Published: 24th FEBRUARY 2022

Trying to go car-free on an e-bike in Belfast - Meabh's story

Civil servant Meabh Cormacain lives in a hilly part of Belfast and travels across the city to her job. She borrowed an e-bike from Sustrans to see if she could make her commute car-free. Find out how she got on below.

Meabh Cormacain with her e-bike outside the Sustrans active travel hub

Meabh Cormacain with the e-bike she borrowed for a week from Sustrans at the Active Travel Hub in east Belfast.

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“If your aim is to reduce pollution and carbon emissions, and get some exercise, then you will achieve all of that with an e-bike.” Blockquote quotation marks
Meabh Cormacain, Belfast cycling commuter

Belfast woman Meabh Cormacain knows a lot about the climate crisis, and in particular our use of energy.

The 43-year-old civil servant is an energy advisor and helped produce the recent Northern Ireland Energy Strategy.

Her family are concerned about the environment and want to use the car less.

She therefore decided to borrow an e-bike from Sustrans to see if it's possible.

“I wanted to test out an e-bike to see if I could replace my current car journeys,” she said.

“We are now a one-car household. We would love not to have a car at all but we still use a car enough to justify having one.

“I wanted to see if I could commute to work using the e-bike.

"I live up the Antrim Road in north Belfast and have to cross town to work near Stormont in east Belfast.

"It made such a difference, especially on the hills on my return journey. I‘d be wrecked on a normal bike!”


Lack of safe cycle lanes and secure parking in city

After a week’s trial she is not convinced she can switch her commute full-time to an e-bike, but there were other factors, namely the lack of cycling infrastructure in Belfast and secure parking.

She explained:

“It would still take me at least three-quarters of an hour on an e-bike, so I think if I was to use it for my commute I would only do it one day a week.

"I might consider doing it more often if the route was more direct and the infrastructure was there.

"Even with the Connswater and Comber Greenways, it’s by no means an easy or pleasant route across town and then you add in the zero cycling infrastructure from Yorkgate in north Belfast.

“We need more protected cycle lanes and a cycling network across the city.

"I use the bus lane on the Antrim Road which feels a bit better, but even though I’m a more confident cyclist than many, it is a busy road and doesn’t feel safe.

“We also need to provide secure cycle parking in Belfast.

"There is no way I would leave an e-bike locked up in the city centre.

"I went to a work meeting with the e-bike and was able to leave my bike somewhere secure, and there was also security staff, so that was okay.

“Sustrans e-bike trials and loan were great.

"I did the half-hour introduction with Martha in December and then borrowed the e-bike for a week in January.

"Although I had to go across town to CS Lewis Square, it was free and the sessions were flexible.

“I’d definitely recommend trying out an e-bike to anyone.

"If your aim is to reduce pollution and carbon emissions, and get some exercise, then you will achieve all of that with an e-bike.”


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