Car Free Days 2015 – Citizen Cycling Audit (Revision 2.2)

Twenty questions to light the way to improving cycling in your city.

iceland planning meeting smallThis is the first revision of the initial listing of questions and criteria for the proposed first runs of the Citizens Cycling Audit, as  initially published as a fetture artcile in World Streets on 27 August 2014 at .[1]  As you will note as a result of additional inputs and suggestions from helpful colleagues, there are now a bit more than twenty questions. Not a problem and we can sort this out once we feel comfortable that we are moving in the right direction.

The first dozen questions strike us as particularly important — if one has reliable information on them, this is already a long way toward the goal of having a fine in-depth appreciation of cycling conditions in the city. It will be good if we might now concentrate our fire on them to begin with, and then turn to the others to see if they should be promoted, maintained or eliminated. It also might happen that additional questions may be added in this preparatory phase, but it will be good not to let all this get too complicated. (And in the event often one well-phrased criterion can do the work of two or more.)

Finally, if we propose for now to use a rather simple 0-4 rating system for each criterion, it is already clear that a bit of judicious weighting will be in order. The first will be to give appropriate weight to the each city’s judged performance in each of these criteria, both within them internally and between them. But we can for now leave this to another day once we have run the first pilot exercise.

Note to the reader:  This is an open collaborative project. Your ideas, suggestions and active collaboration are more than welcome.


These first twelve issue areas if properly assessed will already give an excellent idea of the state of cycling in the city. Let’s start with them.

  1. Advocacy: How is the city’s (or region/country) advocacy NGO(s) regarded and what level of influence does it have when it comes to policy, investment and enforcement decisions?
    • Rated from no organized advocacy to strong advocacy with political influence.
  2. Bicycle Culture: Has the bicycle (re)established itself as transport among regular citizens or only sub-cultures?
    • Rated from no bicycles on the urban landscape/only sport/leisure cyclists to mainstream acceptance of the bicycle for daily transport use.
  3. Bicycle Infrastructure: How does the city’s safe, efficient  bicycle infrastructure rate?
    • Rated from no infrastructure/cyclists relegated to using car lanes to high level of safe, separated cycle tracks.
  4. Bicycle Facilities: Are there readily accessible bike racks, ramps on stairs, space allocated on trains and buses and well-designed wayfinding, etc.?
    • Rated from no bicycle facilities available to widespread and innovative facilities.
  5. Modal Share for Bicycles: What percentage of modal share is made up by cyclists?
    • Rated from under 1% to over 25%.
  6. Gender Split What percentage of the city’s cyclists are male and female?
    • Rated from: overwhelming male to an even gender split or more women than men cycling.
  7. City Planning: How much emphasis do the city’s planners place on bicycle infrastructure – and are they well-informed about international best practices?
    • Rated from car-centric urban planners to planners who think bicycle – and pedestrian – first.
  8. Traffic Calming: What efforts have been made to lower speed limits – for example 30 km/h zones – and generally calm traffic in order to provide greater safety to pedestrians and cyclists?  Area access limitations for cars. Also strategic parking reductions?
    • Rated from none at all to extensive traffic-calming measures prioritising cyclists and pedestrians.
  9. Public transport collaboration: Bikes in buses, subways, streetcars  Sharing of bus lanes. Joint monthly subscriptions. Driver training for awareness of cyclists. Last km collaboration
    Rated from no collaboration, to full and enthusiastic partnership
  10. Perception of Safety: Is the perception of safety of the cyclists in the city, reflected in helmet-wearing rates, positive or are cyclists riding scared due to helmet promotion and scare campaigns?
    • Rated from mandatory helmet laws to low helmet-usage rate.
  11. Enforcement: Is cycling system being supported consistently by the law with active participation of local government, the police and other community organizations?
    • Rated from no support to strong active support including heavy fines, tow-away programs for mis-parked vehicles, laws and ordinances protecting cyclists. (In event of no/poor support we recommend deducting 5 points from final overall city total.) 
  12. Sustainable development strategy : Is cycling seen and treated as a strategic component of the city’s overall sustainable development strategy?
    • Rated from no strategy, to one of announcements with little real content and broken promises,  inconsistent policies, all the way to a carefully articulated global sustainability policy I which cycling has its full place.

