Collagen fibres within the extracellular matrix lend tensile strength to tissues and form a functional scaffold for cells. Cells can move directionally along the axis of fibrous structures, in a process important in wound healing and cell migration. The precise nature of the structural cues within the collagen fibrils that can direct cell movement are not known. We have investigated the structural features of collagen that are required for directional motility of mouse dermal fibroblasts, by analysing cell movement on two-dimensional collagen surfaces. The surfaces were prepared with aligned fibrils of collagen type I, oriented in a predefined direction. These collagen-coated surfaces were generated with or without the characteristic 67 nm D-periodic banding. Quantitative analysis of cell morphodynamics showed a strong correlation of cell elongation and motional directionality with the orientation of D-periodic collagen microfibrils. Neither directed motility, nor cell body alignment, was observed on aligned collagen lacking D-periodicity, or on D-periodic collagen in the presence of peptide containing an RGD motif. The directional motility of fibroblast cells on aligned collagen type I fibrils cannot be attributed to contact guidance, but requires additional structural information. This allows us to postulate a physiological function for the 67 nm periodicity.