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Algorithm can design the perfect cycle lane system for any city

An algorithm usually used to design profitable airline routes can plan the optimal approach to adding cycle lanes while staying within council budgets.

It’s the perfect solution for cities with shrinking budgets, limited space, and a need for cycle lanes.

Developed over a decade ago by an aerospace engineer, Tim Algar’s Air-line Route Planning software has been used in the design of over 150 airports around the world. It is so effective at maximising use of space that even NASA uses it to plan landing sites on Mars.

Algar’s software, known as Concorde, is now being used in the US by TranSystems to model the ideal cycle lane system for cities.

The solution is based on a simple algorithm which was developed by Algar and colleagues at the University of Portsmouth and tested against the UK’s existing cycle network. The software models all possible routes between an origin and a destination before finding the most cost-effective one. It takes into account factors including availability, distance and cost of road space.

The result is a highly efficient cycle network with minimal impact on road space. For example, the New York City area’s currently proposed grid system would have caused massive disruption by requiring additional road space, it appears that Concorde could have been used to plan a relatively cost-effective cycle lane grid which would have far fewer disruptive impacts.

The software can also demonstrate that a city’s existing cycle lane infrastructure can be extended with minimal effect on roads and traffic flow – an important consideration if you are planning to build new infrastructure.

TranSystems is planning to call on the UK’s existing cycle lane network to demonstrate Concorde’s potential, with a pilot scheme being planned for London in 2015.

By studying the optimum approach, cities can predict where new cycle lanes are most likely to be used and plan them accordingly.

Every city is different, and it may be that one city has a high density of traffic and needs additional segregated space at one side of the road while another requires more in the space of a couple of hundred metres.

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