As COP 26 looms large in Glasgow, we ask our Northern Ireland Engagement officer Andrew McClean, what’s being done in Northern Ireland, and how can cycling help to fight Climate Change.
Cycling UK has, for the last six months been working with the Linen Quarter BID to promote cycling in the area, especially for those commuting by bike. We’ve accredited new employers as having high-quality programmes for encouraging cycling in the workplace, having excellent facilities, and providing leadership in their sectors. Along with long-time active travel advocates at Queens University and the Department of Infrastructure.
Northern Ireland as a whole however is still lagging behind the rest of the UK when it comes to cycling, but the good news is we can make decisions that lead to big changes fast. There is a groundswell of individuals and groups who want to support cycle investment across the country; now is the time to put the words into action and start creating the future we want now.
Plans are a fine thing but to make an impact, we need funding and action Recently the Minister for Infrastructure announced the 10-year plan for the creation of 180 Km of new cycle routes in the city. A great step forward – the indications are these will be high-quality schemes enabling cycling for everyone, however, 180 Km still only equates to 0.7% of all Northern Ireland’s road network, and to change the direction (and type) of travel, more ambitious plans and funding is required.
To put the lack of funding for cycling in context – only £3 million out of the £140 million spent by the DfI for new construction and improvement in 20/21 has been allocated to the ‘Belfast Cycling Network’, that’s just 2% of the total budget! This is less than every other part of the United Kingdom and significantly less than the Republic of Ireland. We have to ringfence and invest a much higher proportion of Infrastructure finance to even begin to bridge the gap with other nations, let alone create the conditions for change.
But there is hope, and as Sam Cooke said ‘a change is gonna come’
We can choose what that change looks like, whether that’s dealing with the effects of a warming planet, or making positive choices to limit these effects. One thing is clear, it’s not going to get any cheaper to solve the longer we leave it.
Cycling is a positive climate change action. It’s as simple as that. For every kilometre cycled, we can save kilograms of C02 emissions, and despite claims to the contrary, it doesn’t increase congestion. The fact is, too many cars on the road is the principal cause. There are movements towards electric vehicles, one of which you can see at the event on the 10th November and certainly how public transport should now be procured, but until we have a larger movement towards renewable energy, we will still be burning gas and coal on an industrial scale to fuel our transport.
Several employers in Northern Ireland already see the benefits of encouraging their employees to cycle to work, these range from healthier and more productive employees, to lower costs for car parking and business travel. That’s without even mentioning the huge financial savings and the mental and physical health benefits for the employees themselves. The Linen Quarter is leading the way, and are providing several exciting events over the first weeks of November, all looking at sustainability and leadership. Come to our transport themed event on the 10th of November, there are lots to see and get involved in.
– The new fully electric Translink bus will be there
– A chance to see the work of the turnaround project and their Big Loop Bikes service
– A Dr Bike session – book yours in for service and repairs
– PSNI Bike marking
– Eastsides partnerships showcase Greenway development, and
– Campaigning opportunities with Cycling UK on issues affecting your local area
https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/what-has-changed-cycling-northern-ireland-during-last-year https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/cop26-invest-cycling-and-cut-carbon https://www.cyclinguk.org/sites/default/files/document/2021/10/2110_cycling_uk_cop26.pdf https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/ps11-million-active-travel-northern-ireland https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/news/minister-mallon-publishes-new-10-year-plan-belfast-cycling-network https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/system/files/publications/infrastructure/ni-transport-statistics-2020-2021.pdf