Signage alone won't create a bike network but it will help to guide people using existing paths and bike lanes and also help guide people where marked cycle routes are not provided. Directional signage should allow people to find their way without reference to a map.
What’s the problem?
Without directional signage, people using paths, especially for the first time, can get lost or have to walk/ride further than they expected. Some may chose to take an alternate route which may not be appropriate for their skills – for instance riding on a main road.
Good signage enhances the usage of trails (and roads) and allows people to make informed choices about where and how far they travel. Bike lanes on arterial roads can mostly rely upon existing road signage to get from A to B.
What are the risks?
Without adequate signage and other navigational cues on paths, path users may:
get lost and choose a route to make it home that may not suit their abilities – for instance along a busy road
don’t make it to their destination even though it may be quite close
travel much further than planned potentially beyond their capabilities
become frustrated and not use the path again.
What is the solution?
Provide adequate direction and route signage as per the guidelines, in particular in Victoria CycleNotes No. 11 (link at right and Figures 2-4 below). The level of signage will depend on the type of path or trail but the minimum requirement is directional and distance signage to major destinations at all path and street intersections with centre line marking and route markers between them. All street crossings should be marked, especially if the path goes under a road. Maps boards are useful aids at major entry points and end points of paths. Path behavioural signage should be provided separately at major path entrances (see Cyclenotes No. 10 at right). Any sign or pole is a potential obstacle and should be set back 1m from the edge of the path (min 0.5m).
What do the guidelines say?
The current 2009 Austroads guides (2009) do not cover signage and navigation of cycle networks in detail. Vicroads provides advice on directional signage in CycleNotes No. 11 while shared path behavioural signage is covered in Cyclenotes No. 10 (see links at right column). The CycleNotes give guidance on the types of signage to use when paths intersect with other paths, access paths and with roads (and Figures 2-4 at right).
The previous Austroads Part 14 Guidelines (1999, see extract at right) recommends signage at the following locations:
"at all junctions between paths specifying key destinations (e.g. suburbs, universities, recreational facilities etc.) and distances to those destinations.
at all junction between paths and roads specifying the name of the intersecting road, key destinations and distances to those destinations
along paths between junctions to reassure cyclists that they are on the right path. A maximum spacing of 3 kilometres is suggested which relates to 12 minutes cycling at 15km/h; a reasonable balance between cyclists’ needs and costs (we would recommend 1 km, centre lines also help reassure path users)
on the adjacent road system to guide cyclists to a path
on paths directing cyclists to important services such as toilets, water, and food stops
along roads where the bicycle route is not obvious through pavement marking (e.g. route turns a corner or roads are being used to connect sections of path)."
Directional signs for roads are covered in Part 10 of the Austroads Guide to Traffic Management – Traffic Control and Communication Devices. The procedure for determining direction signing requirements for intersections along a road route is also applicable for cycle routes. See wording at right.
The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads publication A guide to signing cycle networks (2009) gives five stages in signing and network or route that can be used as a step by step guide:
“Prepare the cycle network focal point map which identifies all destination points and key decision points for each route;
Assess the current physical condition of the route via a pre-signage and risk assessment survey;
Determine the level of signing, the route numbering or branding required for each route to be signed;
Prepare a signing schedule specifying all signs, their locations and mounting; and,
Install the signs and inspect after installation to correct any errors and omissions. “
What does Bicycle Network Victoria say about the guidelines?
The VicRoads Cyclenotes No. 11 (at right) provides clear guidance on signage and should be followed. The current Austroads guides do not cover signage and navigation of paths though there is guidance for signing roads that is applicable to paths. The previous guidelines (1999 Part 14 - see extract at right and figures below) provide clear guidance on signage. Neither the CycleNotes No. 11 nor the previous guidelines, however, present a system for deciding what level of signage is needed for each type of path or bicycle route in a network.
A hierarchy of signage levels is provided in the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads publication A guide to signing cycle networks (2009). The report identifies signing principles, methodology, stages to establishing signing of a network or route (above) and recommends different levels of signage according to the type or route. See extracts at right and table of level of signing reproduced below.
