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Northern Ireland cyclists "taking their life in their hands" on rural roads

Ballymena deputy mayor calls for "rural proofing" of cycle strategy...

Northern Ireland is in the midst of a push to become more cycle-friendly, as the number of journeys by bike in the province has risen in recent years.

But away from the big cities, councillors like Ballymena Deputy Mayor Hubert Nicholl fear that rural roads are too dangerous for cyclists and cycle lanes are not fit for purpose.

The Northern Ireland Department for Regional Development has drawn up a Draft Bicycle Strategy, which was recently open for public consultation.

In a discussion of Ballymena's response to the strategy, Cllr Nicholl said that cyclists were "taking their life in their hands" if they used rural roads in the borough.

The vision of the draft strategy is: “To establish a cycling culture in Northern Ireland to give people the freedom and confidence to travel by bicycle, and where all road users can safely share space with mutual respect.”

Ballymena Times reports that councillors are concerned the strategy has not been "rural proofed".

“There is a risk that this draft strategy might unintentionally become focussed on the larger cities of Belfast and Londonderry/Derry,” the council said in its reponse.

Cllr Nicholl said that the strategy needed a rural aspect because of the danger motor traffic poses to cyclists.

“You are taking your life into your hands on rural roads,” he said.

“Big lorries are passing you by at 60mph with 40ft trailers on - they just suck you in, especially if it was a youngster - they wouldn’t have a chance.”

Cycles lanes don't provide a safe refuge either, according to Mayor Audrey Wales who said that  “nine out of ten” of them were strewn with rubbish and fallen leaves.

“They are actually dangerous for our cyclists to use,” she said.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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