Thursday, 17 June 2010

Muir calls for action on Cycle Paths in advance of Bike Week

In advance of Bike Week which runs from 19 – 27 June I have raised the lack of off road Cycle Paths across North Down whilst also highlighting the issue of a "lethal" cycle path.

Compared to other large Towns across Northern Ireland Bangor has a limited infrastructure of dedicated off road Cycle Paths. Whilst I welcome the recent addition of a number of cycle paths at the side of the road around Bangor plus many more advanced stop lines for cycles at traffic lights other towns  such as Lisburn have a much more extensive cycling infrastructure with a dedicated off road cycle path from Lisburn to Belfast alongside the River Lagan.

Whilst plans are underway to upgrade North Down Coastal Path to Sustrans standards which will accommodate bicycles no firm date has been set when the entire path will be upgraded.

North Down Borough Council have advised me that the Bangor to Helen’s Bay section (Phase 1) has been upgraded. The Council have also advised that work to upgrade Helen's Bay to Cultra section (Phase 2) is ongoing with Glen Road to Station Road scheme nearing completion and work at Rockport anticipated to be completed by March 2012 at the latest. Funding is currently being sought to improve the section at Seahill.

No work is however currently planned to upgrade the last section from Cultra to Holywood (Phase 3) with a funding bid to be resubmitted to NI Environment Agency when the next round of funding opens. With public spending increasingly tight I don’t have much hope that the money will be forthcoming in the near future.

Whilst North Down Borough Council provides great leadership by encouraging cycling and upgrades the Coastal Path cyclists attempting to make their way from Bangor to Belfast have to compete with cars, buses and lorries on the busy A2 carriageway for a significant part of their journey. More concerted action is desperately needed to facilitate bicycles across the Borough. Nearly 80,000 people live in North Down with over 40,000 cars travel each day on the A2 Bangor to Belfast road.

I welcome the recent announcement that the Roads Service will extend the cycle path from Coach Hill bend to Ballyrobert this summer as part of the A2 road resurfacing which will take place during July and August 2010.

More concerted action should however be taken. NI Environment Agency should ensure that sufficient funds are released to allow the full upgrade of the North Down Coastal Path.

Since it will take a number of years for the Coastal Path to be fully upgraded I have written to the Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy asking that he consider creating a segregated cycle path along the footpath on the A2 from Ballyrobert to Kinnegar. Many other Towns and Cities across Ireland and Great Britain have managed to create cycle paths along the footpath, enabling cyclists to make their journey from A to B in a much safer manner.

By implementing my suggestion cycling between Belfast and Bangor would be much more safer. It would also allow people to choose the quicker and more healthy alternative to sitting in a car often stuck in jams on the A2 whilst also reducing carbon emissions. I recently cycled from Bangor to Belfast and discovered that on a busy day it can be quicker to cycle from Bangor to Belfast rather than take the car! Cycling therefore make sense! I have written to the Regional Development Minister outlining my suggestion and hope that it will be given active consideration.

Creating more cycle paths is only one part of the jigsaw. More secure bicycle storage facilities are also required. In other cities across Europe local Councils have provided dedicated secure parking for bicycles in well light multi story car parks equipped with CCTV. We need the same sort of facilities in North Down so that cyclists can be assured that their bicycle will be there when they return!

The cycle paths provided should also be safe and maintained on a regular basis. After a spate of problems with glass and other debris on the cycle paths they seem to be clean and devoid of glass. It is good to see that the relevant authorities are keeping the paths clean.

A number of people have recently contacted me about the Belfast bound cycle path on  the A2 running from Bangor to Craigantlet. I haven’t often used this path, preferring instead to travel on the Bangor bound side beside Dickson’s Garden Centre. When people are cycling along the Belfast bound path it suddenly ends at the Ballysallagh Road junction. Cyclists are then forced to dismount and navigate the busy A2 Craigantlet junction if they wish to travel to Belfast. Picture on the right shows me at the start of this path.

Urgent action is required to ensure no cyclists are injured as a result of this lethal cycle path. Signage should be erected at the pelican crossing near the entrance to Clandeboye Estate advising cyclists they should cross the A2 at the pelican crossing if they wish to travel onwards to Belfast. I have outlined my  request to Roads Service officials and they are currently investigating my request for some signage to be erected.

Cycling is both good for the body and the environment providing people with the opportunity to quickly travel from A to B without the stress of being caught up in traffic jams.  Government should ensure that the North Down cycle path infrastructure is up to scratch in order to facilitate those who want to make the move from the car to the bicycle. I hope the Roads Minister will take the necessary action to get the wheels in motion before Bike Week arrives.

17 June 2010

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