Cycling UK is calling on decision-makers in Northern Ireland to realise the benefits that more cycling can have for business.
As the All Party Cycling Group (APG) sets the terms of its inquiry into how Northern Ireland can become more cycle friendly today, Wednesday, August 16, the UK cycling charity is urging the group of cross-party MLAs and the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to prioritise business by building more cycle lanes.
With Belfast a regular feature in the UK’s top five for cities suffering from congestion, the charity says this is affecting productivity, and that “business can’t keep subsidising Northern Ireland’s car dependency.”
Cycling UK argues that commuters and people want to make shorter journeys but feel they have no choice but to drive, due to a lack of safe cycling facilities. This has resulted in less than 2% of all journeys being cycled.
In cities such as Belfast, a recent report by Sustrans shows 68% of people support safer cycle lanes which are separated from motor traffic, even if this would mean less room for driving.
Andrew McClean, Cycling UK’s spokesperson in Northern Ireland, said: “Our capital is the fifth most congested city in the UK, two-thirds of our school journeys are driven, car parks are overflowing onto our pavements and into our cycle lanes. In Belfast alone, congestion cost £102m in 2022 – businesses can’t continue subsidising Northern Ireland’s car dependency.
“Warm words and aspiration to give people genuine choice in how they travel have done nothing. It’s why Cycling UK will present to the APG the importance of developing a plan of action for the future administration to create networks of safe cycle lanes.
“We also call on the Department for Infrastructure to adopt the findings of the group’s inquiry into cycle safety and have procedures in place for the new administration to adopt in its first 100 days.”
While cycling’s environmental, health and wellbeing benefits are well known, Cycling UK says this has resulted in “little to no difference” in on the ground delivery in Northern Ireland.
The charity hopes that the business case for cycling will force decision-makers to start acting.
McClean added: “Businesses such as the Linen Quarter and Ulster University see the benefits of a workforce that can cycle, and are going to great lengths to make it easier for their employees from creating secure parking to providing showers.
“The missing link, however, is how people get from home to their workplace safely – that’s what the Department for Infrastructure can deliver on.”