| 8.1°C Belfast

Minister to spend millions in bid to get us on our bikes ... just like Boris

Sustainable travel in the north west received a major boost yesterday with £2.135m for pedestrian and cycling routes in both Londonderry and Strabane.

The money came as Belfast announced it was to set up a public access bicycle scheme similar to London’s ‘Boris Bikes’.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy announced the money as part of the Active Travel scheme.

Derry City Council wants to create 3km of new traffic-free walk and cycle routes.

The new routes will link transport stations with residential areas, schools and businesses at a cost of £1,348,000.

They will feature across Derry and link into pedestrianised routes already completed.

Derry will develop 40 school travel plans and 10 workplace travel plans, while also appointing a new community active travel officer.

John Kelpie, chairman of Derry Access Forum and strategic director with Derry City Council said: “This money will assist us in making people think about how they can travel more sustainably, and offer them real alternatives so they can enjoy the financial, environmental and health benefits of leaving the car behind.”

In Strabane a new pedestrian and cycle bridge is planned along with 2.4kms of cycle and pedestrian paths at a cost of £873,000.

The funding allocated will improve access to key services within Strabane, while increasing safety levels for pedestrians crossing the River Mourne.

The bridge is designed to remove the physical divide between the town centre and residential areas, schools, shops, sport and leisure facilities and churches.

Strabane council's chairman, Councillor Thomas Kerrigan, welcomed the announcement.

He said: “Strabane District Council is delighted to receive this much-needed funding which will assist us in completing the pedestrian and cycle bridge at Melvin.”

Meanwhile, in Belfast public hire bikes will be appearing on the streets within the next three years.

Belfast City Council has been awarded £700,000 to fund a public bike hire scheme for both residents and tourists.

The plans will see the city council invest in 300 bikes and 30 docking stations where they can be collected.

The docking stations will be sited in public spaces no more than 300-500 metres apart.

The project will be the latest in more than 100 city bike hire schemes worldwide, including major ones in London and Dublin.

Minister Kennedy said the Active Travel Demonstration Project would enhance access to the city centre commercial and retail centre from the surrounding neighbourhood and would help create a better connected city for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.

Councillor Deirdre Hargey, who chairs the council’s Strategic Policy and Research Committee, said the scheme would initially focus on the city centre, with bikes available at key locations such as the Titanic Quarter, the Gasworks, Queen’s University and York Street. Bikes would also be stationed at key tourism destinations within the city centre.

“It would be similar to schemes in other European countries where a tourist could rent a bike out for a few hours or up to three days. Commuters could also have a longer or annual subscription to the scheme.”

Meanwhile, Craigavon Borough Council has been awarded £1.3m to revitalise its walking and cycle network along an eight-mile route.

The scheme will eventually link two train stations, a number of schools, a hospital, shopping centre, industrial estates and leisure facilities.

Belfast Telegraph