View from A2 down onto the Holywood Exchange access road


The Sydenham Greenway idea has hit the headlines in the last few months. A public petition was launched by Northern Ireland Greenways to raise awareness of the potential project which gained over 3,000 signatures in a matter of weeks over Easter.

Belfast City Council took notice of the petition and Councillors George Dorrian and John Kyle brought a motion on the greenway plan.

However the time has come to launch phase two of our efforts to ensure the project proceeds. The spark for the petition and latest campaign was the proposed Tillysburn Park and Ride scheme from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI).

Despite bordering the proposed Sydenham Greenway route, and two DfI strategies specifically adopting the Sydenham Greenway as a planned active travel corridor, they omitted this pathway from the Park and Ride scheme. A huge missed opportunity.


Tillysburn Park and RIde plan document ©DfI


However, as there is a public consultation on the Park and Ride scheme, this offers you the opportunity to comment. And in this case, object to the scheme proceeding further unless there is a greenway included in revised plans.

To do this you’ll need to send an email to the Department by 5pm on Wednesday 9th May 2018.

View the Tillysburn Park and Ride consultation documents on the Department for Infrastructure website.

Luckily for you we’ve prepared a handy email template for an objection. This states the main reasons why DfI should have included the Sydenham Greenway in this plan, and wording to make your objection to progress on the scheme unless changes are made. Just cut and paste, and then send to the address below before the deadline.

Feel free to alter and amend the text to suit your own views on the wider scheme. Many people will object to the Park and Ride scheme in itself, others may wish for it to proceed once a greenway route is integrated.



To Department for Infrastructure,

I welcome the opportunity to comment on the Tillysburn Park and Ride consultation.

I wish to formally object to the scheme in the form laid out in the documents published on 12 March 2018.

The Department for Infrastructure is tasked with increasing the levels of active travel in Northern Ireland. As many as nine Draft Progamme for Government Outcomes Framework indicators directly relate to getting more people travelling in an active way and to the creation of safe active travel space such as greenways:


2. Reduce health inequality
3. Increase healthy life expectancy
4. Reduce preventable deaths
6. Improve mental health
23. Improve transport connections for people, goods and services
25. Increase the use of public transport and active travel
29. Increase environmental sustainability
30. Improve our attractiveness as a destination
37. Improve air quality



The Tillysburn Park and Ride scheme borders on the route of the proposed Sydenham Greenway, a traffic-free pathway which would connect the greenways of Belfast to the North Down Coastal Path.

You should know this as the Sydenham Greenway route was adopted in two of your own strategies in the past year and a half:


Exercise Explore Enjoy: A Strategic Plan for Greenways (Nov 2016)

Draft Belfast Bicycle Network (Jan 2017)


That the Department omitted any reference to the greenway in the Tillysburn Park and Ride is of great concern to me. Since you launched your consultation, more than 3,000 people have signed a petition to demand the Sydenham Greenway project should go ahead.

The Sydenham Greenway would enable and support walking and cycling journeys for a vast range of purposes and users, including:


  • park and cycle customers
  • local residents in Sydenham and Knocknagoney
  • leisure users from the Greater Belfast area
  • commuters to the Harbour Estate and Airport
  • shoppers to Holywood Exchange


The bike shelter in your current scheme plan doesn’t tick the box.

You are the Department tasked with getting more people travelling without the need for a car. Instead of weaving that aim into scheme designs, you continue to ignore cycling and walking connections. Members of the public should not have to keep holding you to this basic responsibility on every scheme you design.

It is my considered view that the Tillysburn Park and Ride scheme must not proceed in the absence of a greenway link along this important transport corridor. This is your reminder that active travel is transport.

I look forward to receipt of your revised scheme plan by return email.





Remember, you need to email your response, no later than 5pm on Wednesday 9th May, to:

You can copy us in if you want, to help us gauge the level of response, at:


Thank you for your continued support. By concerted public action, we will get the Sydenham Greenway built!


This week in Belfast, the western bank of the Lagan River Walkway closed for two years, to allow construction of a new Conference Centre at the Waterfront Hall. This path is the traffic-free walking and cycling spine of Belfast, part of the National Cycle Network, and crucial to the success of the city’s cycling revolution. So why isn’t the path being maintained through the works, and why are the proposed diversion routes not up to standard?

The Waterfront extension works were announced in January, part of a £29.5 million upgrade to attract international conferences and exhibitions. Disruption to the Lagan Walkway route was expected, as the new structure will overhang the pathway when completed. However, it’s understood diversions were decided before the main active travel body in NI, Sustrans, was consulted. So what were the options on the table for Belfast City Council?

Waterfront Hall barrier
Confusion and delay on day one, whether walking or cycling

Maintaining the route

It’s understood that following initial works to the edge of the river, the substantive construction work will take place closer to the existing Waterfront building for a significant period of the next 2 years. Providing a boardwalk right at the river’s edge, or perhaps even a pontoon, seemed like a viable solution for continued access during periods of low risk.

