Belfast cyclists protest against plans to open up bus lanes to all forms of taxi and minicab
Protests echo those against Addison Lee's attempts to challenge rules in London
Belfast might have secured itself one of the most prestigious cycling events in the world, the Giro, but regular city cyclists say that they are being let down by plans to open up bus lanes to all taxis.
Residents have staged a protest at Belfast City Hall against the proposals, which they say will make getting around town a lot more dangerous.
At the moment, the only taxis allowed in bus lanes at peak times are public hire taxis and taxi buses or black taxis.
But the plans will allow more than 2,000 more into the lanes, seen by many as a safer haven for bicycles.
CTC cycle campaigner Tom McClelland told the Belfast Telegraph: "If you have more taxis there will be a real danger in what is a safe space for cyclists."
Another protester, Mark Tully, said that it would discourage vulnerable cylists from the roadway: "It's more about encouraging people, especially children, to use the roads. It's got to be seen as a friendly environment but it's turning into an aggressive one."
His words were echoed by Jennifer Hanratty, who said that women in particular were often reluctant to ride on safety grounds. She said: "You ask so many women why they wouldn't cycle and they say that it's scary. Adding more taxis into bus lanes which is the safe space for cyclists is just going to put more women off."
Green MLA Steven Agnew said: "While numbers of cyclists are increasing, more people will not be encouraged to travel by bike if the Department of Regional Development does not support a safe space on the road for them.
"Letting all taxis use bus lanes makes it a more dangerous and less attractive option for cyclists.
Last year in London a storm of protest erupted when the major minicab firm Addison Lee attempted to challenge the Transport for London policy of only allowing black cabs in bus lanes.
But in a high court judgement the judge described TfL’s restrictions on which vehicles are allowed to use bus lanes as “obvious and compelling,"
Mr Justice Burton said: ""There is to my mind a clear distinction between the need of black cabs (and their passengers and the public) for them to be in the bus lanes, by way of visibility and availability of, and access to, black cabs for those hailing a cruising taxi."
"I consider it makes entire good sense for black cabs to be travelling in bus lanes. Minicabs just do not have the need to use the bus lane, and black cabs do," he added.
The firm’s founder and chairman, John Griffin, was condemned by cycle safety campaigners and London politicians previously to the judgement after he wrote to its 4,000 drivers telling them to use the bus lanes pending the outcome of the judicial review, saying that the company would indemnify them against any fines and other costs they incurred.
TfL subsequently secured an injunction that ordered the firm to withdraw that instruction as well as the offer to reimburse drivers for any fines.