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Preferential routing

"Preferential routing" is a traffic planning concept and tool that gives preference to walking, cycling and public transport rather than the car (or other private motorised modes, including commercial vehicles).

The term now often used for this concept is "filtered permeability".

Routes are made available for the "sustainable" modes that are more direct and convenient than the routes available for general motor traffic. This can often be found in historic urban layouts, for example when a pedestrian bridge over a railway or river provides more direct access to the other side not available to motor vehicles.

Preferential routing is a valuable technique for promoting the sustainable modes in urban traffic and transport planning. It is also seen as a means of stopping so-called "rat-running" traffic for environmental and/or road safety reasons. Early examples are the "traffic cell" concept in Gothenburg (Sweden) and Groningen (Netherlands). The cycle town of Houten (Netherlands) is a very successful example, whereby the only vehicles that can cross the town directly are bicycles. Cars can access other quarters, but must take a more circuitous route around the edge of the town. The application to town centres is shown in the diagram (see right sidebar).

Preferential routing has also been deliberately applied to individual routes or corridors. An early example was creation of direct routes for cycles and buses only to the north east of Groningen across the large van Starkenborghkanaal. This includes a segregated busway carried over a major bridge. Car users must take a more circuitous route and hence travel by bicycle and bus is encouraged.

Tim Pharoah has advocated the preferential routing approach in various contexts, both in existing areas (e.g. Witney, Oxfordshire) and new urban areas (e.g. Howden, Yorkshire).


Preferential routing, filtered permeability, sustainable modes, pedestrian priority, cycle priority, bus priority, mode shift, integrated transport, promote public transport, pro-transit