Survey by cyclists in Belfast shows typical commuter journey is blocked 5 times by illegally parked vehicles

Belfast commuter cyclists are finding their dedicated safe space is unusable and causing additional danger for all road users at rush hour. Investment in cycle lanes by Roads Service is failing to provide a credible alternative to private vehicle journeys or public transport when many cycle lanes are treated as car parks.

In July, nine volunteers recorded instances of illegally parked vehicles on their usual cycle commuting route, both AM and PM, for five working days. Results were compiled and analysed by researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.

A typical journey between home and place of work included 5 cars parked illegally on an operational bus lane, or a cycle lane within an urban clearway restricted area.

For every kilometre of a clearway controlled cycle lane, or operational bus lane, there were
4.5 illegally parked vehicles observed. This meant that volunteers met an illegal route blockage every 3 minutes of a typical journey.

The highest recorded number of illegally parked cars on a survey journey was 39. The Springfield / Grosvenor corridor had the highest consistent rate of illegal parking, at 26 blockages per trip.

Belfast Cycle Lane Survey Report

Northern Ireland Greenways says: “This survey puts clear evidence in the hands of frustrated Belfast commuter cyclists. Roads Service investment in cycle lanes is effectively wasted public money if the target road users are prevented from using them.

“Roads Service is also responsible for parking enforcement in Belfast, so it is also within their gift to tackle the issue. Greater awareness is needed among drivers that parking in bus lanes, or cycle lanes during urban clearway restrictions, is not only illegal, but puts other road users in danger.

“The results also show that the problem is greater for cyclists travelling in the evening rush hour. Drivers appear to be keenly aware of the AM restrictions of the mainly inbound bus lanes. Most outbound routes have advisory cycle lanes, and drivers appear either unaware of the associated PM clearway restrictions, or less concerned about possible consequences.

“The current parking enforcement policy is failing. Issuing more parking tickets to hard-pressed Belfast motorists is not the answer; Roads Service must respond with some new thinking to make our roads safer.”

The survey was organised on a purely informal basis through social media, no cycling or transport organisation was involved. This was a collaborative effort between individual cyclists hoping to make a positive difference to our roads.

This short video shows two rush hour journeys which formed part of the survey. It highlights both the problems of blocked lanes, and how traffic wardens make all the difference.