First of three protected bike lanes comes to Belfast

However, campaigners say cyclists using the new Alfred Street route are being put at risk by motorists ignoring signage and driving across it

The first of three new protected bike routes in Belfast has been completed, but campaigners say cyclists are being put at risk by motorists ignoring road signs and driving across the bike lane.

The £700,000 route, on Alfred Street in the city centre, is one of three planned protected cycle tracks hailed by campaigners earlier this year as the start of a “cycling revolution” in the city.

However, safety concerns were raised after a number of motorists were photographed ignoring “ahead only” road markings and driving onto the bollard-protected cycle path while cyclists had a green light.

Work starts next week on "radical" cycling plans for Belfast

Northern Ireland’s Transport Minister, Michelle McIlveen, said: “This continuous route is of a high quality and provides greater protection for everyone using the bicycle to make journeys across the city.

“Work is also imminent on the remaining two schemes which when completed will link the shared foot and cycle way from Broadway to Castle Street.”

Although cycle campaigners have welcomed improvements to the route, they say better signage is needed after a number of motorists were photographed turning across the bike lane, despite road markings saying "ahead only".

Cyclist Tim O’Malley said “I almost got knocked down by a motorist looking right and turning left out of Clarence St. Def a signage problem.”

Jason McCann added: “This was my first week using new lane drivers cut across me at least 4 times this week.”

Concerns have also been raised the bollards are too far apart, allowing vehicles to park and load in the bike lane, a problem that dogged its predecessor, dubbed the "bin lane". 

News website Belfast Live reports designs for two further cycling routes, linking the east of the city with the city centre, are currently being considered, following responses to a recent consultation.

When completed, the five schemes will form a continuous 2.5km route between the city centre and the Titanic Quarter Station, which leads to the Ballymacarrett Walkway and the Comber Greenway. These are part of the Belfast Bicycle Network Plan, which will be consulted on in the coming months.

The Minister added: “Work is also continuing on a Strategic Plan for Greenways for Northern Ireland. This plan will provide a framework to assist councils and other bodies to develop their own local schemes as part of a Greenway Network for the entire region and I look forward to receiving the draft before the end of April this year.”

Campaigners hope the new routes spell the end of “quirky” Belfast cycling infrastructure such as “Cyclesaurus” - a painted cycle lane so called because of its mysteriously tapering, dotted tail.