Work is ongoing to loosen the belt on vehicle traffic in Belfast around Donegall Quay, which is taking away a major crossing point for two months. That’s bad enough for prioritising active travel in the city, but now our Transport Department’s executive arm TransportNI (TNI) has gone a step further by adding CYCLISTS PLEASE DISMOUNT signs.. for no obvious or stated reason.
Bikefast was contacted over the weekend by people cycling along Donegall Quay who were confused by the new sign. It’s a minor irritant that TNI whips out these signs whenever road works come within a stone’s throw of any cycling infrastructure. But there’s a bigger issue – they usually end up creating conflict and confusion in a situation which doesn’t need it. This is a classic case.
We’ve walked and cycled around the site and can’t fathom a purpose beyond ticking a box.
One sign sits on the eastern end of Queen’s Bridge, requesting that CYCLISTS PLEASE DISMOUNT at a shared pedestrian/cycling crossing and at the start of a wide shared, but delineated, footway across the bridge. Also, National Cycle Network Route 99. Say no more.
On the western bank, the sign sits on the marked cycle space on the shared footway. The bridge and its western approach appear to be closed to cycling. But why? And is that even the case, with no information on site or online as to the purpose.
There are five possible movements here where cycling is otherwise permitted:
towards the Obel tower (shared pavement, marked cycleway)..
over the Big Fish square towards the quayside path (shared)..
across the road to Custom House Square (shared pedestrian/cycling crossing)..
onto the Lagan Weir Bridge (shared)..
along the footway around onto Queen Elizabeth Bridge (shared pavement, marked cycleway)..
Should CYCLISTS PLEASE DISMOUNT going in these directions? None of these options are in any way blocked by the crossing works (over 100m away from both signs) or have any restriction in space, other than the CYCLISTS PLEASE DISMOUNT sign themselves.
Which is a farcical situation – having to dismount effectively just in order to accommodate a CYCLISTS PLEASE DISMOUNT sign.
The problem for TNI, if they care to consider it for more than 10 seconds, is that it brings both themselves and those cycling in the area into disrepute.
Without clear instructions on which movements require a dismount – or an obvious or stated reason for it – TNI look foolish for putting the signs in place.
Secondly people who are legitimately cycling in the area face the wrath of those who can rightly point to a sign telling them to get off and walk.
What about those cycling on the road here? Will drivers erroneously assume they shouldn’t be cycling on the road after passing a CYCLISTS PLEASE DISMOUNT sign? Plenty of drivers get unnecessarily worked up about these things..
Seems a few people putting pictures of taxis in bus lanes they shouldn't be in. Here's some balance cycle fans. I've plenty more like this 🚖 pic.twitter.com/Yo0qzGe0IM
— Driver 13 Value Cabs (@val_dr13) March 7, 2017
The other question is what exactly is the position of the National Cycle Network which this sign seems to eradicate. Sustrans have a role in maintaining it; were they consulted?
You’d hope the days of road engineers deploying road signs just for the sake of it were over. But this is Belfast and anything is possible..
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) May 6, 2014
This is all ridiculously small fry and nothing to get too worked up about. But it’s such a daft placement in an ocean of perfectly legitimate and safe cycling space, shared with pedestrians, that TNI need to clarify what they were thinking. We’re still waiting for a return phone call.
Most important though – they must get rid of these CYCLISTS PLEASE DISMOUNT signs before they do their reputation any more damage. Vehicle movements around the works appear to have been nicely protected – actually journeys will be faster without the crossing which will reduce pedestrian and cycling options until mid-May.
But why go to the trouble of a putting in a much-needed temporary controlled crossing point when a CYCLISTS PLEASE DISMOUNT sign will do instead?