Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Family of teen bus victim welcome Belfast's pedestrian plan

Ciara Park

The family of a west Belfast schoolgirl who was killed by a bus in Belfast City Centre last year has welcomed plans to pedestrianise Donegall Place.

Ciara Park (16) died almost a year ago after being hit by a bus at the junction of Donegall Place and Royal Avenue.

Welcoming newly announced plans to ban buses and non-essential traffic from Donegall Place, her family said they hoped it would create a safer environment for shoppers in Belfast city centre.

Ciara's mother Briege, who remains devastated almost a year after the tragic death, said she hoped no other family would go through the experience her family is living through at the moment.

The family have been comforted by the support of Ciara's friends who visited them on what would have been her 17th birthday last month and have also come to her home in Dunmurry to share their GCSE results.

Welcoming the news, Ciara's family spoke through local Sinn Fein councillor Angela Nelson, who visited yesterday.

“Our thoughts are very much with the Park family today. A short time ago they lost their daughter Ciara and the family are still dealing with this awful burden at the minute,” she added.

Donegall Place is to be pedestrianised as part of a long-term scheme and there are also proposals to ban traffic from the area surrounding Belfast City Hall.

While these plans are being progressed, bus traffic along Donegall Place has been restricted to one direction, allowing buses to travel only in a southerly direction towards City Hall. Eventually, more priority bus lanes will be put in place for buses and the forthcoming rapid transit system outside the main shopping area.

There are also plans to install new furniture as part of the £28 million phase 1 of the Streets Ahead scheme regenerating the city centre.

The plans were announced this week by Transport Minister Conor Murphy, Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie and Environment Minister Edwin Roots.

But they have sparked fury from bus drivers union Unite, which said the money would be better spent on controlling the cars parked on bus stops around the city centre and ensuring priority bus lanes remain clear.

Branding the proposals an “absolute farce”, regional organiser Sean Smyth said they were misjudged and would not make one iota of difference.

“Shops are illegally putting out street furniture and the footpaths and road surface are too similar — there's no kerb so people don't realise they are walking into the road,” he warned.

He said the ministers were allocating funding for a scheme that would be overturned in a few years' time when funding for Minister Murphy's transport plans came through and insisted that the pedestrianisation plan was aimed at removing the “dirty, smelly buses” from around the City Hall instead of improving safety.

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