Designing for Bicycle based Mobility

Bicycle users in cities of India generally constitute a relatively high modal share of intra-city trips. However, there has been a consistent lack of prioritisation in terms of policy incentives and investment in bicycle infrastructure over the last few decades. This coupled with the growing length of commutes and aspirations of upward mobility in terms of owning a motorised vehicle has halved the modal share in moderate and large Indian cities to only about 13 to 21 percent today (Tiwari & Jain, IUTJ, December 2008).
In the last 10 years, there has been a marked rise in investments within the realm of urban transport in India. After development of significant automobile infrastructure has not had the desired effect, there have been calls for a renewed focus on sustainable modes such as mass public transit, bicycles and pedestrian prioritisation. With the development of Smart Cities in India, bicycle based planning can feature as an important part in developing and promoting cities with core infrastructure, a decent quality of life for its citizens and a clean and sustainable environment. It would truly follow the recommendations of the National Urban Transport Policy by moving people and not vehicles.
Successful bicycle based planning is focused on elements of planning, legislation, infrastructure and advocacy. However, from a design perspective one needs to understand the various considerations that would need to be included to create a safe and user-friendly system. Bicycles can be used for three different types of usage that would require different design considerations

1. Transit mode

2. Local neighbourhood commutes and last mile transit connector

3. Leisure and exercise

System Planning

The fundamental difference in planning for each of the types listed above is the style of system that would be needed which are dependent on the network type. In all three, the specifications for the surface would need to be such that it is even and continuous with no level changes without a ramp of minimum gradient 1:12. If combined with the sidewalk, they should be of a texture of a sufficient coefficient of roughness to be anti-skid and of a colour to visually distinguish it from the space reserved for pedestrians. The potential system designs for the bicycle network as detailed below are based on the degree of separation from other modes that depend on the design speed of the road or street.

Segregated Lanes

To serve as a city level transit mode, bicyclists would need to use arterial roads for some parts of their commute. Given the higher speed of vehicular traffic on these roads, it is desirable to have physically segregated lanes for bicycles to ensure user safety. These could be designed as a part of the carriageway or the sidewalk depending on the volume of bicyclists. Based on the design speed of the road, segregation could be designed as road markings/striping, raised strips, planting or bollards or combinations of the same with the former being for slower design speeds and the latter for faster.
The segregated lanes may be designed as single direction or bi-directional, including a contra-flow lane. A two-way lane is preferred especially where the road width is such that crossing is difficult and requires significant wait at a signalised intersection. Two-way lanes reduce the length needed to be travelled by a cyclist, but requires an increase in the minimum width provision for the lane from 2.1 metres to 2.5 metres. If there are relatively lower volumes of cyclists, it may also be possible to have two-way lanes only on one side of the road.

Shared Streets

Short distance commutes that take place within neighbourhoods characterised by streets of narrow width and slower traffic may have bicycle users use the same street network as a shared street with mixed traffic. These could generally cater to neighbourhood level commutes for daily needs and local destinations. Also, the influence zone of a mass rapid transit system can increase to around three times in area (from a radius of 500 metres by walk to one of 1500 metres by bicycle) if bicycles can be used a feeder instead of solely walks. Bicycles as a feeder system would need to be supported with ancillary infrastructure that would be covered subsequently.

Alternate Routes

Cyclists of leisure and exercise generally use a system at off peak hours when other traffic is scarce. As there is no particular destination or route involved, it is difficult to plan for these users as part of the street network. However, a system that includes alternate routes for bicycles that run in tandem with the regular motorised routes are preferred by these users as they have a lower possibility of interruptions of vehicular traffic. These could be greenways through large city level green open spaces or could also be streets that are closed off to vehicular traffic. While alternate routes definitely serve leisure activities, if planned with the rest of the city, they can also work for the other use requirements by allowing these users to cut across portions of the city unhindered by vehicles. Sharing of such a network would require larger widths of bicycle tracks to allow commuters to bypass sociable riders who may bicycle parallel to each other and at a slower pace.

Ancillary Infrastructure

Additional infrastructure outside that of the physical one needed for bicycling is required to create feasible environments for the comfortable usage of a bicycle. Without these, significant portions of potential cyclists are left out due to concern for equipment safety and/or capital investment.


