Following calls for bus lanes to be scrapped, Bikefast can reveal that Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce (BCTC) is calling for some pedestrianised areas of Belfast to be opened to private cars.
Two days ago Bikefast broke the story that BCTC has called for an experimental removal of most bus lanes in Belfast. Yesterday we revealed that Translink’s own Business Development Manager is sitting on the Executive Council of BCTC.
BCTC launched its “Belfast Manifesto” back in September 2016 as a “clear and concise blueprint for the next 10 years for Northern Ireland’s capital city”.
— Martina Connolly (@BelfastChamber) September 6, 2016
It received standard coverage in local media outlets focusing on the headline talking points. But did journalists actually take the time to read it thoroughly, including this section?
Reinvent the City Centre
“to fully pedestrianise Donegall Place but make other parts of the City Centre open to private cars. The pedestrianised area in the City Centre is too large for a city of the size of Belfast. This inhibits non-retail uses and is a cause of the lack of activity in the evening”
Just let that sink in for a second.
Donegall Place in front of the Belfast City Hall has been mooted for pedestrianisation to give Belfast a European-style traffic-free square at its heart. BCTC support for this stalled scheme is most welcome.
But BCTC goes on to suggest that we have too many pedestrianised areas and (it surely must follow) some of our pedestrian streets are the “parts” to be opened to private cars.
Cities around the world are pursuing the goal of removing traffic from their centres to make them more pleasant environments for shopping, eating and living. Is Belfast about to launch an experiment in the opposite direction?
To be fair, perhaps we’ve misunderstood BCTC’s roundabout wording, so we sought clarification – is the Chamber really calling for pedestrian streets to be opened to vehicles?
Bikefast asked BCTC back in September 2016 what pedestrianised streets it envisaged being turned over to car traffic. Three months on and we haven’t received a reply.
Yesterday we asked businesses with locations on or beside pedestrianised streets, who also happen to have representatives on BCTC’s Executive Council, whether they support their streets being opened to private cars. The businesses included:
- Boots (Fountain Street)
- Castlecourt (beside Bank Square)
- House of Frazer (Victoria Square)
- Lunns (off Fountain Street)
- Suitor Menswear (Rosemary Street)
- Victoria Square (Ann Street and Victoria Square)
No-one had responded by time of publication.
Bikefast has also approached Belfast City Council to clarify their relationship with BCTC and what the Council’s thoughts were on the idea to open some pedestrianised areas of the city to cars. A spokesperson said:
“Belfast City Council is not a member of the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce. The Council has not been asked to consider any proposals for the return of pedestrian areas to use by vehicles. Belfast City Council was not directly involved with the creation or the review of the Belfast Manifesto and did not have a say in the final content.”
Interestingly, as of 15th December 2016, BCTC still has Belfast City Council on it’s “Membership List” pages.
It’s not hard to imagine Arthur Square at Cornmarket as a bustling roundabout to regulate car movements through the city – that’s exactly what it used to be..
Perhaps the Troubles legacy of a relatively car-free city centre is a bad thing? It’s not that long ago that cars could drive along and park in Victoria Square or Ann Street:
Turning bus lanes and pedestrian streets over to private car traffic – BCTC have certainly introduced some hot topics for discussion in Belfast. Perhaps there are important lessons to be learned from Norwich’s experience of pedestrianisation..
Read more: Business body wants Belfast bus lanes binned
Read more: Trade body in ‘scrap bus lanes’ call (BBC)
Read more: Translink, the Belfast Chamber and bus lanes
Read more: Rapid Transit? | Taxis in bus lanes
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) February 25, 2014