We agree with the Qld report recommendation on the five stages in signing a network. However we believe that the existence of a centre line can help in the initial stages of improving directional guidance for existing path networks. Existing path networks tend to have a mixture of path types and many minor path intersections. We found, in the 2003 audit of Melbourne’s arterial path network (the Metropolitan Trail Network - see link at right) that the quality of the existing path often did not, in itself, indicate whether the path was a main path or minor path. We recommended that a centre line would help indicate the major path especially when there is a lack of signage at minor path intersections. The Qld report does not seem to provide guidance on the spacing of reassurance signage between path junctions. The Austroads 1999 Guidelines recommend at least every 3km but we would recommend a sign or path logo every 1km where there is not intervening signage at a path intersection.
The 2003 audit of Melbourne’s arterial trail network by Bicycle Network Victoria (see link at right) gave the following definition of adequate signage which allowed consistent directional signage for the path network:
Wooden plank sign should be used (as outlined in VicRoads Cycle Notes 11) to indicate that the trail is an arterial trail.
All arterial trails should be allocated a name which should appear on the sign at intersections. This name should be consistent along the length of the trail.
Local trails that share a section of path with an arterial trail should be identified using different signage. Blade or post mounted signs may be most appropriate for local trail signage.
Each trail branch at the intersection should be identified with a directional sign which gives a destination and distance.
Incremental (minor) and key (major) destinations should be included on the sign
The signage should be located at the intersection (not on the approach) and clearly visible to all trail users while they are at the intersect
These recommendations are consistent with the Austroads 1999 Guidelines and CycleNotes No. 11.
A more comprehensive signage strategy would take into account the full cycle network, both on-road and off-road, and cater for local trails and intersections. This relies on the cooperation from local councils and trail management groups in coordination with the manager of the arterial trail network. The Qld 2009 guide (quoted above and at right) provides guidance for providing a comprehensive signage system.
Nodes and Junctions
As the network becomes more complete and meaningful maps are produced, path junction nodes can be numbered sequentially. People can navigate around the network by moving from nodes to node using a map which shows all nodes. The system does not rely on a list of end destinations as the nodes do not necessarily have a name or destination associated with them. This is used in Europe - see this link.
Signed bike routes do not make a bicycle network on their own. Other treatments are needed to either calm traffic on local roads or provide separation from faster moving vehicles by providing bike lanes. Road crossing treatments (such as signals or refuges) are required to help people cross busy roads.
Once a continuous route has been made bicycle-friendly, signage can be useful to guide people and inform them of distances to destinations. Ideally the use of signs should be minimised to reduce visual clutter and installation costs, with linemarking and stencils being other means for providing continuity along a route. In Perth they have identified routes and allocated route numbers so that even someone who is unfamiliar with the place names can still follow the route number.
Any examples, good and bad?
A continuous centre line on existing paths indicates the major trail to follow at minor intersections - just like on a road.
An intersection of the Main Yarra Trail and the Merri Creek Trail - two arterial trails - in Melbourne. Also the Capital City Trail loop coincides with both at this point - the signage has to indicate all three trails and distances to major destinations. The CBD is the end destination for many trails in Melbourne. Plank signs are the standard for the Metropolitan Trail Network in Melbourne - see Cyclenotes No. 11 at right.
Post signs can be used to indicate local destinations and paths. Lettering should be at least 100mm high to allow them to be seen from a distance, especially if it must be read from the opposite side of a road intersection.
Example of plank signage on Melbourne's arterial path network (the Metropolitan Trail Network) - close up of sign above.
Planned redundancy (extra signs) and regular maintenance are required to deal with vandalised or missing signs or people not seeing signs.
Stencilled logos on the path help improve navigation by reassuring people they are on the correct path.
Table 7 from Qld Dept Transport and Main Roads, A guide to signing cycle networks, July 2009
Below: Figures from Austroads Part 14 - see extracts at right.