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Northern Ireland: we want 40% of journeys under a mile by bike

The creation of a cycle network and decent design standards part of the ambitious Bicycle Strategy for Northern Ireland

A plan to "transform cycling in Northern Ireland over the next 25 years" through a network of bike routes, cycle hubs and infrastructure design standards has been released, with the aim of getting 20% of all journeys of less than a mile cycled by 2025, and 40% by 2040.

As part of the Bicycle Strategy for Northern Ireland a "comprehensive network for the bicycle" will be developed, starting with Belfast. More greenways will be created in and around cities, while in rural areas cycle tracks will be built, separate from but alongside busy roads.

Danny Kennedy, Minister for Regional Development, wants to see more people cycling for everyday journeys to help boost employment opportunities, tourism and health, and to build more "liveable cities".

He said: "To achieve the vision for cycling we need to build a comprehensive network for the bicycle, support people who choose to travel by bicycle and promote the bicycle as a mode of transport for every day journeys. I know that infrastructure is only part of what is required.

"It is clear that if we are to make the vision a reality we need to work across Government Departments, work in partnership with local councils and engage with a range of other stakeholders. I want everyone in Northern Ireland to experience the joy of using the bicycle. I intend to ensure that Northern Ireland continues to move forward and achieve its own cycling revolution.

The 25-year Strategy, created to set long-term goals to turn Northern Ireland into a "vibrant cycling society", has been welcomed by campaigners, especially the creation of a cycle network and the adoption of national cycle design standards, something England is lacking. However, the CTC's Sam Jones says a lack of allocated funding is the Strategy's main stumbling block.

He said: "There's two things that really stand out from our perspective, including one thing we're incredibly jealous of: it seems they are going to adopt national design standards [for cycling infrastructure].

"What's really encouraging is that they have recognised what the Active Travel Act (Wales) has done to set up national standards and a cycle network so a network of routes rather than something that appears and disappears."

However, he says, "there's no direct figure for funding. We called for the traditional £10 per head per year [cycling spend], in our response to the consultation. One of the pitfalls that Wales has struggled with, although they have got design standards, is there's no funding to help them achieve them."

The document recognises the need for funding and says the Minister is "committed to making the case for cycling investment" but cites current financial constraints for not yet committing the £10 figure, which would amount to £12.5m per year.

Jones hopes this Strategy will send a message to the Department for Transport (DfT) as they draw up the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

"We want the Department for Transport to see this is what cyclists want and need. The government is committed to reducing road deaths and injury for cyclists and they want to see a doubling in cycling. We want to see more than that and we aren't going to see that in England unless we see a commitment like we see in Wales and in Northern Ireland," he said.

The Strategy document says design standards will draw upon innovative ideas to ensure people feel safe using the routes, which will be maintained to road carriageway standards, including regular clearance of debris. Cycle parking will be provided where needed, as well as bike share systems, enforcement and education on the roads and more 20mph speed limits.

By 2025 the strategy aims to get 20% of journeys under one mile by bike, 10% of all journeys between 1-2 miles, and 5% of journeys between 2-5 miles, percentages which, it hopes, will all double by 2040. The CTC wants to see 10% of all journeys by bike by 2025, rising to 20% by 2050.

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