Belfast 'needs more cycle lanes'
International expert calls for action to encourage motorists onto bikes
Belfast needs more segregated cycle lanes to get people out of their cars and onto bikes.
That's according to expert Klaus Bondam, the keynote speaker at the Changing Gear seminar organised by the Department of Regional Development.
Mr Bondam, CEO of the Danish Cyclists' Federation, said Belfast already had some good segregated cycling lanes but that the city suffered from a lack of connectivity and signage.
"We have to create cycling infrastructure that makes people feel more comfortable and more secure when cycling," he added.
"We can do that by going out and asking drivers what can be done to make them cycle. A lot of drivers want to. They think it's unsafe but would like to cycle.
Mr Bondam, who was taken on a cycling tour of Belfast by Transport Minister Danny Kennedy ahead of the seminar, also warned against letting private taxis use bus and cycle lanes because it could intimidate cyclists. "You definitely need more segregated cycle lanes," he said.
"The hardcore Lycra men will cycle no matter what – the point now is to get the ordinary men and women of Northern Ireland to choose the bicycle as a preferred mode of transport because it's convenient, fast and safe."
He also told seminar delegates that the best way to encourage a cycling culture was to start with children, making sure there are safe routes to schools, to the shops and to recreational areas.
"We need to create places where families can go and cycle with their kids at the weekend as well," Mr Bondam added.
"I totally understand any parents who will not let their kids cycle on the road.
"Creating these pockets of safe environments is a good way to start. Then you build up a good network from there, street-by-street."
Mr Kennedy welcomed Mr Bondam's suggestions and said: "I have made a commitment to develop a cycling culture in Northern Ireland.
"In that culture, people would have a choice on how they travel, on how they get to work, on how they get to the shops and on how they spend some of their leisure time.
"I am convinced that Northern Ireland has the potential to develop a mature cycling culture similar to that enjoyed by many of our European neighbours, who benefit from improvement in health and the environment."
STORY SO FAR
The seminar is being held in conjunction with public consultation on a draft bicycle strategy launched at the end of August. The draft outlines a vision for the development of a cycling culture here, and everyone has an opportunity to provide feedback ahead of the November 21 closing date. Public consultation events have taken place in six venues. A copy of the draft can be found at www.drdni.gov.uk.