In 1997 my personal politics took a decisive turn towards the Green Party. In October of that year I spent a few weeks on my uncle Peter and late aunt Cathy’s farm in rural Alberta, Canada.

Their farm was outside a small settlement, at a railway crossing. Endless goods trains with pipes for a new pipeline were headed out towards the oil sands in the north east.

Farming was no longer the big earner and on his land Peter was proud to show me his latest tenant: a small fenced off area with a gas pumping station. The soil underneath the farm was full of gas, he proudly announced. I’ll show you, he said. He took me to the water borehole in the basement. The gas collects at the head of the pump and you can light it. He lit it.

My aunt complained about having to get water from the nearest town as their water from their own well was no longer drinkable. It had gone too salty. It was great for your skin, though.

A trip took us to Drumheller and all around were the signs of shale oil exploitation. That dark band over there, my uncle said with a joyful spark in his eyes, pointing at a level in the bad lands landscape, is oil.

In my head the simple puzzle fell together. Exploitation of shallow deposits of shale oil and gas, no drinking water, bad lands and the end of farming.

Earlier this month a cyclist in Brighton was left fighting for his life after he crashed into a bus shelter.

This prompted me to think about Belfast’s own shared use paths. The Ormeau Road, infamously, has a bus shelter that leaves very little space for anyone to pass. It is beautifully captured on video and by nigreenways and is part of his study tour.

Further up on the Saintfield Road, just before the Newton Park junction, another bus shelter almost blocks the entire footpath.

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Being the campaigning sort I took to Twitter:

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Followed by:

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And as people can see Translink Metro, whose customer service is beyond reproach, responded.

I asked them if the shelters could be (re)moved to help the disabled, mums with prams and cyclists, especially those pulling trailers. Our child trailer is 95cm wide. None of these people would want to go onto the road.

Translink forwarded the email to the DRD. And here is what they said:

The shelter near the entrance to Ormeau Park was moved forward from the back of footway to allow pedestrians and cyclists to go behind the shelter and avoid coming into conflict with passengers getting on and off the bus.

The DRD were trying to create a floating bus stop, like this arrangement on the Lewes Road in Brighton. Crucially, though, the DRD want to create a floating bus stop on a shared use path.

The DRD representative continues:

The Ormeau Road cycle path is segregated up to either side of the shelter, and shared but un-segregated past it. This is clearly marked on the footway/ cycle path. Whilst using a shared use footway the onus is on the cyclist to exercise great caution as some pedestrians may be elderly, disabled or have reduced sensory function.
The footway on the Saintfield Road past Newton Park is designated for shared use and whilst we accept its width is limited in places, there is little scope for increasing the width other than to remove part or all of the bus shelters.

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Unfortunately a number of bus passengers, particularly the elderly and mobility impaired, rely heavily upon the facility provided by the bus shelters and we would not therefore be in favour of removing these.”

Let’s recap. I ask them to consider repositioning the shelters to help the disabled and the DRD spokesperson argues for their existing location for the benefit of the disabled.

The recommended width for a wheelchair user with someone beside them is 1.5m. This will not allow someone coming the other way to pass unhindered. The Government’s guidance on unsegregated shared use paths states a preferred width of 3m.

To put it more simply, there is not enough space for a shared use path and a bus shelter in either location. There is barely enough room for a shared use path, full stop.

But at least the DRD admit the width is “limited in places“.

The DRD finish off with a reminder of their mission statement:
I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful in this instance.

At the end of February I dropped off my eldest at school in South Belfast and cycled to Lisburn to join my wife and youngest for an appointment at a clinic. I asked Google for the shortest route and it suggested the following 7.2 mile route.

