The Linen Quarter is a unique place in Belfast with such an amazing and rich history that is currently enslaved to the car centric vision that is so common around the world and more specifically in the UK.
Belfast City Council is aiming to change that experience with consultations and improvements being requested and approved to the more vulnerable road users, people that walk and ride a bicycle.
The current state of the Linen Quarter is a place in Belfast that factors in the car users’ needs and not anyone else’s. Most of the streets are bi-directional, have parking spaces on both sides of the road and need to cater for the moving of HGV’s to do delivery in the commerce.
Pedestrian and Cyclist Space
Main streets with a width of 17-22m to just 4-5m of usable space for pedestrians and shared road for cyclists.
For the side streets the figures are even worse with a width of 9-12.5m reduced to barely 1-2m for pedestrian use.
The space is greatly reduced to the more vulnerable users due to 2 lanes for traffic plus 2 lanes for on street parking.
This leaves a quarter where the economic and social growth will never be representative of the figures aimed, purely because it is a terrible place to dwell.
The quarter is composed by a very useful grid system of road layout for most of its length, which can be very advantageous if correctly invested in.
However, this grid system is all impaired by the possibility of the cars driving bi-directionally in almost every road. This enables rat-running, which makes the quarter a through route to other places in the city, instead of a place to dwell.
Most of the business of the quarter is office based and there is little entertainment and night life after work hours. There are a few restaurants and hotels scattered along the quarter and this can be improved to even bring more pedestrians to the area during the day.
So, if the state of the quarter is not in a condition for people to go there and dwell what are the main issues that need to be tackled?
On Street Car Parking
The on street car parking has a huge impact on the occupation of the road that could be easily repurposed to the benefit of pedestrians and cyclists, which in turn would benefit the social and economic growth of the quarter by improving revenues for hospitality businesses.
Currently there are more than 350 on street parking spaces, which can and should be easily reduced to less than 100 and more near the 50 mark. Removing about 300 spaces of on street parking should not present a big change for motorists as there are 2 available public car parks within the quarter and a others just outside its borders.
For an idea how this can be achieved look at the difference of now and a possible solution.
The rat running is, unfortunately, one of the most vicious issues against pedestrians that can exist. When roads are only thought for cars the most vulnerable users get an unsafe and inconvenient environment to live and dwell on.
The solutions involve to make the Linen Quarter only conveniently accessible by car for those who need to access it. This will prevent the rat running effect and the amount of cars using it as a through route will diminish greatly.
Lack of Dwell
How can people dwell in a place that is horrible to be in? Unless you are a motorist looking for a parking space off course.
The lack of activity even during daytime on the quarter is simply because it is so hostile on the more vulnerable. To meaningfully see a change the only option is to shift the priorities of the road users from the most vulnerable to the less vulnerable. Solutions include: Provide more space to walk and cycle (completely separated from motor vehicles), reduce on street space with car storage, create grants to stimulate local shops to provide activity and entertainment to the quarter.
The border of the Linen Quarter are as unfriendly to vulnerable users as they could be such is the large amount of traffic that goes through each of those trunk roads. Also, the footway ends with each side road that crosses its path. Now that this is done for the connection between Alfred Street and Ormeau Avenue it could be continued as Cargo Bike Dad suggested in the picture above.
Good design on continuous footways increases the good impression that the adjacent roads are access only and that the motor vehicle is not prioritised, as shown by GB Cycling Embassy.
Transport Hub Connection
The access to the city (and the quarter) from the Transport Hub is currently very poor. A crossing that is not wide enough given the circulation of pedestrians across that area. A better way would be to enlarge the crossing to enable it for both pedestrians and cyclists and place directly in front of a pedestrianized Amelia St. This would link the exit of the transport hub straight to Blackstaff Sq.
- Linen Quarter Consultation – Problems (21st of February)
- Linen Quarter Consultation – Shared Space (23rd of February)
- Linen Quarter Consultation – What is good! (25th of February)
- Linen Quarter Consultation – New Solutions (1st of March)
Note: the dates above are not deadlines, but guidelines for me to finish the series of posts about Linen Quarter.