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Pop up cycle lanes, wider pavements and cars as 'guests on streets': Minister's post-coronavirus vision for NI roads

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Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is to appoint a cycling and walking champion.

She said they would have a "clear focus on transforming communities and developing creative solutions to support our new way of living during and post Covid-19".

Addressing the Stormont Assembly on Tuesday, Minister Mallon said: "Our Champion will ensure that we deliver our commitment to increase the percentage of journeys made by walking and cycling.

"Inspiring our communities, restructuring our spaces, changing forever the way we live – and changing it for the better.

“I want to increase the space available for people who want to walk and cycle by extending pavements, pedestrianising streets and introducing pop up cycle lanes.

"I have already identified some parts of Belfast City Centre and Derry City that can be transformed in this way and I intend to work with councils to identify more areas across the north as a matter of urgency."

She added: "Changing how we use our spaces will transform communities right across Northern Ireland – creatively change lives – enable social distancing and encourage health and mental wellbeing.

“This environmental and public health work will be done on a collaborative basis, with an action group, formed from both within and outside government. I also want to work in collaboration with communities, including identifying and creating ‘Quiet Streets’ where pedestrians, cyclists and play have priority and motor vehicles are guests.

“As the Executive looks this week to review the lockdown – we all need to be looking ahead – out of the darkness of this pandemic and into a better world that we need to build for ourselves. Greener, cleaner, healthier and happier people and places must be our aim as we learn to live with this new normal during and after Covid-19.”

The official will be appointed from within the department in the coming weeks.

Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan welcomed the move.

"Increasing the levels of journeys, we make by walking and cycling must be key priorities as we move forward out of the current Covid 19 crisis and beyond," he said.

“This is therefore a welcome initiative.

“I am a keen cyclist and am only too aware of the need for greater investment in our road, footpath, and safety infrastructure to allow people to be more confident and feel safer on their journeys by walking or cycling.

"We can learn an awful lot from other European regions that place a greater emphasis on such modes of travel.

“More cycling and walking will obviously bring benefit to the individual in terms of their physical and mental health but will also benefit wider society as we strive for measures that reduce greenhouse gases, air pollution and that ultimately protect and save our environment.

"I hope the new champion is appointed quickly and I look forward to working with them."

Belfast Telegraph