Finaghy to Warren Map

It would indeed have been the shortest and fastest if I hadn’t spent the last 10 minutes of the ride looking for my destination. (Mental note to self: old ladies at bus stops are not a reliable source of geographical information. It transpired I cycled right past the building and as I asked the lady I had my back turned to my destination.) Which rather conveniently brings me to my first point:

Signage

It isn’t obvious enough. There are some cycling related signs in Lisburn town centre, but as soon as you head out of town the signs simply disappear. I avoided Laganbank Road and chose the Lagan towpath towards the southwest. If Google hadn’t told me where the entrance was I would not have found it. The signage on and towards the towpath in the direction of Belfast in marked contrast is very good.

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Access across a car park, with no real thought how to reach the destination

Access to the start of the Lisburn section of the Towpath is across a pub car park. And crossing from the Belfast to Lisburn section of the Towpath to the Lisburn section includes using the daunting Laganbank/Sloan Street/Linehall Street junction.

The Masterplan recognises that this entry point to town deserves better than a municipal car park and a pub. So, here is what the dreamers at DSD have come up with:

Sloan Street Office Development

The view is looking East across the Lagan where there will be an additional bridge for pedestrians (and cyclists?) as an alternative to the existing route. There will be a riverside development of offices on the eastern bank.

The western bank of the river will be privatised, with the existing car park north of the bridge given over to mixed retail and residential development. Also included here will be city centre hotel, with a basement car park (yet more parking…) beside the river.

The Towpath from Belfast effectively stops at the access road to the Island Centre. It then resumes on the other side of the Sloan Street bridge, past the pub and its car park. If the plans are implemented as intended they will make this gap in the Towpath permanent. This is not a problem, as the saying goes, it is an opportunity.

Imagine a piece of engineering to link the two sections of the towpath. In Belfast underneath Governor’s Bridge an underpass was constructed to take pedestrians and cyclists from Stranmillis Embankment to the start of the Lagan Towpath. An underpass is a relatively simple engineering solution, but as the DSD wants to pawn off the riverbank to private ownership impossible to incorporate. However, Lisburn could put itself on the map if they did something like this:

Read all about this underpass bridge in Haarlem here.

As the underpass bridge sits clear off the bank, there will be no issues over access rights.

And let’s not just link the two severed sections of the Towpath this way, but at the southern end include a link to the opposite bank as per the Masterplan, giving cyclists and pedestrians a traffic-free alternative to the existing road bridge.

Surfacing

The Lisburn town section of the Towpath is a step back in time. The path surface is poor, and in places muddy. And a pillar supporting a sewer pipe across the river sits in the middle of the path. Further on, where the river goes under the A1 Hillsborough Road the cyclist needs to duck to avoid hitting the arch of the bridge. The paths linking the towpath to the housing estates are no more than unpaved forest tracks, covered in deep mud. On the Towpath there is no indication which track offers the best access to the various residential areas, such as the Old Warren Estate, and there is no access that I could see to the Lagan Valley Hospital. (11/3 There is access to LVH, but not signposted, see comment below).

Traffic-free Lisburn

The positive is that the Lagan Towpath is a traffic-free route that goes past the town’s hospital and almost reaches the Sprucefield shopping development. So much more could be made of this path if a traffic-free link was created from the Towpath to Sprucefield across the A1 and underneath the M1. At the Sainsbury’s end of the Sprucefield site bicycle parking is provided, but no real thought is given how one might get there.

At present the Towpath dead-ends at Blaris Road. As does the Lagan Navigation. The M1 Motorway was built across the old Lagan Navigation and the canal is now lost.

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Plans are drawn up to revitalise the link by water between Lough Neagh and Belfast. Sustrans route 9 takes a right on Blaris Road and sends you on quiet rural roads towards Mazetown and Moira beyond.

In Lisburn there are very good separated cycle tracks beside Knockmore Road and Prince William Road. These tracks, however, and the Lagan Towpath running from Edenderry in the far northeast of the council area to  the Sprucefield Shopping Centre (almost) do not add up to a network for active travel. The Cardiff study points out that if cycle tracks were built cyclist numbers will increase. Thought needs to be given to linking the tracks and doing it so that schools, libraries, health centres, shops, leisure and community centres can be reached without having to share road space with cars.

