The colourful mural on the EastSide Visitor Centre immortalises the famous sons and daughters of East Belfast. Under the watchful eye of these ‘movers and shakers’ a new modern container-style office has landed which intends to get people, literally, moving.
The Active Travel Hub is the first one in Northern Ireland and will be the base for an EU-funded project that encourages commuters in the East Belfast corridor to try alternatives to the car such as public transport, or cycling and walking along the Comber Greenway.
Cycling and walking charity, Sustrans will be running the CHIPS (Cycle Highways Innovation for Smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning) project from the eye-catching Active Travel Hub off the Newtownards Road. The Hub is situated in EastSide Partnership’s new Pocket Park at 392-400 Newtownards Road. This previously derelict site has been transformed with landscaping, planting, street furniture and three shipping containers for various uses, including the Active Travel Hub.
“ Our overall aim is to help more people try alternatives to the car to reduce the high levels of air pollution in this part of the city. ”
Gordon Clarke, Sustrans Northern Ireland Director said:
“This is a really exciting development for promoting active travel in Belfast. It made sense to base the Hub at C.S. Lewis Square where the Comber and Connswater greenways intersect. The CHIPS project focuses in particular on encouraging cycling commuters to use the Comber Greenway as part of their journey to work.
“By encouraging people to walk, cycle or use public transport, the project’s aim is to improve air quality as part of a wider EU project across North West Europe. The area between North Road and the Ulster Hospital is an Air Quality Management Area, where frequently the level of pollution caused mainly by road traffic is unacceptably high.”
Maurice Kinkead, Chief Executive of EastSide Partnership said:
“We are delighted that Sustrans has chosen to base their Active Travel Hub in the new Pocket Park. We are very grateful to the NI Executive’s Urban Villages Initiative and delivery partners the Department for Communities, for their support in making the Pocket Park and Container Hub happen.”
Engaging 10,000 employees to travel actively
We are planning to establish a bike service point beside the Hub and secure cycle storage units using smart technology beside the new Belfast Rapid Transit stop which will be established nearby on the Newtownards Road.
The £40m investment in the Connswater Community Greenway has helped regenerate an area of the city neglected after traditional industries died. C.S. Lewis Square has one of the busiest Belfast Bikes stations in the city; a popular café – JACK Coffee Bar; and with the arrival of our Active Travel Hub it is set to become an even more attractive place for cyclists.
Pamela Grove-White and Martha Robb are two Sustrans Engagement Officers who will be based in the Hub. Initially the focus of their work is engaging 10,000 employees along the East Belfast corridor in a series of initiatives to encourage them to try alternatives to the car for their commute.
Pamela said: “We have been working with many large employers including the Ulster Hospital, Bombardier and the Belfast Metropolitan College, as well as smaller employers such as the Holywood Arches health centre to encourage staff to cycle, walk or take the bus to work. Our overall aim is to help more people try alternatives to the car to reduce the high levels of air pollution in this part of the city.”
One commuter Sustrans has worked with is 45-year-old Nicola McCausland who began cycling to work this year when she was relocated to the Titanic Quarter campus of the Belfast Metropolitan College.
“It takes me 30 minutes to get to work, which is the same amount of time I would spend sitting in rush hour traffic every day and I arrive at work stress free,” she said. “I can’t recommend cycling highly enough, it really is a lovely way to travel."
We aim to encourage more commuters like Nicola to get on two wheels and in the long term to have a permanent Active Travel Hub as an information centre for the general public to find out about routes, walking and cycling facilities in the area.