Reclaim Belfast’s cycle lanes!

Belfast’s commuter cyclists must fight for the right to use our cycle lanes! Join a unique volunteer effort in July 2012 to document and record illegal cycle lane blocking in Belfast, and let’s reclaim our cycle lanes!

Northern Ireland Greenways has teamed up with Centre of Excellence for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast to help conduct this action research audit.

***UPDATE 16th July 2012***

One week to go to the survey! I would encourage anyone interested in participating to email nigreenways@gmail.com to confirm which road you’ll be travelling. This will help to identify those roads in Belfast which we need to cover urgently.

It is important to note that anonymity is guaranteed for anyone participating. Names or any identifying information will not be used or published in any reporting outcome. Please email us if you have any concerns.

Belfast’s useless cycle lanes

Is your cycle route in Belfast blighted by parked cars? Do you have to move in and out of marked cycle lanes, mixing dangerously with rush hour traffic? You’re probably travelling in an advisory cycle lane, installed by Roads Service “so that when the traffic levels and the number of cyclists are at their highest, cyclists effectively have their own road space. This makes cycling safer, and at times of congestion, allows cyclists to make time savings over those using vehicular modes of transport.”

Yet Roads Service seems to be failing to properly enforce urban clearways, making cycle commuting journeys in Belfast more dangerous. Blocked cycle lanes regularly force cyclists to mix with rush hour traffic. Effectively separating cyclists and motorists makes everyone’s journey safer and faster. The last thing any road user wants is to be involved in an accident, especially when vulnerable road users such as cyclists or pedestrians are involved. Better enforcement must be aimed at making safer journeys and reducing the potential for accidents.

Our concerns can be easily dismissed, and the situation will not change unless real evidence can be presented to policy makers. A short survey is needed to record the numbers of illegal blockages affecting cyclists on all of Belfast’s arterial routes. It’s time to force the Department for Regional Development, Roads Service, Belfast City Council, and our elected representatives to provide some concrete solutions.

Volunteer now!

Volunteers are being sought to record Belfast’s blocked cycle lane problems for one week. Simply count the number of parked cars, vans or other blockages on your route – these must be illegally parked vehicles on an operational bus lane, a mandatory cycle  lane, an advisory cycle lane with operational urban clearway, or other stretch of road where parking is restricted as you travel past.

Do this morning and evening for 5 working days from Monday 23rd July to Friday 27th July. At the end of your journey, record your findings on the sheet provided (link below for printing). At the end of the week, return your findings to nigreenways@gmail.com for analysis and consolidation into a single snapshot of cyclists’ experience across Belfast.

Belfast: Reclaim the cycle lanes survey sheet

Volunteers are required for all of the following arterial routes in Belfast: Lower and Upper Newtownards Road, Albertbridge Road, Hollywood Road, Belmont Road, Castlereagh Road, Woodstock and Cregagh Road, Ravenhill Road, Ormeau Road, Annadale, Stranmillis Road, Malone Road, Lisburn Road, Donegall Road, Andersonstown Road, Divis Street and Falls Road, Grosvenor and Springfield Road, Shankill Road, Crumlin Road, Cliftonville and Oldpark Road, Cavehill and Limstone Road, Duncairn Gardens, Antrim Road, and York Road. Please drop an email to nigreenways@gmail.com if you intend to participate, as we hope to cover all of Belfast during the week and may need to seek out volunteers for specific areas.

If there is another particular stretch of a Belfast road where illegal impediments to cyclists are causing regular problems, please feel free to record these for the week and send in.

Roads Service feel they are doing a good job to encourage more cycling in Belfast; we know different. There is no organisation which will fight exclusively for Belfast commuter cyclists, so we must all seize the initiative! Collective action is long overdue; we must start the fight to reclaim our cycle lanes!

Targets for action in Belfast

  • Mandatory cycle lane – this is indicated by a continuous white line, or physical separation from the road – it is illegal for vehicles to drive or park in this lane.
  • Advisory cycle lane – distinguished by a broken white line – other vehicles are allowed to drive or park within these lanes. However during urban clearway operations it is illegal to park and block an advisory cycle lane.
  • Bus lanes – usually marked by an unbroken thick white line, and have specific times of operation. Usually a ‘bus lane’ is space shared with bicycles, permitted taxis (those permitted to be hired from the street eg black cabs) and motorcycles.

Highway Code Law RTRO Art 4(5): You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its time of operation. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply.

Important safety considerations

Be safe and be responsible

Participation in this survey is entirely voluntary, at the will of all individual participants, and with the understanding and acceptance of the personal risks involved. No-one connected with the organisation of the survey shall bear any liability for injury or actions of those who take part. However you choose to travel these routes, don’t let anything distract you from the usual hazards on the road and other road users.

Keep it real

This is a voluntary effort between commuter cyclists hoping to make some positive changes. Trust is placed in the participants to provide a fair and accurate record of cycle lane blockages. False reporting will only harm the potential outcome and the chances for change.

Fight policy, not punters

If you wish to take photos or videos as evidence you should be mindful that, although recording images in a public place is usually perfectly permissible, this survey should not be used to identify or harass individuals who may have parked illegally. We need to change the conditions in Belfast through effective policy, proper enforcement of the law, and to change attitudes by highlighting commuter cyclists’ problems. Don’t upset the punters!

Welcome all!

We’re hoping to highlight the dangers posed to commuter cyclists by illegal parking. But you don’t have to be cycling these routes to count illegally parked cars. This issue affects all road users in rush hour traffic. Anyone, whether cycling, walking or driving, can record this data. Just remember to keep yourself safe!

For more information on the survey and to register your interest, send an email to nigreenways@gmail.com or contact through Twitter @nigreenways.

More information on the work of the Centre of Excellence for Public Health is available on the Queen’s University Belfast website.

3 thoughts on “Reclaim Belfast’s cycle lanes!

  1. The real difficulty here is that while cycle lane blockage is highly problematic, it seems that decriminalisation of parking legislation seems to have left us with a situation where people feel perfectly happy parking anywhere they fancy. This is particularly noticeable in areas with inadequate parking provision and on the wider residential avenues. As you’ve highlighted before, the actions of the NCP wardens are completely inadequate to enforce the Urban Clearways, but as pavement parking and the blocking of pedestrian access remains a criminal matter they have no remit to deal with this either.

    In short, road safety seems never to have been a priority for Belfast council or the PSNI beyond the use of sticking-plaster measures such as paint on the roads, which evidently doesn’t work.

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