Further thought, detail and fine-tuning

  1. Political Climate: What is the political climate regarding urban cycling? Does the city enforce bike friendly amendments to the traffic laws? (e.g., two way streets for bikes)
    • Rated from bicycle being non-existent on a political level, to active and passionate political involvement.
  2. Social Acceptance: How do drivers and the community at large regard urban cyclists?
    • Rated from aggressive annoyance, to no social acceptance, to widespread social acceptance.
  3. Casualty statistics: Is up to date information publicly available on accident and casualty rates?
    • Rated from no stats, no strategy, to one of hard to get at announcements with little real content, all the way to a carefully articulated global sustainability policy
  4. School/university cycling programs: Active support of cycling to school. Provisions and awareness of needs of young cyclists.  Safe infrastructure for school trip. Cycle parking. Training courses, bicycle maintenance and repair. Low speeds zones.
    • Rated from none to active partnership.
  5. Employer cycling programs: Active employer support of cycling to work. Cycle parking. Lockers and showers. Training courses, bicycle maintenance and repair. Other incentives.
    • Rated from none to active partnership.
  6. Bike Share: Does the city have a comprehensive and well-used bike-sharing programme?
    • Rated from no bike share to comprehensive, high-usage program. (Also full score for (those rare) cities that have so much quality cycling they have decided they do not need a public shared system.)
  7. Accuracy of modal split data: how accurate is the official data on mobile split and the role of city cycling?
    • Rated from nonexistent, through inaccurate, all the way up to accurate and current.
  8. Media support: Is cycling program and city cycling generally fairly treated by the media?
    • Rated from anti-cycle bias, no support, to thoughtful independent investigative coverage in print and electronic media
  9. Financial/tax incentives: Do cyclists received financial incentives or tax advantages if they regularly cycle to work?
               • Rated from none, to direct payments by employers or local government with tax advantages to commuting cyclists (with payments per km. travelled)
  10. Modal Share Increase What has the increase in modal share been since 20xx?? – target year that urban cycling started to kick in?
    • Rated from under 1% to 5%+.(Each city to make own decision for year of comparison. Cities with more than 20% modal share get era five points here as well. )
  11. Street Code: Has the city passed a “Street Code” ordinance (Code de la rue) which clearly assigns responsibility to drivers of motor vehicles to prove their innocence in event of an incident with cyclist or pedestrian (“stricter liability”)?
    • Rated from no discussion, some public discussion, to full street code in the law.

A Proposed Scoring System (First cut)

We need to come up with something that is sensible, straight-forward and easy to apply without too much hesitation or troubling ambiguity. In the Copenhagenize and Ciclociudades audits cities are given between 0 and 4 points in each category.(In addition, the Copenhagenize approach offers is a potential for a maximum of 12 bonus points awarded for particularly impressive efforts or results. In short, a maximum of 64 points could be awarded. Then they translate the number to a number out of 100. You can see how all that works in the World Streets article and the direct references from the program (

For now and until someone comes up with something better, we propose to at least start with this straightforward process (including the idea of a reservoir of bonus points), and then as we learn more through direct experience in different places, understand that we will probably get better at it as the different city teams go through their own learning processes.

[1] A quick not of thanks here to express our gratitude for the work of the team behind the Copenhagenize Index for Bicycle Friendly Cities which initially got us to thinking about this project. See for details.

# # #

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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3 thoughts on “Car Free Days 2015 – Citizen Cycling Audit (Revision 2.2)

  1. Nice list. I definitely would give Iceland /Reykjavik a bonus for a widespread support by NGOs first, then large employers, then the legislator and then the city for cycle-to-work schemes where the employer pays you if you promise to drive to work at most 1 or 2 days a week.
    And then for something completely different : The explanation for this item has been pasted from another item ?
    “Casualty statistics: Is up to date information publicly available on accident and casualty rates?”
    In my opinion this point needs a very good explanation not to be mildly destructive for the rating-project.

  2. The latter part of my comment relates to these lines copied from above :
    “Casualty statistics: Is up to date information publicly available on accident and casualty rates?
    • Rated from no strategy, to one of announcements with little real content, all the way to a carefully articulated global sustainability policy”
    It seems to me that the sentence beginning with “Rated from … and ending in global sustainability policy” does not directly correspond to the prior sentence about what should be measured (casualty rates).

    I am a bit sceptical to the inclusion of the mere publication of casualty data as a positive criterion for a cycling-friendly city. I have seen so many examples where casualty-data have been misused as it were to “prove” that cycling is “very dangerous”, and used in a victim-blaming push for obligatory helmets, hi-viz etc. It is true that cycling seems to carry a higher risk of small injuries, even if measured per trip. But it also seems that the risk of serious injury or especially death might often be smaller per trip or per hour than for other modes. In Iceland not one single cyclist has died in traffic since 1997, while about 300 car occupants and pedestrians have been killed on the roads in the same period. Some sort of an anomaly perhaps, but interesting all the same. If comparisons between modes are done on the basis of “so-called serious injury”, which might mean a broken “minor” finger, or might mean permanent disability, the picture is radically different. One needs to take care in casualty comparisons. We want in some sense to compare apples to apples and not to oranges (or to beetroot, barley or cellulose). Additionally we need to look at a larger part of the whole picture, and that includes the fact that many studies published in high profile scientific journals strongly indicate that cycling prolongs lives, reducing all-cause mortality. See also which provides a model from WHO for calculating conservative estimates of savings for society if more people start to cycle for transport.

  3. Pingback: Twenty questions to light the way to improving cycling in Bristol | Bristol Cycling Campaign

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