What is it and what does it mean for disabled and family cyclists?

Disabled cyclists, family cyclists and cargo cyclists have been handed a welcome boost with the recent publication of a new Highways England Interim Advice Note (IAN), which promises to open up cycling to a much wider group of people.

The new standard, which was issued in October and will apply to motorways and trunk roads in England, is nothing less than a breakthrough moment for inclusive cycling campaigners. This particular IAN is important as it recognises, for the first time, the need to make specific provisions for all kind of cycles: encapsulated by the umbrella term ‘Cycle Design Vehicle’, which is inclusive of all shapes and sizes of cycles (e.g. tricycles, handcycles, tandems, cargobikes and, of course, the standard bicycle). It marks a significant coup for disabled and family cyclists, who are the two groups most likely to use non-standard cycles.

Specifically, the new IAN lays out detailed design criteria for the Cycle Design Vehicle, including dimensions and turning circles, and a definition of it being 2.8m long and 1.2m wide. It also takes into account the differences in eyeline, speed and road positioning experienced by cyclists using wider, longer and heavier cycles, as well as those who are lower to the ground. Noticeably, the new advice also acknowledges some of the physical barriers faced by users of non-standard cycles, such as bollards, anti-motorcycle barriers and bridges (which can be restrictive in terms of width, narrow turning circles and gradients etc.) – putting forward a number of positive and inclusive solutions that will improve both the safety and comfort of disabled and family cyclists alike.

IANs are used in conjunction with both the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) and Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works (MCHW). They are also legal standards, which is why this new IAN is especially important. It means that the needs of disabled and family cyclists are being officially recognised and enshrined in law. It marks a small but significant shift beyond the bicycle and towards a cycling culture that seeks to embrace the majority, not just the few.

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