Election Cycle 2016 – Belfast East

At the start of April 2016 the President of Cycling UK (and Channel 4 News presenter) Jon Snow contacted all Northern Ireland Assembly Election candidates to ask for their support in three simple policy asks around cycling investment, building a greenway network and delivering an Active Travel Act.


The responses received (to date) from candidates standing in Belfast East are listed below. You can also click on each name to contact your local candidates through Twitter or Facebook to ask them to respond if they haven’t already.

Name Party Investment Greenways Legislation
Comments: “I am happy to pledge my support to Cycling UK, Sustrans NI, and NI Greenways / Bikefast’s three asks of Investment, Greenways and Legislation to deliver the vision for transport development over the next 25 years.

“The Ulster Unionist Party Manifesto further outlines our support;
  • Increasing active travel will play an important role in making our vision of a healthier, happier society a reality.
  • We are convinced of the benefits and committed to promoting cycling as a feasible mode of transport for everyday journeys. But we acknowledge that to do this effectively we need to create the conditions that make this viable and safe.
  • During our time in the Department of Regional Development, our Party kick started the beginning of the process, setting out an ambitious vision for the future. The next Executive must continue to develop the infrastructure that will nurture a culture of cycling.
“We would:
  • Realise the vision set out in the 25-year bicycle strategy;
  • Support the development and implementation of a network of traffic-free cycling infrastructure;
  • Support accommodation of active travel being a consideration in planning new developments.”
Ross Brown Greens YES YES YES
Comments:  “I am delighted to read of Cycling UK and Bikefast’s vision for cycling in Northern Ireland and am excited by the potential of the ‘This Time it Will be Different’  Policy.  The Green Party are fully behind this initiative and responses to the three points are outlined below:

The Green Party endorses cycling funding of £25 per person
As a member of the All Party Group on cycling, the development of the cycling infrastructure within Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole is of great interest to me.  The Green Party is a major exponent of investment in this sector and is the only party to pledge £25 per head towards the development of such schemes.  Transport issues are particularly pronounced in inner city Belfast, a city that is not designed to assimilate the current volumes of traffic flowing into it every day.  This has several implications affecting access to the city, air pollution levels, tourism, public health and commerce within the city.   By committing significant funding to the development of our cycling infrastructure we can help encourage a shift in attitudes around our transport culture, leading to improved health and well-being, sustainable transport and ease of access and enjoyment of the city.

The Green Party sees traffic free Greenways in NI as an imperative
It is imperative that traffic free greenways are established throughout Northern Ireland as a whole.   Developing these networks opens up parts of our countryside to the tourism sector, providing economic boosts and connectivity to rural areas, and provides safe, viable and sustainable alternatives to limited transport options in rural areas.

The Green Party fully supports the introduction of an Active Travel Act.
Legislation is key to achieving these objectives.  By introducing an Active Travel Act we can show strong leadership and commitment to providing the people of Northern Ireland with a safer, cleaner and more sustainable transport sector, improving access to economic zones, whilst contributing hugely to the health and well-being of everyone.”

Joanne Bunting DUP YES YES YES
Comments: “As per our manifesto, we in the DUP are committed to developing a greenway network across NI which will provide traffic-free space for walkers, runners and cyclists for the purposes of leisure and commuting.

“Obviously the development of any such network will require significant investment but we have not set a specific spending target. The promotion of cycling also fits with our commitment to promote public health and to encourage active and healthy ageing.  Investment in activities such as cycling can help reduce the amount spent on tackling issues such as obesity.

“Our manifesto does not make a specific commitment on legislation, but should such proposals come forward, we would certainly give them proper consideration.

“On a personal note, I began cycling myself a couple of years ago as I approached 40 and only did so because my friend, Michelle McIlveen, took me to the Comber Greenway which afforded me the opportunity to learn and develop my confidence and handling skills on the bike in a safe, traffic-free environment.

“Since that time we’ve encouraged other people to cycle and now a number of us regularly cycle together in the summer evenings and at weekends.  We have all experienced at first hand the difference cycling has made to our physical and mental well-being and enhanced our social interaction as we all wind down together and enjoy the cuppa/ice cream stops en route.

“We rode the Gran Fondo together last year and are planning to do the same this year again.  We have been able to experience the benefits of cycling because of the greenways.

“I recently enjoyed a hard hat tour of the Connswater project and am very excited by its potential.  I look forward to the implementation of the vision for greenway expansion across NI and I am happy to support and promote future development of same for the benefit of all.”

Comments: “I would like to pledge my support for Northern Ireland Greenways and Sustrans.

“The SDLP believes that the redevelopment of our greenways and certain disused railway lines represent a unique opportunity for community-based infrastructural development.  The Great Western Greenway in Mayo remains a testament to the economic benefits that greenway redevelopment can bring.

