Plans to build a new walking and cycling bridge across the River Lagan have taken a step forward after £50,000 was set aside for a study into the possibility.
Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has announced the cash has been set aside to see if it would be feasible to build a new Gasworks Bridge connecting the Gasworks on Ormeau Road to Ormeau Park on the opposite side of the river.
The plan, highlighted by the Belfast Telegraph earlier this summer, would mean that cyclists commuting into the city centre from east Belfast would no longer have to contend with horrendous traffic on the Ormeau and Albert bridges, while Ormeau Park would effectively become a city centre park where workers could spend a pleasant hour over lunchtime before heading back to the grind.
The idea of a Gasworks Bridge was proposed years ago by Laganside Corporation, included in the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan and was suggested as part of the National Stadium proposal for Ormeau Park, but some-how never happened.
The project has been estimated to cost in the region of £4-8 million, with the bridge spanning 140m between the Lagan entrance to the Gasworks sites and the Ravenhill Reach car park beside Ormeau Park.
The minister announced the scheme in the Assembly yesterday, saying he wanted to see a cycling revolution in Northern Ireland.
Mr Kennedy said: "I feel more needs to be done for Northern Ireland to close the gap on other European cities in promoting cycling.
"This new unit will work closely with other government departments and key stakeholders to make sure cycling promotion is effective and co-ordinated. Safety is a major issue for cyclists and ensuring they can travel safely, especially around the city centre and on busy roads will be one of the main areas of focus.
"I previously announced a £50,000 feasibility study for a Lagan Cycle Bridge and the new unit will be tasked with developing similar proposals and working with the All party group on cycling to develop a strategy.
"In addition, my department also has plans to introduce around 4.5km of new cycle lanes."