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Holywood Arches to be Active Travel Hub for £550,000 Comber Greenway cycle pilot project

By Linda Stewart

Published 24/05/2016

Comber Greenway charts a seven-mile course through the countryside from Comber to east Belfast
Comber Greenway charts a seven-mile course through the countryside from Comber to east Belfast

The Comber Greenway in east Belfast could attract hundreds of new cyclists if a £550,000 EU-funded project is successful.

Belfast has been chosen for a major investment to promote cycling as a mode of transport, including an Active Travel Hub at Holywood Arches, smart cycle storage units and an e-bike pilot programme.

The grant was won by cycling and walking charity Sustrans through Interreg North-West Europe to take forward a project worth a total of £550,000 focusing on the Comber Greenway in east Belfast to make cycling a more attractive option for commuters.

The CHIPS project (Cycle Highways Innovation for Smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning) will see Belfast collaborate with leading cycling nations – the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as Transport for London, Germany and the Republic of Ireland over the next three years.

The £3.37m programme aims to tackle high levels of air pollution caused by car traffic in North-West Europe by building better infrastructure for cyclists and encouraging bicycle commuting.

The Sustrans project will involve coordinating a survey across the nine partners to identify the barriers preventing people commuting by bike. In Belfast this survey will focus on people using the Comber Greenway for their commute.

Specifically Sustrans will work with key employers close to the Comber Greenway to encourage and support people to cycle. Programmes developed by Sustrans in Belfast will become a template for other cities across Europe.

An ‘Active Travel hub’ will be established at Holywood Arches in east Belfast to provide a public base for the project.

Sustrans will also invest in smart cycle storage units using modern technology such as swipe cards for security; bike service points and a pilot programme developing the potential of e-bikes for those who have longer distance commutes or live in hillier areas.

The project fosters transnational cooperation to make North Western Europe a key economic player and an attractive place to work and live.

The CHIPS’ partners forecast a 150 to 300 percent increase in the number of cyclists as a result of the project.

Each partner is considering a specific aspect of cycle highway development. There are six programmes in the scheme across the various countries, including behaviour change initiatives and improving links between cycling and public transport.

A Cycle Highway Academy will be developed to hold a series of sessions for all the countries involved to share their learning.

Sustrans Northern Ireland Director, Gordon Clarke, said the investment is exciting news for Belfast and cycling.

“We are delighted to have won this major investment for cycling in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“There was a lot of competition for this European funding but our consortium of partners from across North-West Europe made our application hard to refuse.

“This is a brilliant boost for cycling on the Comber to Belfast corridor but we will also benefit immensely from the innovations being developed by our partners in Brussels, Frankfurt and the Netherlands.”

Gina McIntyre, CEO at the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), said: “We were delighted to support Sustrans in their successful bid for funding from the EU Programme ‘North-West Europe’. The promotion of more sustainable transport initiatives, such as cycling, is essential in contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions, and will complement the transport initiatives planned for the region.

“This is also a key priority of the new INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed directly by the SEUPB. Under the Programme approximately  €47m will be made available to projects which can support cross-border sustainable mobility. We also look forward to working with other organisations in the region to help them access funds from the suite of transnational Interreg VB/C Programmes for 2014-2020.”

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