“Greenway development will help build sustainable tourism such as walking, cycling and geotourism. The development of such Greenways will deliver jobs in construction, hospitality and tourism.The SDLP will explore plans for cycling and walking Greenways to include:

  • Glens of Antrim Greenway
  • Greenway of Thrones (North Antrim)
  • Comber to Ballynahinch
  • Cookstown to Magherafelt
  • Cookstown to Dungannon
  • Downpatrick to Newcastle

“I am committed to increasing the sustainability of our travel infrastructure.”

Sammy Douglas DUP YES YES NO

  1. Investment. I support increased funding for cycling in Northern Ireland. Safer cycling conditions will encourage more people to take up cycling thereby leading to healthier lifestyles and other associated benefits.
  2. As a cyclist and frequent user of the Comber Greenway, and founding trustee of the  Connswater Community Greenway, I have witnessed the growing number of people using these wonderful assets. I fully  support the development of traffic-free greenways across the country to boost rural regeneration and tourism.
  3. While I understand the desire to incorporate cycling and walking provision into land-use planning and new developments, more research should be carried out into its implication in terms of delivery. There are real concerns that if such an Act were to be passed that it may have the potential to stifle economic development and regeneration.
Andrew Girvin TUV YES YES YES
Comments: “I would pledge my support for Northern Ireland Greenways and Sustrans. You have my support on all three.

“I know I should be out cycling more and to my shame I don’t as much as I would like to be.  Although I fully understand the benefits it provides to our own health as well as that of our Health Service.  Promoting health and well-being through cycling will have a positive effect on reducing waiting lists in the long term and hopefully reduce the burden on our GP surgeries through this healthy choice of exercise.

  1. I witness first hand the investment that is needed along the Comber Greenway and the £10 per head of population would have my support, it is the long term vision of an individual’s health that may pay dividends towards our struggling health system.
  2. The connections between Greenways is paramount as this enables users to travel as far as they wish.  I do believe that cycle lanes on Greenways should be marked out as such. Walkers with dogs or children would know what side to stay to avoid further accidents. The tourism opportunity would be an issue that could be maximised upon as some of the views along the Greenways are amazing.
  3. With the Planning and Development vision, this may take more consideration and consultation.  I would not like to see plans implemented and at a later stage we find ourselves in a regrettable position. Communication with Councils and residents is key to ensuring the best possible outcome.”
Erskine Holmes NILRC YES YES YES
Comments: “Yes I support your aims but I think Greenways, Sustrans and Inland Waterways Associations of Ireland need to be mutually supportive. I support an all Ireland waterways network with towpath access for cyclists on every waterway. I am opposed to money spent on duplication of cycle routes like Cromac to Ormeau Park Bridge when none of the Lagan Navigation Locks are restored. The £7m on this bridge would open the waterway to Edenderry!”
Maggie Hutton Independent NO YES YES

  1. I am open to looking at all options regarding cycling. With the current situation in relation to the NHS, Education and homelessness- I must say cycling provision would not be one of my top priorities, however if there was an opportunity within the budget, which is extremely strained already, then I would support a provision for cycling.
  2. Yes I support greenways.
  3. In principle I would support such an act but as with all legislation I would need to study the proposed legislative document in detail in order to make an informed decision.
Comments: “I am a committed cyclist; I cycle almost every day. As a GP I am continually encouraging patients to be more physically active, including by cycling. I was among the most vocal in promoting the benefits of the Comber Greenway and opposing the proposal to turn it into an E-way used by buses, and I have been involved in the research project measuring the health benefits which will accrue from the Connswater Community Greenway.

“I support the proposed target of £10 per head of population for investment in cycling. I think this is the level we should aim for but, in the present economic circumstances, it may take a few years to achieve, given the pressing demands on the public purse. It should be achievable by the end of the next assembly term.

“I absolutely support the development of traffic free greenways across the country. I use the Comber Greenway every day and recognise what a fantastic resource it is for those who can use it. This proposal has the potential to significantly enhance the quality of life in Northern Ireland. Again, because of the capital investment required, it may take a decade or longer to achieve.

“I also support the introduction of an Active Travel Act. I have been a member of the Active Belfast Partnership whose goal is to increase levels of physical activity in Belfast. Ensuring that all new developments are designed in ways which promote more physical activity will benefit the economy and improve our quality of life. It is called responsible planning and development.”

Comments: “I am happy to pledge my support to this cause. Opting to Cycle or walk has huge benefits, for our people’s health and well-being. Research shows that it has immense long term  benefits to our environment, and economy. I fully support investment and future development in this respect.”
Naomi Long Alliance YES YES YES
Comments: “Alliance has long recognised the health, community, social and economic benefits of better cycling provision. I personally supported the development and protection of the Comber and Connswater Greenways in East Belfast, over many years, and the improvement of cycling facilities across the constituency to make active travel safer and more attractive.

