Governments waking up to need to plan for cycling, but Sustrans wants NI's draft bicycle strategy to go further

‘We want a cycling culture in Northern Ireland’

Northern Ireland’s Department for Regional Development has produced a draft bicycle strategy for Northern Ireland and now the public has been invited to participate in this consultation on the future of cycling.

The encouraging move is another indication that governments are at least spending more time considering cycling in plans. Wales is leading the way in the UK with its cycle route design guidance.

The public consultation will be followed by a ‘Northern Ireland – Changing Gear’ seminar on Thursday 16 October in Belfast, wholly dedicated to cycling in Northern Ireland.

You can download the draft bicycle strategy here. It says its vision is: “To establish a cycling culture in Northern
Ireland to give people the freedom and confidence to travel by bicycle, and where all road users can safely share space with mutual respect.”

It also includes this encouraging infographic:

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy said: “Over recent months I have committed to delivering a cycling revolution in Northern Ireland. Part of that goal is to establish a cycling culture in Northern Ireland that gives everyone the freedom and confidence to travel by bicycle on roads that, with mutual respect, are shared by all road users.

"I am offering everyone an opportunity to have a say on how we embrace the wide ranging benefits of cycling.

“The way we travel, for leisure and for business, is changing. I encourage everyone to take part in this consultation and I look forward to hearing different views, suggestions and observations. I intend to publish the finalised Bicycle Strategy for Northern Ireland early in the next year.”

Sustrans Northern Ireland Director Gordon Clarke welcomed the publication as a positive indication of the Department’s intentions, but called for the government to better expand and illustrate their 25 year vision.

Clarke said: “It’s fantastic to see the government beginning to lay plans for the future of cycling in Northern Ireland – the release of this document shows that getting people travelling by bike is right at the top of the political agenda.

“The government must be bolder and paint a dynamic picture of cycling in Northern Ireland 25 years from now. There needs to be more detail on ownership of this plan, an indication of the dedicated funding required to achieve it and how success will be measured.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the Delivery Plan when it is published.

“The strategy rightly points out that infrastructure alone will not deliver a cycling revolution – safe routes combined with information and education, as well lower traffic speeds will allow us to become a healthier, more prosperous cycling nation.”

Sustrans is calling for:

  • an annual expenditure for cycling of £12.5m
  • greater emphasis placed on the Active School Travel Programme and Safe Routes to School
  • every child in year six to have the opportunity to have on-road cycle training
  • a plan to address low levels of bike ownership, especially for those on low incomes or unemployed.

The CTC has also commented on the plan. Rogen Geffen said: "The aims of the draft Northern Ireland Bicycle Strategy are generally admirable. However it will need to be followed by a Delivery Plan which sets challenging but achievable targets, and provides serious funding, if the Strategy’s "fine words" are to be turned into reality."

Read the CTC’s full response here.

In the upcoming September edition of BikeBiz we speak with those that are pushing forward Northern Ireland’s Mountain Biking facilities.

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