The year has ended on a more positive note for the development of cycling infrastructure in Belfast.
Streets for everyone: Pop-up cycle lane on Dublin Road in central Belfast
A government review of the pop-up cycle lanes which sprung up in Belfast at the outset of the Covid-19 crisis concluded last week that the infrastructure will be retained.
The review focused on two of the temporary cycle lanes – Dublin Road and Grosvenor Road – both established in June 2020 to enable key workers to cycle to local hospitals.
The Dublin Road cycle lane was featured in our ‘Streets for Everyone’ campaign last year. [see video above]
In spite of vocal opposition from taxi groups and some businesses in the city, the review concluded the infrastructure has “proved popular”.
Of those surveyed 90% of those cycling agreed that “the addition of the cycle lane makes my journey better”.
Moving from advisory to protected cycle lanes
We, at Sustrans, have been working to secure and extend protected cycle lanes in Northern Ireland as these are key to enabling more people to cycle.
Some would argue there are plenty of cycle lanes but the vast majority of these are what’s known as ‘advisory’ and are usually obstructed by parked cars.
Also, it is not unusual for advisory lines to end abruptly.
Improved safety for vulnerable road users
The review noted that the cycle lane improved safety for more vulnerable road users, without reducing feelings of safety for other road users.
Notably, a seven-day survey of the Dublin Road cycle lane found it was almost as well used in the same week as the popular traffic-free Comber Greenway (National Cycle Network Route 99) which runs into the city.
This is strong evidence that people want and will use protected cycle lanes on main arterial roads.
A positive review from the Department for Infrastructure
While there were recommendations for improvements to both cycle lanes, the overall conclusion of the Department for Infrastructure was positive:
“The Pop-up cycle lanes were introduced during unprecedented times and their purpose was always as a ‘test-bed’ to see how we could change the city to reduce car dominance and improve air quality for a greener future.
“There have been learning points along the way, including the need for greater consultation with stakeholders.
"However, overall the Dublin Road and Grosvenor Road cycle lanes have achieved their objective as the start of more safe spaces for cycling journeys.
"It is considered that their use can only increase as onward network connections are developed in line with the delivery of the Belfast Cycling Network 2021.”
Residents launch the North Belfast Cycle Campaign to work to ensure protected safe cycle lanes in the city. Pictured with Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon in royal blue coat.
North Belfast Cycle Campaign launched
One of the first new cycle routes to be announced as part of the Belfast Cycling Network is in the north of the city along the Limestone/Cavehill Roads.
This area is a vast desert when it comes to cycling infrastructure.
There was again some vocal opposition to the new lane earlier in the year.
Including concerns from a running organisation spokesman about losing car park spaces at the adjacent Waterworks park.
A group of residents who cycle got together out of concern that the first protected cycle lane in this part of the city would be mothballed before a traffic wand was in sight.
The North Belfast Cycle Campaign was formally launched last week with support from Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.
Support from local residents
Clare Moore, one of the founders, has been advocating for better cycling infrastructure in the area for 30 years.
"If you compare cycling infrastructure in north Belfast to say south or east we are really under-served,” she said.
“We want to correct that and believe it will help regenerate and improve this part of the city.
“This is a key route into the city centre for school-children, commuters and shoppers,” said Clare.
Work is set to begin on the Limestone Road section in the New Year.
Infrastructure Minister delivering Belfast Cycling Network
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, whose Assembly constituency is North Belfast, said:
“I am delighted to be part of the launch of the North Belfast Cycle Campaign.
Aisling Bryan (9) with Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon at site of proposed new cycle lane on Limestone Road, north Belfast.
"Groups like ‘North Belfast’ have a key role in promoting the ‘active travel’ message and I am keen that more groups that advocate for cycling and active travel generally set up around the city to help promote and push the message of the benefits of walking, wheeling and cycling.”
Looking forward to better cycling infrastructure in Belfast
So, 2021 will mark the start of a 10-year programme to provide safe, protected cycle lanes in Belfast.
Cycling is a cost-effective solution to help tackle climate change.
And, better cycling infrastructure is long overdue in the city that invented the pneumatic tyre.