“Alliance Party MLAs will therefore fully support the implementation of the cycling strategy and a wide range of enhanced cycling provision in Northern Ireland, including:

  1. Increased investment in cycling of at least £10 per head of population.
  2. The development and realisation of the health, rural regeneration and tourism potential of Greenways across the region and where possibly with connectivity to the rest of the island.
  3. An Active Travel Act to incorporate cycling and walking provision into land-use planning and new development.

“We are committed to work with everyone to make this the best cycling region in these islands.”

Chris Lyttle Alliance YES YES YES
Comments:  “The Alliance Party is fully committed to the delivery of first class integrated, sustainable and active travel for the people of Northern Ireland and recognises the wide ranging health, environmental, social and economic benefits of cycling in particular.

“I was privileged to establish and Chair the All Party Assembly Group on Cycling and to work with organisations like Sustrans NI and NI Greenways to mobilise MLAs in support of cycling.

“The APG on Cycling hosted a number of important stakeholder events to facilitate supportive input from MLA and NGOs into the Assembly Regional Development Committee Cycling Inquiry and the Department for Regional Development Cycling Strategy.

“The APG on Cycling also hosted and participated in events to promote Bike Week and the Sustrans/DRD Cycling Unit Belfast Bike Life Report which has established public support for increased investment in cycling provision.

“As an MLA I submitted multiple cycling related questions to Regional Development Ministers to support enhanced cycle provision and to raise awareness of underinvestment in comparison with other regions, which DRD has estimated will decrease from £4.17 per head of population in 2014/15 to only £1.30 per head of population for 2015/16.

“Alliance Party MLAs will therefore fully support the implementation of the cycling strategy and a wide range of enhanced cycling provision in Northern Ireland, including:

  1. Increased investment in cycling of at least £10 per head of population.
  2. The development and realisation of the health, rural regeneration and tourism potential of Greenways across the region and where possibly with connectivity to the rest of the island.
  3. An Active Travel Act to incorporate cycling and walking provision into land-use planning and new development.

“We will work with everyone to make this the best cycling region in these islands.”

Chris McGimpsey UUP NO YES YES
Comments: “I am happy to confirm that I would support further investment in cycling in Northern Ireland.  I cannot commit to a figure at this stage.

“I support the extension of greenways.
“Support for an Active Travel Act is included in the UUP manifesto.”
Tim Morrow Alliance YES YES YES
Comments: “I am a keen cyclist myself and have been on many cycling holidays. My wife is much fitter than I and also cycles to quite often so in short I am very pro cycling. A long term strategy in needed to encourage more people to leave their cars behind and safe cycle routes are a major part of that. As a user of the Comber Greenway I can see how well used it is although there are a few issues between dog walkers and cyclists.How much will this all cost? I have no idea to be honest but it needs to be higher on the agenda for travel. I wish you luck in your campaign.”
Robin Newton DUP YES YES YES

  1. Yes I support funding for cycling in Northern Ireland to encourage safer cycling and to see an increase in the number of people using cycling as a means of transport.
  2. I support the development of traffic-free Greenways across Northern Ireland. During my time in the Assembly I brought an adjournment debate to the House calling for greater investment and development of the Comber Greenway. This is an issue I wish to further pursue in the new mandate.
  3. I support the introduction of an Active Travel Act to incorporate cycling and walking provision into land-use planning and new developments.
Niall Ó Donnghaile Sinn Féin YES YES YES
Comments: “Yes, yes and yes! As a keen user and promoter of Belfast Bikes I have seen first hand the social, tourism, economic and connective benefits that increased investment in our public transport and cycling infrastructure brings to our city and our people. East Belfast has led the way with the development of our Greenways and I hope this potential can be maximised in other parts of the Belfast not least utilising the wonderful hills and mountains all around us.”
Courtney Robinson CCLA YES YES YES
Comments: “I’m happy to confirm that we fully support your three asks. The lack of investment in facilities and routes for cyclists here is disgraceful. We want to encourage people to get out and enjoy our green spaces and keep fit and this would be an excellent way to do that.”
Neil Wilson Conservatives YES YES YES

  1. No, not at this time. I wouldn’t rule out greater investment in the future, but I just can’t see it being affordable right now.
  2. Yes! The Comber Greenway, a few relatively minor problems aside, is wonderful.
  3. Open to discussion on this one. Seems rational in new developments, it’s attempting to foist new transport ideas onto Victorian developments that seems to be the problem.

CCLA – Cross-Community Labour Alternative
DUP – Democratic Unionist Party
NILRC – Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee
PUP – Progressive Unionist Party
SDLP – Social Democratic and Labour Party
TUV – Traditional Unionist Voice
UKIP – United Kingdom Independence Party
UUP – Ulster Unionist Party

If you’re a candidate and would like to share your views on our questions to make Northern Ireland a better place for cycling, then we want to hear from you. Please email us at nigreenways@gmail.com and we’ll update this page as soon as possible.


Election Cycle 2016 is a joint effort by the good people at:

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