Cycling is one of the healthiest ways to get around our cities;providing valuable physical activity for people. This form of active transport can generate indirect public health benefits by reducing the use of vehicles, consequently reducing air, water, and noise pollution. Belfast, the leading city in Northern Ireland, is on the cusp of implementing a bike culture, and this had led to claims of “What can the city do to make this venture successful?”
Presently, Belfast lags far behind other European cities in terms of the usage of greener modes of transport. High levels of car dependence has not only overseen increasing levels of carbon emissions, but also a huge amount of land used to support the movement and parking of cars. This needs to change to ensure Belfast can become sustainable.
The growth in cycling is being hampered though inadequate quantity and quality of a cycle network. There is insufficient promotion to the public, particularly in educational centres and businesses, and a lack of an agreed strategic vision. On the contrary, the Belfast Cycle City Vision for 2020 is to bring cycle use in Belfast on par with the top ten cycling cities in the UK and Ireland. Implementing a scheme similar to the London public bike sharing scheme would advantageous. There are more than 8,000 bikes at 570 locations across London and more than 17 million journeys have been made on the bikes since the scheme's launch in 2010.
An example of a City that has reveled in the success of a cycling culture is that of Amsterdam. Amsterdam is almost synonymous with cycling, for example, in 2005, cycling accounted for 37% of all vehicle trips. The integration of numerous policies and plans has resulted in high bike ownership levels, restrictive policies on car use, and compact & mixed-use development patterns that have made bicycle use become second nature to local inhabitants from all backgrounds.
Belfast has a long way to come to meet the standards of healthy living that Amsterdam has set. In order for Belfast to grow sustainably it needs to incorporate measures relating to the promotion of greener modes of transport such as bikes. Measures could range to the simplest of schemes like increased marketing of the benefits of biking to more complex issues like improving bike route connectivity.
Does your city have a successful biking policy? If so, what are the areas that make it successful? If not, what do you believe could and should be done in order to make it prosper.
Credit: Image by Finbar Gillen. Data linked to sources.