Contraflow Cycling

Contraflow cycling / Two way on one way streets / Permeability

In the later part of the 20th century, with the rise in use of the private motor car, many town and city streets were made one-way to facilitate the smooth flow of motor vehicles.  Unfortunately, this policy did nothing positive for active travel. Motor vehicles, with no opposing traffic, were thus encouraged  to travel at higher speeds, pedestrians found it more difficult to cross these wide one-way streets and journey times were extended for anyone riding a cycle.

Now, with increasing congestion and pollution in our urban centres we think it’s time to bring back permeability for cycles and that is something we have been campaigning for over the last few years.

A crazy idea or government policy?

Cycling by Design, Transport Scotland’s design guide, at Contra-flow Cycle Lanes (5.1.5) states:

“The default position should be to permit two-way cycling on one-way streets. Where there are safety concerns, the introduction of a contraflow cycle lane may be required”.


So what is the difference between these two photographs, taken under one mile apart in Glasgow? The one above complies with Cycling by Design, the one below does not. The one above is in Yorkhill and encourages active travel, the one below is in Dowanhill and acts against active travel.

We have contraflow cycling in many places but it is arbitrary; we need a consistent implementation policy. Streets are being made one-way to facilitate on-street storage of cars, but this has the unfortunate side effects of increasing vehicle speeds and severely damaging the ability to cycle around our neighbourhoods

While we need good segregated cycle lanes on our main routes, we need good permeability in our residential areas so that we can get out to the main routes. Contraflow Cycling can contribute to this.

The pictures and words above are from a presentation given to Transform Scotland on 26 October 2017 and we now have an item on contraflow cycling on their Transform20 website. 

We are keen to promote contraflow cycling and here are some views from Glasgow.

Dalnair Street in Yorkhill, giving good access to and from Yorkhill Hospital; contraflow with signage only.

Here are some shots from our infra day 08 September 2017


Both these photos are Howard Street, just south of the St Enoch Centre in Glasgow, with the contraflow lane running from Jamaica Street through to Stockwell Street.  It’s a handy route – but beware the private cars, vans and taxis that often park on it!

We continue to push for contraflow cycling throughout our TRO and consultation process.