There has been a recent flurry of dreadful congestion events in Belfast caused by collisions and blockages on our main roads.
Yet the media narrative has been cleverly moved away from the root causes – too much motor traffic trying to funnel through too little road space. Instead supposedly vested interest have pushed attention back towards the twin evils of Belfast everyday motoring – the bus lanes which are so hard to understand and the recently installed 20mph zone which is equally hard to understand.
It’s almost as if there’s an election on the way. Step forward the Federation of Slowing Buses (er, check that – Ed) who seem to believe making Belfast city centre a more attractive place to dwell, shop and visit harms their ability to drive as fast as they like.
— Borghert Jan Borghmans (@StripyMoggie) February 10, 2016
The problem is, there was chronic vehicle congestion before Belfast on the Move. There is chronic vehicle congestion now, and there will probably continue to be. Too many people use their cars for too many journeys with too few passengers onboard, for a lot of journeys for which alternative transport is available. It’s a fantasy that taking away bus lanes, bicycle lanes and speed reductions will solve that.
Yet the attacks on the reliability of the Metro network continue, and by extension (since DRD promote bus lanes as cycling infrastructure and they have to some extent worked) on the bicycle as a key form of transport in Belfast.
It shouldn’t have to be this way. The Federation of Sneering at Bicycles (hang on there – Ed) should be actively promoting this cheap, reliable and congestion-busting transport form in Belfast. People can get to shops in Belfast city centre quicker than any other transport form (perhaps with the exception of trains) during rush hour.
— Fearghal Murray (@Fearghal_Murray) February 10, 2016
To help everyone understand how handy the bicycle is, even in the worst of congestion, Bikefast has produced this simple map. It shows just how much of Belfast is within 15 minutes reach of the city centre by bicycle.
Take that to 20 minutes and you’ve covered the whole Belfast City Council area and more, a population of more than 300,000
Shoppers who have more time to spend in shops rather than in traffic.
Shoppers who have more money to spend in shops by not expending fuel or paying for public transport.
Shoppers who make it easier for the die-hard motorist FSB members to travel by removing cars from the road.
Well, not all FSB members..
Promote the bicycle as an attractive option, give the bicycle dedicated road space across Belfast, enhance bicycle parking facilities and services, put yourself on the side of ALL shoppers not just motorists, and Belfast can continue to thrive, as it objectively has been even while these supposedly hostile measures have been introduced. And that fact alone should make the Federation for Scundering Bluster (enough – Ed) quite embarrassed by their media performance of late.
Belfast on the Move is working. Bus lanes are working. Contractors are hard at work making Belfast more bicycle-friendly. Motorists are griping. But don’t be fooled into thinking the changes made to Belfast are a tide that can be turned. This is only the beginning. Look to other progressive cities around Europe actively loosening the grip of cars from their city centres and reaping the benefits demonstrated by those who have already humanised their centres of commerce, to see the direction of travel for Belfast.
This is only the beginning.