Belfast city centre’s new flagship protected cycleway has been in place for just ten months, successfully supporting cycling journeys into the heart of the city. But behind the headline success, serious drawbacks threaten to cast a shadow over future city cycling network development.
The new Alfred Street – Upper Arthur Street cycleway in Belfast has been officially launched by Transport Minister Michelle McIlveen.
The cycleway provides a protected route from the traffic-free Laganside route all the way to the pedestrianised city centre shopping area around Cornmarket.
The bollard-protected cycle lane is the first of three route sections being constructed in the south and west of Belfast city centre this spring.
— Jonathan Francey (@leglessplok) March 24, 2016
Many users have been impressed by the surface quality and the high-profile nature of the scheme.
A further two sections are due to be built later this year linking the city centre with Titanic Quarter railway station to the east.
The schemes are devised by Northern Ireland’s Cycling Unit, working in Transport NI under the Department for Regional Development.
— Johnny McCrystal (@JohnnyMcCrystal) March 23, 2016
The Cycling Unit are conducting a series of experiments on this pilot lane around bollard spacing, cycle lane ‘gateway’ treatments at junctions and dedicated signal-controlled bicycle crossings.
— NI Executive (@niexecutive) March 23, 2016
Many people have noted issues with vehicle incursions, cargo bike accessibility and junction safety – please provide feedback directly to the Cycling Unit who are monitoring problems and will change the layout as required.
— Belfast Bikes (@BelfastBikes) March 23, 2016
This scheme marks the start of bicycle-based transport planning in Belfast, with a city-wide network plan due to be published by the Cycling Unit this summer.
First flagship cycle route for Belfast opens: Transport Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced the opening o… https://t.co/MDlEIUpUNx
— UTV (@utv) March 23, 2016
It also marks the final obliteration of Belfast’s wonderfully rich heritage of idiosyncratic cycling space, replacing the iconic Bin Lane and the beloved Cyclesaurus. We will never see their like again. Hopefully..
Thanks once more to karmaDinosaur Media for the excellent video report.
The bicyclists of Belfast and connoisseurs of awful cycling infrastructure across the world are tonight mourning the loss of Cyclesaurus.
Contractors working on the Belfast Bicycle Improvement Plan today ripped through the little dinosaur tail cycle lane on Alfred Street.
The only sign of what was a titan of Belfast cycling is a small piece of green tarmac with the distinctive stegosaurus plates on the top. It is rumoured that urban art hunters usually seen lopping Banksy paintings off London’s street walls are en route Belfast to prise away this artefact for sale on the black market.
Cyclesaurus shot to fame in 2013 as one of the main attractions of the Belfast Cycling Study Tour which brought cycling experts from around the world.
When Cyclesaurus was voted as Northern Ireland’s worst cycling infrastructure in 2013 it seemed as if its days were numbered. Just weeks later it looked like Cyclesaurus was for the chop, but alas it simply mutated into something only a mother could love.
— Borghert Borghmans (@StripyMoggie) January 13, 2014
Cyclesaurus was such an attraction that it even spawned a cottage industry, with a line of Christmas cards and a mug so stylish that even Hollywood (or Holywood?) stars were demanding a piece of the action.
— Michael Smiley (@mrmichaelsmiley) May 25, 2015
But the glory days are gone and we now await the magnificent future of the new Belfast Bicycle Network, all of which was predicted in the distant past by a local mystic.
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) January 8, 2014
So farewell then Cyclesaurus. Our grandchildren will cycle in gleeful freedom around our city streets wondering how a generation could get things so wrong with so little paint, and also who thought allowing motor cars this close to a city centre was a good thing?
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) January 21, 2016
But wait – there’s more bad news for Belfast as the contractors have indicated they will reach and obliterate the world famous Bin Lane as early as next week.
It’s an emotional time to be on a bicycle in Belfast.
Contractors have been hard at work this weekend progressing Scheme 1 of the Belfast Bicycle Improvement Plan on Alfred Street.
A pleasant surprise awaited Monday morning commuters as the resurfacing work has been completed on the 270m stretch between Ormeau Avenue and Franklin Street. Final road markings have also appeared up to Clarence Street which for the first time allows everyone to see how the one-way street will operate once the project is complete.
The difference in the surface treatments is visually striking. The cycle space enjoys a far smoother surface than the vehicle side and is a joy to ride on. The Bin Lane further up the street has suffered for years from roughly patched utility works, leaving a surface like a cratered moon-scape. The new cycle lane looks set to make the experience of cycling to and from the city centre a luxurious treat.
Hold on though – is this just going to be a paint-separated cycle lane? Take a closer look at the new cycle lane marking. At around 2 metre intervals little studs and chalk marks indicate where the bollard separation is due to be installed before the street reopens. This should be the game changer for protecting those on bicycles from both moving traffic and those drivers who fancy Belfast’s cycle lanes as a handy parking spot.
The whole project is due to complete by the end of March, however that includes Schemes 2 and 3 which are on the north-west side of Belfast city centre. In the short term the contractor’s sights are firmly set on Cyclesaurus and the Bin Lane, and Scheme 1 looks like it will be completed within weeks.
A big thank you to everyone who backed the first crowd-funded expansion of the Bikefast site in super-quick time last night – Bikefast should be upgrading to its own domain and advert-free by the end of this week thanks to your support! 🙂