An extremely important part of planning for bicycle mobility (which is routinely ignored) is the provision of safe and secure parking for the bicycles. This becomes a major deterrent in choosing the bicycle as a mode choice. Even where bicycle parking is provided, it is often in the most inaccessible part of the building, even though it needs very little space as compared to larger vehicles. Parking systems need to have the option of both short-term and long-term provisions – the latter required especially for the bicycle to act as a feeder system. Without long-term bicycle parking, the only other way bicycles can act as a feeder is if the bicycle can be carried onto the mass transit network. While provision of parking may not always be possible in the public domain, it must be mandated as a part of the parking requirements with preferably more accessible locations allocated to bicycles.


In addition to provision of the physical infrastructure, occasional users and users unwilling to invest in a personal bicycle can be incentivised to use a bicycle if provided as a rental. However, instead of relying on a rental system, where loan and return is usually at the same location, a share system is preferred, as it could be picked up and dropped off at various locations along the system. This would incentivise potential last mile users and commuters to also use the system rather than only neighbourhood users who would be using the bicycle only within the range of a rental location. Costs of the system – both in terms of capital investment and maintenance – could be cross-subsidised by leveraging advertising revenue on the bicycles and also on the rental locations.


Ensuring safety and security of the users of a bicycle system is critical. The issue must be addressed across the system at every stage, particularly at conflict points with other modes of transportation.

Street Lighting

Provision of street lighting for bicycles is needed for multiple reasons – increased visibility of bicyclists, who usually tend to be less visible than other vehicles – due to their negligible surface area, thereby reducing potential night-time accidents and personal injuries; reducing the bicyclists being blinded by the headlights of oncoming vehicles due to an otherwise stark difference in brightness of the two environments; social inclusion by enabling the use of amenities without fear (due to increased visibility); and promoting personal fitness by encouraging bicycling outside daylight hours.
It is generally found suitable to combine street lighting for bicycles with that of pedestrians such that they are low mast (3-4 metres height) with full cut-off fixtures and so that their spread overlaps and there are no dark spots that would tend to become problem areas. A luminaire of around 20-25 lux is recommended.

Street Markings

Other than demarcation of bicycle lanes in visually segregated systems, street markings are required to encourage adherence to bicycle priority zones – both lanes and crossings. It is important that these markings are easily visible during the day and night so their colour and material should be chosen such that they contrast with the road surface and also reflect some amount of light ensuring their visibility at night. A common material used in India is thermoplastic paint which is also used for centreline and lane markings on vehicular roads.

The markings should not only demarcate the extents of the bicycle lane but also indicate in words and symbols that the zone is reserved or prioritised for bicycles. At times, the entire stretch or repeated sections of the lane are marked in solid fill. If done as repeated sections, they should be in patches of at least 5 metres and not be more than 25 metres apart from each other. Colours that are used generally are green, blue or at times red. Alternately, glass beads may to added to the road mix to allow continuous low intensity reflectivity.


Alongside markings, it is important to reinforce regulations and information with the use of signage. Like regular traffic signage, these would include mandatory signs that indicate what users should do rather than what not to; regulatory signs like no parking, no entry etc.; priority signs like stop and give way; information signs of lanes and crossings, whether one-way or two-way, shared or dedicated; caution and warning signage; and direction and service signage. The style in terms of colour, font and size may vary as per City and State regulations. However, if specifications are missing in terms of signage, specifically for bicycles, it should be ensured that these are at a height and in a size visible to users on a bicycle.

Intersection design

Bicycle accidents are most common at conflict points with other vehicles. In segregated systems, this tends to be generally at intersections where bicyclists and motorised vehicles cross streets and traffic. It is imperative that intersection design is done carefully to reduce the occurrence of incidents and injuries.
There are generally three ways to physically deal with intersections depending on the intensity and speed of vehicular traffic though these must be supplemented with markings and signage as discussed earlier. First, signalised intersections with either separate signal phases for bicycles, which may be combined with the pedestrian phase or alternatively bicycle phases combined with the phase for vehicles. The latter however, can only work if supplemented with ‘no free left’ turns. If provided in areas with a low volume of bicyclists, pelican signals that allow green bicycle phases only on demand are preferred.

