Thursday, 23 September 2010

Muir welcomes cycling improvements on 15th Anniversary of National Cycle Network


Cllr Andrew Muir and Sustrans
CEO Malcolm Shepherd 

Fifteen years ago Sustrans had the courage to start creating a National Cycle Network across Northern Ireland. Since then they have managed to create 12,600 miles of cycle paths and lanes across the UK and continue to promote cycling as the quick, cheap, easy and environmentally friendly way to travel.

The National Cycle Network has proven very popular with 407 million trips on the Network in 2009 consisting of 208 million cycling trips and 199 million on foot.
On Saturday morning (18 September 2010) Sustrans Chief Executive Malcolm Shepherd joined Sustrans Rangers, Sustrans staff, cyclists and myself to cycle from Bangor to Belfast along the North Down Coastal Path.

Whilst a wet and cold morning it was an extremely enjoyable experience. When I arrived in Holywood I felt refreshed and de-stressed. Most of the group then continued to the Titanic Quarter where they were met by First Minister Peter Robinson MLA and East Belfast 
MP Naomi Long.
It was a pleasure to meet Malcolm. As a local Councillor and Sustrans Ranger I briefed Malcolm on the issues concerning cycling in North Down and he is extremely supportive of ongoing efforts to improve our cycling infrastructure across North Down and Northern Ireland generally.
As a local Alliance Party Councillor I am very grateful to the Roads Service for the work undertaken on the A2 Bangor to Belfast Road during the last few weeks which has resulted in the extension of the cycle path from the Coach Hill bend to Ballyrobert.

Together with the additional cycle lanes and green Advance Stop lines across Bangor the Roads Service are helping to make cycling safer, quicker and more attractive.
I recently received a reply from the Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy MP MLA concerning my proposal to extend the cycle path from Ballyrobert to Kinnegar, Holywood along the footpath alongside the busy A2 Belfast to Bangor road. I was informed that whilst the proposal would be beneficial it isn't currently planned as part of the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan.

Minister Murphy did however state that an Active Travel Forum has been established and will influence a future Active Travel Strategy which may accommodate proposals such as the A2 cycle lane idea. My idea would provide a safer and more attractive means for cyclists to travel between Belfast and Bangor rather than having to compete with vehicles along the busy A2.
I will seek to influence the Active Travel Strategy to ensure the A2 cycle path is realised in the short term whilst also stepping up efforts to ensure funding is provided by government to enable upgrade of the last remaining section of the North Down Coastal Path.

Once the Coastal Path is fully upgraded it will connect North Down with the National Cycle Network and accommodate pedestrians and cyclists alike.

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