Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

They want us to go green... so why is there only one cyclist at Stormont?

They want us to go green and commute to work by bike – yet hardly anyone working at Parliament Buildings is doing so.

Just one person working at Parliament Buildings has admitted to travelling to work by bike, a survey revealed.

It's been suggested that the low cycling rate could be down to dangerous roads en route, bans on taking bikes on trains at rush hour – or even the big hill.

Responding to a written Assembly question by north Antrim MLA Daithi McKay (right), the Assembly Commission said a staff survey was carried out in 2012 asking staff to confirm by what means they travel into work.

"At the time of the survey one member of staff indicated that they cycled to work," Assembly Commission representative Pat Ramsey said.

The staff survey went to 387 Assembly employees and 224 staff members responded.

Since then, a Cycle to Work scheme has been launched at Parliament Buildings, with 15 employees signing up at the outset, and the Assembly Commission is carrying out another survey.

"The Stormont Workplace Travel Consortium is in the process of finalising a survey which will be issued to all staff within the Stormont estate to determine by what means staff travel to and from work, including cycling," Mr Ramsey said. "The purpose of this survey is to determine what infrastructure is required to encourage staff to use a more sustainable means of travel."

Daithi McKay, who says he now takes the train and bike to work at least one day a week after catching the cycling bug over the summer, said very few MLAs cycle and those living in Belfast have no excuse.

"There's a cycle shed down in the main car park and another one with four spaces round the back, but usually there is only one other bike there that I ever see," he said.

The Assembly has carried out some measures to encourage people to cycle to work, but they need to build on that , he said. "There are a lot of people who would be willing to cycle to work but they need advice and accommodation from their line managers – there's the option of using the shower facilities, for example.

"I only took it up over the summer but I've caught the bug now. I will take the bike up one day a week – I work on the train using the wi-fi and then jump on the bike and cycle up to work.

"For anybody living around Belfast there is no excuse."

Jonathan Hobbs, who blogs about cycling as NI Greenways, says examples are needed.

"You have politicians like (Lord Mayor) Mairtin O Muilleoir cycling to engagements and people like Daithi and Chris Lyttle who are high profile."

An Assembly Commission spokesman said: "Currently, the Assembly Commission encourages cycling and sustainable transport with a number of initiatives including the Cycle to Work scheme, a car share scheme, participation in Translink's TaxSmart scheme and an interest free loan scheme for Annual Commuter Cards. It should be noted that at the time of the survey, the Cycle to Work scheme was not available."

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