Possible Changes to Cycling/Walking Provision in Northern Ireland:

From the Department of Infrastructure:

I am delighted to announce that there will now be a walking and cycling Champion within my Department. 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

This is a fabulous opportunity. Northern Ireland missed out on some key legislation regarding eBikes. We are way behind the rest of the UK with this.

The UK legislation was harmonised with EU law EN15194 in April 2015. Your steed is an “electrically assisted pedal cycle” (or EAPC, or ebike, or Pedelec) if: the bike has pedals that propel it; the electric motor won’t assist you when you’re travelling more than 25 km/h (15.5mph); and the power doesn’t exceed 250 watts. In the UK you must be over 14 years old to ride an electric bike but you don’t need a licence, nor do you need to register it or pay vehicle tax.

The cycles that meet these requirements (which affect two-wheeled bikes but also tandems and tricycles) can be ridden on any cycle paths and anywhere else that bikes are normally allowed.

In all cases, these are pedal assist cycles and not “twist and go” throttle based solutions.

Either way the announcement from the Minister for Infrastructure could go a long way to changing the face of Belfast. Increasing mobility and reducing congestion are key to further health concerns both in terms of environment but also in the current pandemic. I’m excited about the possibility of cycle lanes that might, for instance, shadow the M1 into Belfast rather than track slowly along the Lisburn Road dodging buses and parked cars. Talk about an infrastructure ready project.

And while we are at it, the Minister may want to look at the York Road Exchange upgrade with a sceptical, future looking eye. Sacrifice a car lane for a bike lane all the way up to Mallusk and Jordanstown. Extend the bike courses out from Bangor and Lisburn. Make sure there’s a solid Bike access lane from West Belfast and the small streets of North Belfast.

And please, please, make the cycle lanes more than just paint on the roads. It’s bad enough that we sacrifice pavement for cars, but parked cars render cycle lanes utterly useless.