Cleaner air in east Belfast: CHIPS

Asda staff and Finance minister promoting workplace survey

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir on his bike with Pamela Grove-White, Sustrans Active Travel Officer-CHIPS and Sharon McBratney, Asda Communities Officer, Dundonald

Asda staff and Finance minister at a roadside

Asda staff helping promote the workplace survey for CHIPS project

Chips North west Europe Logo

Sustrans is working in East Belfast to tackle high levels of air pollution caused by car traffic and promote alternative options, such as cycling for commuters. 

What is CHIPS

The €4.51m CHIPS project (Cycle Highways Innovation for Smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning) will see Belfast collaborate with seven partners in four leading cycling nations – the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the Republic of Ireland over 2016-2019.

The project, funded through Interreg North-West Europe, aims to tackle 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.

- Gordon Clarke, Sustrans

Barriers to cycling

The first step of the project involved coordinating a survey across the nine partners to identify the barriers preventing people commuting by bike. Sustrans is surveying workplaces in the East Belfast area, both large and small, to see how people travel to work and what prevents them travelling more actively. 

After surveying the workplaces located near the Comber Greenway cycle highway to identify the barriers preventing people commuting by bike, Sustrans took the lead in this activity and published a report with the results of the surveys in all partner regions.

According to the surveys, the main barrier for commuting by bike in Northern Ireland is the possible confrontation with car drivers. All of the respondents agreed that they feel exposed to motorized traffic, that there are too many cars on the road and that drivers are erratic or intimidating.

In all four countries, most respondents claimed that non-segregation of traffic is the biggest problem, while a smaller group identified weather as the biggest problem.

Helping more people cycle

With these barriers in mind, the CHIPS partners started to design behavioral change campaigns to encourage more people to use the cycle highways more often.

In Northern Ireland, we will be working with key employers close to the Comber Greenway to encourage and support people to cycle. 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 and bike service points.

Sustrans Northern Ireland Director Gordon Clarke said: “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.”


CHIPS will develop and promote cycle highways as an effective and cost-efficient low carbon solution for commuting towards and from urban employment poles. CHIPS seeks to demonstrate that, especially in combination with the growing number of e-bikes, cycle highway innovation can effectively get commuters out of their cars.

Programmes and solutions that we develop in Belfast will be shared and implemented by partners across Europe to:

  • Position cycle highways as a new mobility product
  • Overcome physical and behavioural barriers that keep commuters from using cycle highways
  • Maximise synergies between cycle highways and other transport such as trains, buses and cars
  • Upgrade cycle highways to key structuring elements in future spatial planning
  • Monitor performance and assess impact

Find out more about Cycle Highways Innovation for Smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning (CHIPS)

Contact us about CHIPS