Cycle routes

Cycle routes

METRICATION: 5% complete
Metric Non-metric
Sign specifications in millimetres Distances shown in miles and fractions
Road markings specified in millimetres Distances shown in mins.

In the UK, cycle routes are indicated by signs and markings. They may be either cycle lanes on the main carriageway, on footways shared with or segregated from pedestrians, or specially designated cycle paths.

The signing of cycle routes lacks coherence. The units used vary from place to place. Some towns use miles and fractions, and others use “mins”. In London, the units used vary from one area to the next. It is also common for cycle route direction signs to not show distances at all.

Information for pedestrians is often included on cycle route signs. This can cause confusion if “mins” are used.

Values in “mins” are calculated assuming a constant average cycling speed of 16 km/h. For pedestrians, a constant average walking speed of 80 m/min is used.

In Wales, distances in “mins” can require 4 different values.

Sign specifications

In common with other road signs, the dimensions of cycle route signs are specified in millimetres.

TSRGD diagram 967
Route recommended for pedal cycles on the main carriageway of a road.

TSRGD diagram 965
End of a cycle lane, track or route.

Road markings

In common with road construction generally, the design and construction of cycle tracks is carried out in metric units. All road markings are specified in millimetres.

TSRGD diagram 1055.3
Route for vehicular traffic consisting solely of pedal cyclists across a signal controlled junction or parallel crossing.

TSRGD diagram 1057
Cycle lane, track or route.

International experience

Cycle path and route confirmatory sign – Vienna, Austria

The average lengths of cycle journeys tend to be an order of magnitude shorter than those of car journeys. It makes sense therefore for the precision of distances indicated on cycle route signs to be an order of magnitude greater than those on road signs. Indeed, this is the accepted wisdom in many countries with well established cycle route systems, where distances on cycle route signs are generally expressed in kilometres to one decimal place.

Cycle route directional signs

Berlin, Germany

Prague, Czechia

Vienna, Austria


When cycle route signs in the UK are converted to metric units, distances should be shown in kilometres to one decimal place.

metric cycle route sign

The use of the “km” symbol will be unnecessary, because the use of decimals on the new signs will distinguish them from old signs in miles, which use whole numbers and fractions exclusively. It can also be argued that using the “km” symbol would add clutter and thus decrease the readability of signs.

The metrication of cycle route signs will present an opportunity to end the current haphazard practice of showing destinations in either miles, “mins”, or no units at all.

Benefits of metric signs

Showing all distances in kilometres to a resolution of 0.1 km will be a big improvement over the current practice of showing distances greater than 3 miles to the nearest mile (a resolution of 1.6 km).

Distances are easier to visualise when expressed in multiples of 100 m, than when they are expressed in multiples of miles. Metric signs are therefore more meaningful. The presence of well-placed metric signs could lead to an increase in use of cycle routes.

Signing all destinations in kilometres, will increase understanding and will remove the confusion caused by the current practice of showing destinations in a mix of miles, “mins”, or no units at all.

Maps used by cyclists generally use metric scales such as 1:25 000 and 1:50 000, and are based on a kilometre grid. It makes sense for direction signs to use the same units.

Cycle computers show speeds and distances in decimals, in km/h and kilometres.

In sport, cycle races are in kilometres. In televised races, such as the Tour of Britain, graphic overlays show distances in kilometres and speeds in km/h, both to one decimal place.


  • Cycle computers – If you don’t already own a cycle computer, purchase one and set it to metric units. Familiarise yourself with cycle speeds in km/h, as seen on TV for races such as the Tour of Britain. Observe the odometer as it measures distances travelled in kilometres, to 2 decimal places. Each odometer “click” represents 10 metres travelled. Compare this to the less relatable clicks of 17.6 yards, if set to imperial units.


Action required by : Government

  • Cycle route signs – Legislation is required to upgrade all cycle route signs to show distances in kilometres to one decimal place. This could be carried out without any further delay. However, it would make sense for the change to be carried out concurrently with the implementation of a general metrication programme for all official road signs.



At an average speed of 24 km/h, it takes 8 minutes to cycle a distance marked on a cycle route sign as “12 mins”.