When bicycle movement is combined with vehicles, bicycles requiring to turn right would require the second model of intersection design which are bike boxes that allow bicycles with a safe and visible way to get ahead of queuing traffic during a red signal phase. Third are protected intersections, which can be used in lower traffic intensity zones, which slows down the traffic at intersection, allowing safe passage. This works by creating a corner refuge island that allows increased reaction time and visibility.

Traffic Calming


To ensure safety of users, traffic calming is necessary on shared streets and at intersections. It reduces the speed of vehicular traffic and gives priority to bicyclists. Traffic calming may be of four types –

1. Narrowing: curb extensions, road diets, pedestrian refuges etc.

2. Vertical deflection: speed humps, rumble strips, speed tables, changed material etc.

3. Horizontal deflection: chicanes, chokers etc.

4. Restricted access: medians, barriers, bollards etc. for reduced vehicular access


Bicyclists as well as other commuters require supporting amenities which increase levels of comfort (these are not mandatory for any system). These amenities include drinking water, public toilets, seating/pause spaces, hawker and vending zones and shaded areas. These are of use not only for bicyclists but also pedestrians and other short-term street users.

Case Study:

Bike-share system at India Habitat Centre

India Habitat Centre (IHC) is a multipurpose complex in central Delhi with work, commercial and social spaces. Located at a distance of around 2 kilometres from the nearest metro stations, employees and visitors to India Habitat Centre face the typical ‘last mile connectivity’ issues. As a solution, IHC is creating a bike-share system and connecting it to Jor Bagh Metro Station. The NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab at the National Institute of Urban Affairs supported the endeavour and provided necessary planning and technical expertise that would be required for developing the system.
There were two options for the route – via 4th Avenue and Jor Bagh Road or via Lodhi Road and Aurobindo Marg. The latter was choses as almost half of Lodhi Road already has a dedicated bicycle track, while the rest has a service road generally used only for parking. The generous sidewalk on Aurobindo Marg, which has little to no users, was optimal for inclusion in the shared bicycle system. To make the bike share system safe and comfortable, the Smart City Lab has proposed interventions along the proposed route addressing design of the lane, design of the intersection, traffic calming, traffic safety and the existing parking policy. The necessary permissions and coordination for execution of the proposal is being managed by India Habitat Centre and includes purchase
of equipment and engaging an operator for the day to day management.
In order to make room for the users of the bike-share system in the form of a bike lane, the NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab has proposed the following interventions to the existing right-of-way.

Lane design

As per the guidelines proposed by the Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) of the Delhi Development Authority, a lane width of 2.5 metres has been specified for the track to allow contra-flow movement along the route. The surface has been mandated to be made even and continuous with no level changes without a ramp of gradient 1:12. While it would have been preferrable to continue the demarcated and physically separated bicycle track that exists on half the length along Lodhi Road, it is not possible at present as the service road measures only only 7 to 7.5 metres in width and since parking could not be removed completely due to the existence of the Lodhi Road Post Office and Mausam Bhavan along the stretch. It is not possible to have provision of both, on-street parking and a dedicated track with free movement of vehicles in the centre.
Future developments in the system could either remove parking along the stretch or trim the side-walk from the existing 3.5 metres to 2.5 metres and use the space as discussed above. However, in the mean time a visual segregation has been proposed that delineates the lane with reflective thermoplastic paint. To avoid high expenditure, a minimum 5 metre delineation at a distance of every 25 metres has been proposed. As reiterated by the personnel of the Delhi Police, who man the stretch, the delineation would help territorialise the space for bicyclists and consequently have an effect on the speed and where the vehicles that use the service lane park.
In addition, indicators designed both as markings along the lane surface signify the priority for bicyclists by use of a bicycle symbol and also indicative sign posts that would show it is a reserved track.

Intersection design

Since the major intersection between Max Mueller Marg and Lodhi Road already has a bicycle track along both the arms of Lodhi Road, no major structural changes are proposed here. However, it is suggested that visual indication of the bicycle crossing would be beneficial as it would ensure increased visibility although not necessary since it in any case is ahead of the pedestrian crossing demarcated by a zebra crossing.
Instead, it requested that the signalling department of Delhi Police include a bicycle signal that would be green when Lodhi Road moving east is green ie. approximately 45 seconds and an additional pedestrian and bicycle green (two phases later) during an all vehicular red that would be for 15 seconds with an additional 5 seconds of blinking.
Where the bicycle lane merges into the service lane halfway down Lodhi Road, the lane requires to ramp down at a gradient of 1:12 with placement of a bollard in the centre to block the illegal access of the bicycle lane by two wheeler motorised vehicles.
The other minor intersections that crossed the entrance gates to Jor Bagh Colony are designed as a continuation of the visually segregated bicycle track with thermoplastic paint as specified above. This to ensure that the vehicles entering or exiting Jor Bagh Colony onto Lodhi Road, give priority to bicycles already crossing the intersection.

