Council suspends section of Lagan Walkway while £29.5m expansion of Waterfront development carried out

As Belfast prepares to host the first opening two stages of the 2014 Giro d’Italia next week, cyclists in the city have hit out at plans to close an off-road cycle path popular with commuters for two years while a major construction project is carried out, and say that proposed diversions are unsafe.

News that the Lagan Walkway will be closed to cyclists and walkers between Laganbank Road and Oxford Street until Spring 2016 has been condemned by some of the city’s cycle commuters.

Belfast City Council says the path will be suspended while a £29.5 million extension to the Belfast Waterfront Conference and Exhibition Centre is built.

The council says that alternative routes are available via Laganbank Road/East Bridge Street and Lagan footbridge/Bridge End, and says that they are clearly shown on maps placed along the Lagan Walkway.

One cyclist who commutes along the shared-use path however told the Belfast Telegraph that the closure of the path would come as a surprise to most of those who use it.

He said: “It’s going to be quite a shock next week. It’s such a busy path.

“You wouldn’t close a motorway for two years – you would work around the users.”

Another regular user, Kerry Hackett, who rides along the pathway to avoid busy roads, said: “They are basically putting cyclists onto narrow pavements and busy roads and taking away part of the National Cycle Network, which I think is unfair.”

A third cyclist described the proposals as a “mad plan” and one that would compromise the safety of those on bikes and on foot as a result of the detours they will be required to take.

He said: “When you hit the Queen’s Bridge at the other side where the Newtownards Road comes in, there is no pedestrian crossing there.

“It is not viable – there is no pedestrian crossing across that four-lane carriageway,” he said. “They haven’t put in anything that provides a safe route for cyclists – it’s a really mad plan.

“Why aren’t they making every effort to get people along that route?

“This is a central superhighway for people who cycle into town.”

Querying whether a temporary boardwalk could have been put in place, he added: “This will deter a lot of people from cycling to work.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.