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25-year bike strategy aims to turn Northern Ireland into 'cycling society'

Published 25/08/2015

A public bike hire scheme was officially launched in April. Above: Belfast Telegraph journalist Christopher Woodhouse tries a bike
A public bike hire scheme was officially launched in April. Above: Belfast Telegraph journalist Christopher Woodhouse tries a bike
The Giro d'Italia came to Northern Ireland last year

Ambitious plans to persuade more people to get on their bike have been unveiled by Northern Ireland's transport minister.

Danny Kennedy wants to transform Northern Ireland into a "cycling society" where 40% of all journeys under a mile would be cycled by 2040.

He said: "My vision is that Northern Ireland will be a community where people have the freedom and confidence to travel by bicycle for everyday journeys."

His new 25-year bicycle strategy, launched in Belfast, also includes proposals to increase the number of cycle lanes as well as create more greenways and quiet routes.

Dedicated 20mph zones, bicycle hubs and cycle parking could also be introduced to give the bike "equal priority".

Efforts will also be made to increase awareness about the environmental and health benefits.

Mr Kennedy said: "To achieve the vision for cycling we need to build a comprehensive network for the bicycle, support people who choose to travel by bicycle and promote the bicycle as a mode of transport for everyday journeys.

"I want to be creative and innovative in encouraging people to use the bicycle. I consider it very important that my strategy sets out the bigger picture, outlining all the elements that need to be addressed to make Northern Ireland a cycling community that is comparable with our other European neighbours."

Cycling has increased in popularity since Belfast hosted the Giro d'Italia last year and last week Mr Kennedy announced plans to develop two new bike routes in the city.

Belfast's public bike hire scheme has also proved hugely successful since it was launched in April.

East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, chair of Stormont's all-party group on cycling, said there were a number of barriers preventing cycling becoming a main mode of transport for many people.

He said: "The main problems are safety and the need to rebalance the amount of cycling provision we have on our roads.

"Any strategy needs to tackle these issues so we can advance cycling as a viable, active and sustainable means of transport.

"There is a lot of work to do to allow us to catch up with other European cities, where bold infrastructure makes cycling an attractive everyday form of travel.

"It is a fantastic, affordable and interesting way to travel, but now we need to see a strategy of action and not just words."

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