Turn of east Belfast to voice fears as new 12-hour bus lanes come into effect
People in east Belfast have voiced concern ahead of the introduction of 12-hour bus lanes on the Newtownards Road.
The new Glider route comes into effect on Monday, stretching from Dunlady Road through Dundonald to the city centre.
It follows the launch of the service in the west of the city, which caused anger among some businesses, with one on the Falls Road already closing its doors.
Yesterday in Ballyhackamore independent retailers were worried about how the new system could affect trade on that side of the River Lagan.
The area was voted the best place to live in Northern Ireland in a list compiled by The Sunday Times in March.
Paul Kane (45) runs the clothing branch of Dave Kane Cycles on the Upper Newtownards Road.
He has worked in the shop for 30 years. His father owns the business and works at the second branch, the bike shop, 200 yards away.
"There's a lack of parking within the area," he said.
"Because the inside lane will now be operating 12 hours a day, people will start to avoid the area because they could be scared to drive into the lane.
"Somebody could be in here for between 15 and 30 minutes.
"My sister would come down here the odd day and she's in a wheelchair.
"She'd park outside and come in to me and maybe spend an hour or two here.
"There's practically zero disabled car spaces here now.
"Long-term, we don't know if it's going to be viable for our business to stay in this area.
"The flip side is, it could mean people within the local area could start to commute to their work on bikes."
Joan Thompson has run boutique Triniti for three-and-a-half years.
She said customers have had parking difficulties in the past and that the new restrictions might not help.
She did, however, praise the benefits to the environment by encouraging more people to use public transport.
She added: "So many people have came past my shop and said: 'I love what's in your window but I wasn't able to stop, with no parking'.
"So if this means less parking, that's going to affect me.
"We've already been affected by roadworks and are already down (business-wise).
"But environmentally, I do think it's a good idea, so I'm a bit torn.
"The traffic is horrendous."
Loss in income isn't the only concern among people in the area.
Sinead York is the business owner of Relax Kids Belfast and she has two youngsters who attend school nearby.
She is also a committee member of Ballyhackamore Business Association, which runs events to promote the local community.
She said: "I live in the area and from a parent's point of view, the buses that use that inside lane go so fast.
"My concern is that someone is going to get hurt or worse."
However, sustainable transport charity Sustrans said it supported the joint initiative between Translink and the Department for Infrastructure.
Sustrans director Gordon Clarke said it welcomed the introduction of the 12-hour lanes and the Belfast Rapid Transit network.
"It will ensure a fast, efficient bus service for the people of east Belfast both to access the city centre and to link with west Belfast, which is a really positive step," he said.
"Encouraging people out of their cars and on to public transport, walking or cycling is crucial to reduce congestion and air pollution and for the future growth of this city as set out in the Belfast Agenda (produced by Belfast City Council).
"This is about moving people and creating new jobs in the city facilitated by a modern, efficient transport system."