Waterfront extension -  at the river's edge
Options here for a boardwalk to maintain the route?

The river’s edge at the Waterfront includes an existing pontoon for boat access and a built-out viewing platform. A clever engineering solution (still) seems possible.

Questions need to be asked of Belfast City Council: was it their own Health and Safety assessment which ruled out this option, or did the contractors just inform them it didn’t suit?

Alternative Route 1 (via Oxford Street)

Sustrans Ranger Ellen Murray knows NCN Route 9 very well, and has tackled the issue in great detail on her blog. She took a run along this diversion heading south to see the difficulties:

Signs for the 2 main diversion routes
Signs for the 2 main diversion routes

“This proposed route brings cyclists and pedestrians around the front of the Waterfront Hall, along a fairly ambiguous path which doesn’t feel like a contiguous route. It then brings users across a cobbled section (which is slippery when wet) across a minor roundabout, and then along a quite narrow stretch of Lanyon Place. The road is flanked on the left by a construction site, leading to poor visibility at corners.

Dark, unfriendly streetscape of Laganbank Road; pinched footways, ongoing construction

This road is also significantly below the level of the adjacent East Bridge Street and is an intimidatingly dark route after hours which feels very isolated, which is likely to further affect cycle and pedestrian traffic using the route.

Rejoining the NCN9 route at the ramp alongside the railway underpass presents a significant conflict area for pedestrians and cyclists, who need to turn more than 90 degrees to continue along their journey. Along the whole proposed route, there are many crossing points for pedestrians, and a significant number of conflict areas for cyclists and pedestrians, who will now have to contend with Hilton Hotel traffic at the roundabout, and other local traffic along Lanyon Place.“

It also represents a significant detour, especially for those on foot. For anyone walking from the Albert Bridge or southern sections of the Lagan path, being diverted up East Bridge Street is a far more direct route, albeit with poor cycling connectivity to Oxford Street.

Better dedicated cycling facilities on East Bridge Street could have taken some of the strain during the next 2 years. Consideration should be given (as part of a developing cycling masterplan for Belfast) for a separate cycle path on the country-bound side.

#Space4Cycling possibly right under our noses on East Bridge Street?

Alternative Route 2 (The Bridges)

While a potentially shorter route, the mis-steps by Belfast City Council in rolling out this diversion have been amazing to watch. From first viewing of the map, you wonder if Belfast City Council ever bothered to check if cycling was legal on the tight, busy pedestrian footway on Queen’s Bridge.

Cycling neither desirable nor legal on this busy bridge

Clearly, with the generous allocation of ‘Cyclists dismount’ signage (alongside the highly embarrassing upside-down route markers) the penny had dropped by the first day of route closure.


Unfortunately the ‘Cyclists dismount’ signs then appeared on the shared use railway footbridge as well – thankfully with the intervention of Sustrans (following the tweet below) they were removed.

How much work did Belfast City Council put into considering users’ needs and journey modelling? Did anyone consider that a high percentage of users’ journeys might be towards Titanic Quarter, whether tourists, day-trippers or workers? From the south, the diversion sends bewildered users across the River Lagan fully 3 times to reach this area!


Looking at the map above, you might wonder why you need to cross two parallel bridges at all. The problem is the lack of a viable crossing – safe enough to allow pedestrians and cyclists of all abilities, people pushing prams, getting families (whether cycling or walking), those with limited mobility to safely cross four and a half lanes of fast, continuous traffic at Bridge End – as this video shows.


This disconnect requires urgent action. One of the poorest aspects of this whole scheme is the failure to adequately cater for disrupted journeys by actually spending money on solutions. Other European cities with a keen interest in protecting and encouraging active travel make big gestures to accomodate cycling and walking through construction projects. The boardwalk idea may have its health and safety drawbacks, but has cost been a factor? Surely not within a £29.5 million project?

Similarly, Belfast City Council should be able to find roughly £60,000 to work with DRD to add a toucan crossing at Queen’s Bridge (as recommended by Sustrans). This would improve accessibility for the duration of the project, and leave a lasting legacy to the east bank of the Lagan. This is the most pressing and necessary option which Belfast City Council must pursue to salvage some pride from this sorry episode.

Queen's Bridge with Bridge End and Station St flyover traffic
Four (and a half) lanes of busy commuting traffic, no controlled crossing

In the same week (trebles all round at the Press Office!) Belfast City Council have announced the contractor to deliver the Belfast Bike Hire scheme, which should now be operational by next spring. That’s right – the closure of Belfast’s premier traffic-free path, and the associated mess, will still be happening at least a year into the operation of Bike Hire.

There’s a disappointing sense that the needs of people who use this route everyday, and the all-important visitors to our city, were an afterthought in Belfast City Council’s Waterfront extension project. They’ve misjudged the importance of the path. It’s a route for tourists, for leisure use, for commuters, for shoppers and much more. Belfast City Council should be encouraged for it’s investments, both in the Conference Centre and in active travel projects like Bike Hire. But they cannot afford further failure on the day-to-day basics of encouraging car-free travel.

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