Belfast Telegraph

It's about time we learned to like the bike

The familiar advice to 'Get on your bike' has a particular connotation in Northern Ireland, where cyclists face an uphill struggle in campaigning for better facilities.

This newspaper revealed earlier this week that the situation is so bad here that just 0.6% of journeys in Northern Ireland are made on bikes.

This is one of the worst records in Europe and only slightly better than Cyprus, with a figure of 0.3% and a zero figure in Malta where it seems that no-one uses a bike.

Cyclists in Northern Ireland are determined to follow the right track in campaigning for better conditions, and they showed initiative by staging a mass rally in Belfast to draw attention to their plight.

They want the Stormont Executive to accept a binding target of 10% of journeys made on bikes by 2020, to bring us in line with the targets in Scotland and the Irish Republic.

This would require firm Stormont backing rather than the mere " aspiration" included in the DRD report on Active Transport to achieve a target " in line" with our United Kingdom counterparts.

Cycling is one of those activities which helps to keep people healthy as well as reducing traffic congestion and our carbon footprint.

Cycling is also affordable at a time when petrol and diesel costs here are prohibitive.

The current downside to cycling in Northern Ireland is the lack of proper facilities.

This adds to the dangers of using this form of transport evident daily in our towns and cities, and all too often there are reports of cyclists killed or injured.

There is a need for a totally different mindset in Northern Ireland where motorists need to welcome and make way for cyclists, rather than regarding them as a nuisance.

The authorities should also do much more to ensure that cycle paths are kept free, that more facilities are provided, and that we all become better educated and more tolerant about this legitimate and often delightful mode of transport.

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