In a new twist to the ongoing Belfast bin lane saga, it has been claimed that the Ulster Bank is telling delivery drivers to park illegally on the mandatory cycle lane on Upper Arthur Street in Belfast.
The separate cycle track on Belfast’s Arthur Street is meant to be 240m of sanctuary in an otherwise cruel city environment for cycling. Regular users find their way blocked on a near daily basis by a small band of bins. We’ve taken pictures to try to document the problem, and royally taken the piss as well, but still they stand in sharp defiance of the one piece of truly quality cycling space in Belfast City Centre.
But the bins are only half the story. The cycle lane is starting to become a popular spot for vans and trucks delivering to local businesses. For the majority of this cycle lane, it’s entirely illegal. Finding my way blocked by a van on the morning of 27th March 2013, I stopped for a chat with the DHL delivery driver blocking the cycle lane outside the Ulster Bank. Here’s what he said:
Can this be true? Is the Ulster Bank really telling delivery companies to block the mandatory cycle lane in Upper Arthur Street? Not the same Ulster Bank whose corporate sustainability blurb states:
“One of Ulster Bank’s founding principles is to run our business responsibly” including “giving something back to the community” and “taking steps to protect the environment.”
Of course, the Ulster Bank has committed no parking violation here – it is for individual delivery drivers and companies to act according to the rules of the road and in line with their own corporate codes of conduct. But why is this such a problem in this one location?
Recently a DPD delivery van was caught in exactly the same spot delivering to (you’ve guessed it) the Ulster Bank, causing a clear danger to passing cyclists:
The company was challenged on Twitter, and to DPD’s credit they were crystal clear in their response:
“This is not an appropriate place for our van to be parked. The van clearly impeded cyclists using the cycle way as it blocked their path, and the video shows a number of cyclists moving out onto the main road in order to avoid both the bin and the vehicle. I want to assure you that immediate corrective action will be taken with the driver involved to ensure that he/she clearly understands the dangerous position that the cyclists and potentially other road users were placed in.”
But DHL and DPD aren’t the only delivery drivers illegally blocking this same cycle lane. Here we see a TPN truck causing a cyclist to swerve off the cycle lane so that he can park up and deliver to a familiar building..
What are the rules?
A mandatory cycle lane is intended to be fully separate from normal traffic, to the point where parking rules dictate that loading / unloading is not permitted, not even for delivery services, and no grace period applies. A penalty charge notice will be issued for a vehicle sitting in this cycle lane, contrary to what the DHL driver stated and claimed that Ulster Bank is instructing for deliveries.
The rules on double yellow lines depend on local conditions and signage. However it appears on Upper Arthur Street that loading / unloading is permitted for vehicles sitting on double yellows with the general exemption for postal services applying, and probably for longer than the 10 minutes I stated in the video. Either way, the cycle lane is for cycling, not parking.
If businesses on this street find on-street parking bays are restricting access for loading / unloading, they should be lobbying Road Service for dedicated bays to be introduced. Turning a blind eye, or worse, to illegally blocking the cycle lane is not the solution.
Over to the Ulster Bank
As the major business on the cycle lane side of Upper Arthur Street (this is the backside of their Northern Ireland HQ) the Ulster Bank needs to be unequivocal on this issue. The following is needed:
- Does the Ulster Bank give instructions to delivery drivers and companies to block the Upper Arthur Street cycle lane?
- Does the Ulster Bank recognise the damage being caused to sustainable transport in Belfast by deliveries to their premises?
- Will the Ulster Bank broadcast clear instructions to all delivery partners NOT to park illegally here?
- Will the Ulster Bank demonstrate their commitment by placing a sign at their Upper Arthur Street entrances to dissuade illegal parking?
Between bins sitting out all day and vehicles blocking the lane at will, it sometimes seems the only people barred from using the cycle lane are cyclists themselves. We’re hopefully about to enter another summer of cycling growth in Belfast. Where public money is spent on good quality dedicated cycling facilities, they need to be accessible to the public at all times.
Relying on enforcement to keep individual lanes clear isn’t working, and only tackles the symptoms. It’s time for Ulster Bank, delivery companies and bin owners to start acting responsibly, prevent these problems from occurring in the first place, and take the lead on promoting a better image for Belfast.