Published: 30th APRIL 2024

Cathedral Gardens Hub helps tackle city centre congestion

We deliver activities from Cathedral Gardens Active Travel Hub in Belfast. Its central location means it's perfectly placed to support the people living, working and studying in the area to change the way they travel.

A group of men and women cyclists wearing helmets and hi-visibility vests pose for a photograph outside the Ulster Museum with Botanic Gardens behind.

Oonagh McNally (third left) pictured with Volunteer Co-ordinator, Rachael Ludlow-Williams (left) and others on a group cycle from Cathedral Gardens Hub. Photo: Sustrans

Oonagh McNally works at Ulster University Belfast beside the Active Travel Hub. 

Here she explains how the Hub and our project team have helped in her cycling journey – and she shares her views on what would make Belfast a more cycle-friendly city for everyone. 


Oonagh's story

“I heard about Sustrans and the Cathedral Gardens Hub when I volunteered to become an active travel champion in Ulster University where I work.   

I admire the Sustrans team because of their commitment to: 

  • Encouraging and enabling more people to get on their bikes, to get active and to use active travel for daily commutes.   
  • Providing on-road cycle training, bike maintenance and repair workshops. 


Activities and training available 

The Cathedral Gardens Hub houses a range of bicycles available free of charge to adults participating in Sustrans activities who do not have their own bikes.  

I have completed my National Standard Cycle Training Levels 1, 2 & 3 with Sustrans.   

I have also completed first aid training and ‘ride leader’ training on leisurely cycles.   


More confident with Sustrans support 

With Sustrans support, I am now more confident and happier to support other people as they embark on their cycling journeys.   

I have also promoted Sustrans events at Ulster University Freshers’ Fair.    

I cycle because it is a very empowering and social mode of transport.   

Cycling provides ample opportunity to engage with and to become more acquainted with the local environment.   

It’s a great opportunity to embrace the great outdoors and to connect both with neighbours and nature.  

I am now more familiar with the greater Belfast area and beyond than I ever was as a driver.   

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With Sustrans support, I am now more confident and happier to support other people. Blockquote quotation marks

Despite the weather - wind, sleet or snow - I am invigorated and feel a great sense of accomplishment when cycling which is infinitely more rewarding than driving.    

Furthermore, getting my workout incorporated into my commutes to and from work, trips to the shops and other activities requiring travel, cycling is a productive activity and an efficient time saver.   

No expensive gym memberships, no excuses for not having the time to keep fit and no feelings of guilt for not being active.  


Greater independence and better use of time  

My fitness routine is incorporated into my general activities of daily life.  

No longer wasting time waiting on buses or trains or sitting idle in traffic, cycling offers greater independence and is a most efficient time saver.   

Plus there are significant financial benefits – no increasingly expensive car tax, insurance or fuel costs. 


Improvements to encourage more people to cycle 

Oonagh believes more people in Belfast and beyond would cycle if they were better supported. She would like to see: 

  • Better cycling infrastructure on all roads that encourage and support active travel. 
  • More designated cycle paths. 
  • Implementation of fines for drivers who park on cycle lanes. 
  • Traffic signals in favour of people walking, wheeling and cycling who are saving the planet, not drivers who are polluting it. 
  • Introduction of 20-mile speed limits throughout the city. 
  • Tougher penalties for reckless drivers who cause death or injury of other road users. 
Cathedral Gardens Active Travel Hubs are on an open square next to the Ulster University Belfast campus.

Housed in two refurbished shipping containers, Cathedral Gardens Active Travel Hub is a pilot project by Belfast City Council, supported by the Department for Infrastructure, the Department for Communities, Ulster University and the Public Health Agency. Photo: Sustrans

Cycling is a social activity

Belfast is the most car-dependent city in the UK, making it one of the most polluted and congested. 

Cycling is a very social activity that promotes engagement with fellow cyclists. It’s much easier to converse with people walking, wheeling or cycling along your commute than it is with drivers.

You don’t see or hear about road rage among cyclists.” 


Oonagh’s top tips for anyone considering cycling 

  • Connect with Sustrans or a local cycle group. 
  • Watch out for Bike Week every June ( and Critical Mass events. ( 
  • You don’t need an expensive bike or cycling gear – there are lots of great reconditioned second-hand bikes available.
  • Never allow the weather to dictate your mode of transport. Invest in waterproof gear and accept that it will sometimes rain. 

Sign up to our Eventbrite page to find out what's coming up at Cathedral Gardens Active Travel Hub.


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