This is the FOR AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT article on the Draft Belfast Bicycle Network Plan. We thank you if you’ve read the (long, sorry) articles we’ve published to analyse and object to portions of the Plan.
We’ve also felt the need to drift off into the realm of philosophical critique of the Plan’s basis and backing. While that gets to the heart of what went wrong with the route map, it doesn’t get down to the level of proposing changes on a street-by-street basis, which is what the Cycling Unit are expecting from responses.
Sometimes consultation exercises can get picky about that kinda thing and we can’t afford for Bikefast to be excluded from post-consultation discussions – especially on areas where other may have piled in with significant and detailed objections. We need to be at that table, so we have to play the game according to the rules too.
So this is our wash-up of important issues either missed in our response, missing from the Plan, and one version of our counter proposal full route map.
City centre approaches and spine
The city centre doesn’t feature heavily in the draft plan.
We were prepared to listen to the arguments from the Cycling Unit on the use of 4.5m bus lanes to make final half mile journeys, although Bikefast is firmly opposed.
Then another silo within the Department for Infrastructure shafted the city and gave bus lanes to private taxis. So this is now on the agenda front and centre – bus lanes are 100% finished as cycling infrastructure in Belfast and must be removed from the plan altogether.
Therefore high quality strategic cycle routes approaching and travelling across the city centre are essential.
In years to come we'll battle over creating dedicated cycle space in front of Belfast City Hall. Here's my ace card. pic.twitter.com/cEvXmHON90
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) May 12, 2016
The two spinal streets in front and behind the City Hall (May St / Howard St and Wellington Pl / Chichester St) need the highest profile cycle routes in the city, with both streets laid out in a 3 lane pattern (bus lane, vehicle lane, cycleway) along their length.
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) November 6, 2014
The city centre approaches are not satisfactory – two main strategic cycle routes should be placed on each point of the compass around the City Hall:
East – Queens Bridges and Albert Bridge
East Bridge Street at rush hour tonight – in desperate need of a cycleway to bypass this mess quicker and safer than we already can pic.twitter.com/3fd982FLGV
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) November 15, 2016
North – Royal Avenue / York Street and the route to the Docks
South – Dublin Road / Gt Victoria Street and the Lagan corridor
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) October 4, 2015
West – Grosvenor Road and North Street / Shankill Road
Lack of new cycleways in South and East
Here’s a question which I’m not sure the Cycling Unit has fully considered. Cycling levels in the city are currently concentrated around the Ormeau Road, lessening as you move away from this area so well-served by the traffic-free National Cycle Network. East Belfast is also significantly ahead of North and especially South Belfast.
Looking at the Draft Network route map, you’re struck by how much reliance is placed on existing infrastructure in South and East Belfast – existing greenways, riverside paths, parks. Flip this point around – very little in the way of extended and new infrastructure is planned where cycling levels are at their highest.
It looks pretty stark on map – here’s a (very rough) indication of new cycle routes, removing those where some form of facility already exists.
The outskirts of the city get far more new cycle routes. The big centres of cycling right now get hardly anything.
This also means that West and North Belfast, so much in need of safe cycling space to balance up the city, get a disproportionate level of new cycling routes.
That is a good step and very important, but not at the expense of doubling down on a good thing. Bikefast is not advocating taking proposed routes away from West and North – in fact we propose to add significantly more that the Cycling Unit have planned (see below) – but in South and East we’re on to a good thing and need to super-charge that, not rest on our laurels.
There is a reference to this proposed bridge in the route plans, but not specific section which leaps out as it should to say:
A FUNCTIONING BELFAST BICYCLE NETWORK WITH ENHANCED TRAFFIC-FREE JOURNEY OPTIONS REQUIRES THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE GASWORKS BRIDGE WITHIN FIVE YEARS OF THIS PLAN BEING ADOPTED
— ICE Northern Ireland (@ICE_NIreland) April 11, 2017
You can say this in your plan. It’s your plan.
The bridge has planning approval and is shovel-ready.
The city needs it as a key link in the south east quarter.
Run that flag up your mast.
Don’t be shy.
There’s not that many reference to the Belfast public hire bicycles scheme in the Plan. What references there are don’t get into the expected territory of planning routes with an eye on the scheme – whether promoting future usage (push) or responding to developing usage patterns (pull).
— Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (@newbelfast) December 4, 2015
Some of the other areas we think are a little light in the Plan and need a firm and frank discussion with Bikefast and friends about:
- creation of bicycle hubs in the city centre
- plans for cycling integration with the Transport Hub
- park and ride sites
- facilities at train stations
- secure cycling parking
- the route map as placed against a population density map
We’ve bored everyone enough with long explanations – you have our number. Call us.
Our own version of the whole route map
We didn’t want to, but the Cycling Unit expect us to. We feel an objective methodology should be applied working back from the point that cycling journeys must be supported everywhere in our city. But for what its worth, if you want our opinion of something better, knock yourself out..
We’re done. Well okay, one final, final point.
The public consultation has closed. Don’t keep the process towards a final plan as a closed internal discussion. You have a whole rake of statutory-level stakeholders to draw upon, but you need to get Bikefast, Sustrans, Cycling UK and Cyclist.ie representatives around a table – regularly – as you rework the route map and change the priorities.
We look forward to working in partnership with you to make the Belfast Bicycle Network Plan better.
For more information on Bikefast’s full response to the Draft Belfast Bicycle Network Plan consultation see the following articles:
- Belfast Bicycle Network Plan launched
- Dipping our toes in the Belfast Bicycle Network Plan
- Belfast Bicycle Network Plan Verdict
- Arterial Bypass: Belfast Bicycle Network Plan Objection
- Methodology: Belfast Bicycle Network Plan Objection
- Timescale: Belfast Bicycle Network Plan Objection
- Circulation: Belfast Bicycle Network Plan Objection
- Isolation: Belfast Bicycle Network Plan Objection