Belfast Telegraph

Can the city get people to swap their cars for bikes?

by Natalie Irvine

The city could be en route to a bike hire scheme similar to those seen in Amsterdam and Paris.

Transport Minister Conor Murphy said he was looking into the idea at the ‘Belfast Cycle City — Visions for the Future’ conference, last Thursday, June 1.

In an attempt to reach climate targets by 2020, 10 percent of city commuters should be making their journey to work by bike.

Mr Murphy said: “The setting up of a joint project, involving Belfast City Council, the Strategic Investment Board and my Department, to examine the feasibility and options for introducing a public bike hire scheme in Belfast, is a demonstration of my commitment to encouraging |cycling in the city.

The cycle target has been set by sustainable transport charity Sustrans and Belfast Friends of the Earth in Belfast Cycle City — 2020 Vision.

The numbers of people cycling in Belfast is already increasing each year but the two charities believe more could be done; from improving and promoting routes to looking more widely at the whole transport system. The vision also calls for an annual Department for Regional Development spend on cycling of at least £15 per person per year, in line with English cities.

South Belfast cyclist Chris McCorry said: “I really got into cycling just over a year ago, and almost cycle everywhere now. While I always encourage ways to engage others to cycle, I don’t think Belfast is the right size for a cycle hire scheme, it would be great in Dublin or something, but I don’t think it would prove successful here.

“I don’t see how it really helps people to commute either — isn’t it more for those that want to hire the bike for an hour, for tourists really? This scheme might not be so useful for commuters.

“More cycle lanes would really help commuters and encourage more to take cycling up as a preferred mode of transport.

“Motorists need to be more of aware cyclists rights on the roads too. Most drivers think cyclists should be shunted to the left hand side of the road — cyclists are entitled to cycle in the middle of the road, it is the safest place for them.”

He said 20mph speed limits would help too in the city area. “There is a marked difference between a car passing you at 30mph and one at 20mph,” he added.

Meanwhile, there are reports that Paris’s Velib bicycle rental scheme has been hit by theft and vandalism. Half the fleet of 15,000 distinctive grey bikes have disappeared, presumed stolen, with more than 11,000 vandalised.

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