Belfast commuters could soon be swapping four wheels for two as the city has been chosen for a major European investment to promote cycling as a mode of transport.
Sustrans has won a major grant through Interreg North-West Europe for a project worth a total of €720,000 focusing on the Comber Greenway in east Belfast to make cycling a more attractive option for commuters.
The CHIPS project (Cycle Highways Innovation for Smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning) will see Belfast collaborate with leading cycling nations – the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as Transport for London, Germany and the Republic of Ireland over the next three years.
The 4.4m programme aims to tackle high levels of air pollution caused by car traffic in North-West Europe by building better infrastructure for cyclists and encouraging bicycle commuting. The CHIPS partners forecast a 150 to 300 percent increase in the number of cyclists as a result of the project.
“ This is a brilliant boost for cycling on the Comber to Belfast corridor but we will also benefit immensely from the innovations being developed by our partners in Brussels, Frankfurt and the Netherlands. ”
Barriers to cycling
The project will involve coordinating a survey across the nine partners to identify the barriers preventing people commuting by bike. In Belfast this survey will focus on people using the Comber Greenway for their commute. Specifically we will work with key employers close to the Comber Greenway to encourage and support people to cycle. Programmes that we develop in Belfast will be shared and implemented by partners across Europe.
An ‘Active Travel hub’ will be established at the Holywood Arches in east Belfast to provide a public base for the project. There will also be investment in smart cycle storage units utilising modern technology such as swipe cards for security; bike service points and a pilot programme developing the potential of e-bikes for those who have longer distance commutes or live in hillier areas.
Sustrans Northern Ireland Director, Gordon Clarke said: “We are delighted to have won this major investment for cycling in Northern Ireland. There was a lot of competition for this European funding but our consortium of partners from across North-West Europe made our application hard to refuse.
“This is a brilliant boost for cycling on the Comber to Belfast corridor but we will also benefit immensely from the innovations being developed by our partners in Brussels, Frankfurt and the Netherlands.”
Gina McIntyre CEO at the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), said: “We were delighted to support Sustrans in their successful bid for funding from the EU Programme ‘North-West Europe’. The promotion of more sustainable transport initiatives, such as cycling, is essential in contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions, and will complement the transport initiatives planned for the region.”