On the Aurobindo Marg stretch however, the Safdarjung Fire Station has an exit for Fire Tenders who would need to exit in a hurry in case of a emergencies. Here, the lane design has a ‘give priority’ sign for the bicycles to ensure that the Fire Tenders have priority access. In addition, the portion in front of the access gate delineated with a diamond checkerboard pattern to indicate caution.
Lastly, the intersection between Aurobindo Marg and Jor Bagh Road needed to be crossed to access the bicycle parking that placed behind the vomitory of the station. A kerb cut has been proposed in the median to enable the bicycles to cross with ease.

Traffic Calming

An important part of bicycle based planning is design of traffic calming especially at conflict points such that it reduces the speed of crossing vehicles so that even in case of an accident, injury would be reduced to a minimum. The bicycle track on the service lane of Lodhi Road has numerous conflict points where there are punctures between the main carriageway and the service road. These conflict points could have been avoided by placing the lane on the left of the service road, however this was decided not to be done as the consequent conflict points with the entry roads to Jor Bagh Colony, albeit fewer would be on blind corners, thus increasing the tendency of an accident. Further, by keeping it on the right side of the service lane, the pedestrian crossing points between the on street parking and the built edge are eliminated.
To address these conflict points between the service lane and the punctures from Lodhi Road, it proposed to reduce the turning radius to a minimum of 4.5 metres from the existing 6 metres and adding a zone of cobble stones with a double speed hump running longitudinally along the middle. This would ensure that the vehicle entering or exiting the service lane reduces its speed to avoid a sharp jolt within the vehicle and ensuring safe passage of crossing bicyclists.
At the intersections, where exits from Jor Bagh Colony join Lodhi Road, a table top crossing has been proposed so that not only similar traffic calming is achieved, but side-walk continues, allowing pedestrians to cross without climbing up or down, thereby ensuring universal access.


As discussed earlier, the service lane is currently primarily used for parking, which would need to continue in the current state of affairs. However, the Delhi Police has been requested to keep the parking only to the left of the service lane, so that the bicycle track may continue unhindered on the right.
To ensure this, other than visual delineation as discussed earlier, regulatory signage indicating ‘No Parking’ is proposed to be installed on the right hand side of the track. Initially, this has been done with temporary signage by the Delhi Police. But the NDMC proposes to install permanent signs along with the above interventions when the surface of the service lane is being relaid in February 2016.
In the meantime, to make most use of the winter when bicycling in Delhi is more feasible, the system has begun a trial run from December 16th, 2015 with implementation of the minimum interventions required such as the traffic signal phasing, repair of some broken patches of the side-walk on Aurobindo Marg and delineation of the track with a single line along the service lane of Lodhi Road.
Just before the opening, applications for use of the bicycles were invited from the employees of the institutions at India Habitat Centre. Almost 150 applications were received and passes for free use of the system were issued to 50 applicants on a first come first served basis. Within a month, the number of applications have risen to 280, out of which 200 passes have been issued. The system includes 25 bicycles with stands at Jor Bagh Metro station and Gate 1A of India Habitat Centre and a battery powered vehicle to ferry the bicycles as per demand that currently numbers above 65 trips per day.
Special mention must be given to the Chairman of NDMC for supporting the initiative, Delhi Metro for providing land for the bicycle stand at Jor Bagh, the DCP (Traffic) and ACP (Traffic) of the South Zone of Delhi Police for assisting with the regulation and enforcement of the ‘No Parking’ zone, M/s Delhi Cycles Pvt. Ltd. who are operating the system and Hero Cycles for providing the cycles. Also, a definite citation to the management of India Habitat Centre for leading by example and continuing their care for the habitat and conceptualising, initiating and funding the scheme. It is hoped that the success of this endeavour would allow expansion to the other nearby nodes first and then to remaining magnet points and transit nodes in the city.