The morning rush hour on Belfast’s Ormeau Road is a flawed term – it’s a quick and leisurely cycle or a grindingly slow drive. The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Cycling Unit’s latest commuting comparison video shows a relaxed 2.5 mile bicycle journey beating the car by a full 26 minutes.
As part of the Cycling Unit’s work on the Draft Belfast Bicycle Network Plan and wider awareness of the utility of the bicycle in Belfast, a series of commuting challenges have been filmed.
The latest video pits a bicycle against a car from Ravenhill into Belfast city centre, a relatively short trip of 2.5 miles, or four kilometres. While it was competitive for the first 1.5km, our driver hit the buffers at Kiln and Loom and would’ve been better off parking up and walking from that point.
Pretty obvious answer, but well illustrated. If you're within 3 – 5 miles of the City Centre, cycling wins every time. https://t.co/yF0f2tigis
— Ed Simpson (@EdSimpsonNI) March 20, 2017
The exact routes taken by the challengers differs, with our bicyclist opting to avoid the crazy Ormeau Road bus lane (which nearly destroyed Team Belkin during Giro d’Italia week in a fit of banter) in favour of calmer waters along the Ravenhill Road, Ormeau Park and Laganside pathway.
This means the cycling trip (green) was actually half a kilometre longer than the more direct car journey (black) making the 26 minute difference even more striking.
Our laid-back bicyclist enjoyed some calm cycling space on the Ravenhill Road (albeit advisory), dappled sunlight through the falling leaves in Ormeau Park, the grand open vista offered by the River Lagan, a stately pedal through Gasworks Park and finally a wheel down the dedicated protected cycleway along Alfred Street.
The experience of the driver seems to be a fair reflection of the traffic situation on the Ormeau Road. DfI studies from 2013 put the average morning rush journey speeds at just 3.7 mph from the Ravenhill Road roundabout to the Ormeau Bridge, and 7.3 mph from here to Cromac Square.
Ormeau Road continues to lead the way in Belfast's Cycling Revolution pic.twitter.com/Dhcu8ZVIza
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) November 16, 2016
The Ormeau Road also featured in the recent Inrix congestion table as the ninth most congested road in the UK during the morning rush.
Highlighting that a bicycle could make the same journey on the same road while stopping at a couple of local independent retailers or for a sneaky takeaway coffee – and still be quicker than a car – should give pause as to why the Ormeau Road has been omitted from the Draft Belfast Bicycle Network Plan.
Here’s the full real-time comparison video of the two journeys: