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City Hall protests over cycling budget cuts

City cyclists have taken to the streets in protest after the Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy, announced in a written statement, that this year’s cycle budget for Belfast has been slashed from £450,000 to £8,000.

Cyclists turned up in their droves outside city hall yesterday lunchtime, (Wednesday, October 13), to voice their anger that the budget to improve the city’s infrastructure to accommodate cycling, “has all but disappeared”.

Attending the protest, SDLP regional Development spokesperson Conall McDevitt said: “This shocking cut flies in the face of Murphy’s earlier commitment to promoting cycling and active transport after reassuring an audience at the launch of Belfast Cycle City in June of his commitment to the issue.

“It is completely disproportionate in terms of other cuts and investments being made within his department. This budget cut contrasts with the investment which the Minister is putting into new strategic roads, which has increased by 51 per cent from £149 million to £225 million — figures which dwarf the pathetic amount which is going into cycling.

“This is yet another indication of the Minister’s failure to address the problem of increased volumes of traffic on our roads.

“It also out of step with his party’s manifesto position, which makes a commitment to enhancing public transport and modernising infrastructure to encourage motorists to abandon their cars and take the bus, train, bike or indeed to walk.

“I am calling on the Minister to reconsider his spending plans in relation to cycling, and to ensure that cuts, which we all acknowledge are unavoidable, are spread more evenly across the board rather than concentrated disproportionately on one specific area.”

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Sustrans Director for Northern Ireland Steven Patterson said: “We realise that government is making difficult funding decisions at the moment and no budgets will be exempt, however if we are to address major health, environmental and social inclusion issues we need to invest in transport options that get people cycling and walking, for short journeys. Sixty per cent (£225m) of the entire transport budget is being spent on new inter-urban roads and this figure has increased this year.

“All other investment on the roads has been reduced including much needed road maintenance, walking, traffic calming, cycling routes and bus lanes. We are very concerned that these cuts disproportionally affect vulnerable road users.

“We have proven that when a good walking and cycling route is built people will use it. For example the riverside cycle route in Belfast has seen increasing numbers of people using it every year — usage has increased by 225 per cent since 2000.

“The benefits of such investments are proven and we need the Assembly to invest in sustainable transport with all the benefits that they bring.”

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