As a sport, a pastime and a way to commute, Cycling has had a fair share of ups and downs in the local industry. Before the internal combustion engine ushered in the dominance of the car, Belfast was awash with trams and bicycles.
The North of Ireland has the dubious position of being the only region in the UK and Ireland where use of cycling and public transport for commuting is actually decreasing. This is due, primarily to the horrendous provisions for cyclists around the province.
The Department of Infrastructure recently appointed a Cycling and Walking Champion whose role it is to accelerate the adoption of these “alternative” modes of transport. The Champion could not be reached for comment. Nor could anyone describe them, or find their office.
We have seen the incredibly poor state of the “drain lanes” in Belfast so-called because every cycle lane painted on the roads is beset with potholes and water drains making a cycling journey an exciting and bone-jarring experience with the added thrill of a near-miss from a speeding car if the cyclist dares to step outside the boundaries of the paint. Paint that’s only present on a small fraction of roads, never continues to roundabouts and most drivers consider it to be a white line that’s “fair game for parking on“.
Despite this, the private sector has stepped in to double the cycling infrastructure budget by investing in 10 tins of white paint. This will ensure at least one more road in Belfast will get a white line that can be ignored by drivers. As a gesture of good will, Derry will also receive four tins of white paint for their cycling infrastructure.
Private sector enthusiasts have also said they will consider another 10 tins of white paint if the Minister raises the ante in providing further white paint for cycling infrastructure.