This journey I started twelve months ago has been a very interesting and transformational path. From a person who was mostly a reader and listener of other’s opinions to a guy who tries to put those pieces together with his own opinion and share it with the world.
Before the first publication, I was present at consultations for the Belfast East-West cycle paths that were being proposed. This was already more than a year ago and unfortunately, we are still in the design phase for the last connections of the project.
The moment of the click happened when Belfast city council published a draft for consultation about the possible transformation of Linen Quarter into a better place to live.
Or so where the written intentions, as the proposed plan barely mentioned removing convenience for cars (parking and rat-runs) to create a better space for people to be. I also discovered that Belfast’s city council possible interest in making a bigger revolution in the area was limited on the possible investors’ delusions (of necessity/dependency on motor vehicles) and the lack of involvement of TransportNI on this project.
As such, it was not a big surprise that the draft presented has barely suffered any alterations from its consultation phase.
Alfred St – Upper Arthur St Cycle Path
Not long after, the first part of the Belfast East-West cycle paths was opened with some pomp with the Infrastructure minister at the time to be present. I pointed out some shortcomings on the project, which the most nefarious is not closing Upper Arthur St to motor vehicles, along with CargoBike Dad, and after a few months, most of the predictions have been proven to be a problem on the day to day use of the cycle path.
The issues were not yet corrected, and some of them have been transported to new projects, namely the Durham St/College Sq North cycle path.
Generic Cycling Issues
In and between, I have tried to bring to the attention of the public regular problems that hamper the uptake of cycling or that confuse those who dare to try it. This started with the signage around the NCN 93, went about the possibilities of getting more active travel funding, had a small look into the (lack of) reasoning of the anti-cycling voices and suggested simple ideas to help the promotion of cycling.
Last year, was Assembly election year (as it will be this year for different reasons). After them, I delved into the future of cycling and was pretty optimistic. What I didn’t predict was the commitment of the new Infrastructure minister, Chris Hazzard, into promoting the moving of people instead of motor vehicles. Hopefully, after this elections, the position of the new minister will be similar.
Comber Greenway is a fantastic safe hub for people to move and enjoy, either cycling or walking. However, at the time, there have been some conflicts between different users and Sustrans found important to collect feedback from the users and to alert to the need of being polite and respectful to each other. I had a very different view and expressed at both a local meeting and in one blog post, as I still believe that design must lead behaviour.
I have also shared a few of personal experiences and challenges that I faced during this year cycling. Cycling in Manhattan was refreshing and enjoying, mainly in Central Park. Gran Fondo NI was a fantastic experience, which led me to the enormous joys of having achieved something I barely thought was capable (ride 170km with some nasty hills on the way). Finally, I published a reason that makes me enjoy my rides.
The new year came with a bang. Middlepath St consultation was made available. I shared my ideas on how to make the project better and more scalable to the possible increase in the flow of cyclists in that route.
The last publication was a story of how a crash (which unfortunately caused one deceased) in the Westlink has caused a major gridlock in the entire Belfast city centre.
This has been a massive journey where I met some fantastic people that have the same goals and that look to improve the city efficiency, cycling and walking possibilities and with it also reduce pollution levels to make the city a better place to be and live.
Now, I look forward to continuing down this path of encouraging more people to ditch the car and voice my opinion, when possible, to the department of infrastructure propositions for cycling and walking.