opening in front of me. This is amplified when there is no cycle lane or no space between narrow parking and narrow traffic lanes on busy roads. We refer to this as minimums on minimums where the compromise is to provide minimum standards for everyone, but generally no one wins and certainly not the cyclist who is the most vulnerable in a crash. I haven’t been ‘’car-doored’’ but I have seen it happen to others and it doesn’t look fun. Strangely, this is more concerning than the moving traffic coming up behind me, except for young people in stolen cars deliberately hitting cyclists, which was a concerning trend here for a while. I also avoid locations where left turning traffic passes over the cycle lane, as you never know whether drivers are looking or not. And when they do let you through, often another driver will attempt to take advantage of that space.

I took some photos on my ride to work to demonstrate the different environments I cycle in.

Stephen's Route 1

This rural road has no road markings at all, but with only 500 vehicles a day I rarely come across any vehicles, so I feel very comfortable and enjoy the scenery and fresh air. I haven’t come across the traffic responsible for the skid marks on the road.

In this environment I don’t feel the need for any delineation for cyclists.



This is a major traffic route with 18,000 vehicles a day with a 60km/hr speed limit. It could be considered a hostile environment for cyclists, but with wide cycle lanes, a median between wide traffic lanes, no parking and few vehicle accesses I don’t mind it too much, except for the fumes and occasional road kill. I acknowledge that in this section, the discomfort of riding next to faster moving traffic will discourage some people from cycling here.

Stephen's Route 2
Stephen's Route 3

This is part of the Papanui Parallel Cycleway, one of the major cycle routes in Christchurch. This section is a neighbourhood greenway which has traffic calming and a speed limit of 30km/hr. You can see a row of cyclists ahead of me making the most of the route. With only 1,800 vehicles a day I feel comfortable taking the lane which is marked with sharrows.

Further along the Papanui Parallel Cycleway it changes to a fully separated cycleway where it is nice not to worry about vehicles at all. There are a lot of vehicle accesses, but I rarely come across a vehicle in the cycleway and residents are familiar with looking out for cyclists – just need to mind delivery vehicles which are concerned with getting in and out quickly. One thing to think about with this solution is rubbish days and where bins will be placed and how they will be picked up.

At this point it is a two-way separated cycleway, but it changes to a one-way separated cycleway on each side of the road with dedicated traffic signals that are triggered by approaching cyclists. This section carries up to 400 cyclists each way per day, demonstrating that good facilities attract cyclists.

Stephen's Route 4

I like to change my route to keep it interesting and find the optimal route. Sometimes I want the most direct route with long straight sections but one of those commonly has broken glass on the road, which I now avoid after a puncture. Another section sometimes has overgrown trees forcing me into the lane, so maintenance plays a role in route choice as well. Other times I will seek out a route with less traffic or separated cycle facilities. In writing this blog, I have identified a new route to try out which makes the most of new separated cycle paths constructed alongside the new northern motorway.

I am thankful that Christchurch has a good cycle network that continues to grow, but I still feel like I am taking a risk when choosing to cycle. So, all the little things we can do to improve the cycle networks will hopefully make us safer and encourage more people to cycle.

What is important to you on your cycle route?

Feel free to check out our Cycle Routing Tool, which gives you three alternatives to help plan your cycle journey: the fastest route, the quietest route, which prefers safer off-road facilities and avoids busy roads, and a balanced route which trades off between the two.

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