Cycling in the United Kingdom

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An OSM project to map the UK's National Cycle Network (NCN). Co-ordinated by Sustrans, the NCN links most parts of the UK with special traffic-free routes and quiet country lanes. It has its own numbering system, roughly analogous to the road network. Though the network is mapped on Sustrans' own site, this is derived from Ordnance Survey mapping. By using OSM to create our own "creative, productive, or unexpected" maps, we can promote use of this wonderful resource.

Cycle path markings

In the UK, cycle paths are differentiated based on whether they are within the carriageway (cycle lanes) or separate from the carriageway (cycle tracks). Cycle lanes are split according to whether they are with-flow on contra-flow lanes. Different signs and marking are also used to indicate each category.

Cycle Lanes

A mandatory with-flow cycle lane

Cycle lanes within the carriageway are marked out by a painted boundary line on the road surface. The cycle lane may be "Mandatory" or "Advisory". The key differences are as follows:

  • Mandatory
    • Marked with a continuous / solid boundary line.
    • An order prohibits other vehicles from encroaching on the lane (this includes for waiting & loading).
    • Signed with diagram 959.1, which is repeated at every junction (or 300m).
    • May be time restricted.
  • Advisory
    • Marked with a broken / dashed hazard warning line.
    • Signed with diagram 967, which is repeated at every junction (or 300m).
    • Applies at all times.


For more info see the cycleway tag.


Cycle Tracks

A cycle track may or may not follow a road. For those that are adjacent to a road, in contrast to lanes, a cycle track is physically separate from the main road carriageway. The separation may be a kerb, barrier/wall, strip of grass or just a row of parked cars.

To map a cycle track adjacent to a road you may add the cycleway tag to the highway, however it is generally accepted that drawing the cycle track as a separate way allows greater flexibility. Please note that when using highway=cycleway, omitting the surface=* tag implies it is paved and when using highway=path, omitting the surface=* tag implies it is unpaved. Note also that explicitly tagging surface is always better, especially as for bicycles some unpaved surfaces (compacted) are better than some paved ones (cobblestones). Pedestrian use is also assumed, therefore you do not need to add a foot=* access tag unless pedestrian use is expressly forbidden.

Tags for cycle tracks drawn as a separate way
Image Description Classic tagging style Alternative tagging style
UK traffic sign 956.svg
Shared cycle/pedestrian path highway=cycleway highway=path;
foot=designated;bicycle=designated;
surface=paved
UK traffic sign 957.svg

UK traffic sign 957R.svg
Segregated cycle/pedestrian path highway=cycleway;
segregated=yes
highway=path;
foot=designated;
cycleway=lane; (implies bicycle=designated)
surface=paved
UK traffic sign 955.svg
Cycle only path (not intended for pedestrians) highway=cycleway;
foot=no*
highway=path;
bicycle=designated;
foot=no*;
surface=paved

* : The route is not intended for pedestrians, but use is not prohibited. Before tagging as foot=no please check that there is a convenient alternative route for pedestrians nearby (e.g. a footway or road).

See also: Cycle routes, Bicycle, cycleway=*.

Mileposts & artwork

Sustrans have provided a full list of mileposts and artwork that have been installed along UK's clcycle network. They would like help in mapping them to their correct locations. The mileposts come in one of four different types.

Image Tag Element Description
Ncn milepost dudgeon.jpg
ncn_milepost=dudgeon node Dudgeon type milepost
Ncn milepost mccoll.jpg
ncn_milepost=mccoll node McColl type milepost
Ncn milepost mills.jpg
ncn_milepost=mills node Mills type milepost
Ncn milepost rowe.jpg
ncn_milepost=rowe node Rowe type milepost

Mapping progress

References