Many safety concerns in local neighbourhoods will be addressed by Pat Ramsey’s private member’s bill. But slowing cars down to 20mph is not enough. Active travel and public transport need to have an added incentive for people to leave the car at home. Cycling and walking will be seen as a safe option if interaction with motorised traffic is kept to a minimum. I have previously blogged about closing rat runs. Across Lisburn there are a number of rat runs that could be closed off to through traffic, but kept permeable for pedestrians and cyclists. Judicious closing of rat runs disincentivises car use, but gives pedestrians and cyclists the bonus of being able to travel the most direct route.

The end of Knockmore Road and its cycle tracks is near the Lagan on the Moira Road. A link could be made from the junction to the existing Towpath, alongside the Lagan (black), skirting the housing areas of southwest Lisburn. Alternatively, a link could be made from the Knockmore Road junction to the Blaris road – part of NCN9 (red).

Knockmore Towpath Link

Similarly, across the north of Lisburn centre a traffic-free route can be created that starts at the end of the cycle track at Prince William Road and goes past Tesco, Wallace Grammar School (Clonevin Park), Friends School (Magheralave Road), Wallace Park and Fort Hill Integrated and onwards to the Lagan Towpath at Huguenot Drive, Hilden. This route can be extended past the Hillhall Estate across the M1 and onto Hillhall village (in orange in the map below). Along Prince William Road a segregated cycle track can easily be accommodated, with the double roundabout upgraded to provide a peripheral segregated cycle track with priority over the access roads.

(Dark) green tracks already exist

(Dark) green tracks already exist

Of course there have to be links into the town centre (for instance along the Pond Park Road in yellow, linking to the existing shared use paths along Derriaghy Road), taking in as many local amenities as possible. At present it is impossible to walk and cycle safely from the town centre and bus station to the Lagan Leisureplex. There are footpaths, and attempts have been made to help cyclists across the Laganbank Road/Hillsborough Road junction, but it is simply not good  enough. What use is a leisure centre if the only way to get there in one piece is by going by car?

Links to Belfast

There are two routes to Belfast. The Lagan Towpath (NCN9) meanders its way along stretches of river and canal. The second more direct route is along the A1 (red in the map above). The DRD Cycling Unit proposes a SW-NE axis through Belfast, which could neatly be extended into Lisburn via the red route. There is existing provision for cyclists, but it would need serious upgrading. The existing roundabout at McKinstry Road/Queensway can be replaced with a Dutch-style roundabout (more specifically the design that doesn’t have priority for cyclists used outside built-up areas). There are painted white lines and some green paint and for some reason the Belfast-bound cyclist is expected to share the narrow pavement on Belfast Road. Ideally, there should be a cycle superhighway between Belfast and Lisburn, allowing for greater cycling speed, and reducing congestion on both the A1 and M1 by people choosing the bicycle over their car.

Finally

And so you got to your destination by bicycle and the only place to lock up your bike is at a fence or to a lamp post? A major health facility such as the Warren Children’s Centre should have bicycle racks. At present access to the front door is across a congested car park with no clear demarcated path for pedestrians. It is a microcosm of Lisburn: access to the centre is across a car park, with no real thought how people without cars reach their destination.

People often forget my Northern Irish roots. There is some truth in saying you can fire a gun in Newtownards main shopping street and you are bound to hit someone who is related to me. My links to Lisburn are more straightforward.

As the Japanese swept across South East Asia in 1942 and sank British ships off the coast of Ceylon the British army called young men to arms. Many in British India signed up willingly, but some chose not to serve. If you were born in Ireland you could avoid being sent to the Burmese jungle. And many claimed an Irish heritage. By the time they called up my grandfather, so the story goes, the recruitment officer had heard so many jokers claim their crib stood in Ireland he didn’t believe my grandfather was born in Ballymacash, Lisburn in 1916. He served, survived and returned to civilian life as a missionary in newly independent Pakistan. For a decade he lived and served in a small town outside Islamabad that no one had heard of until US special forces raided a villa there and killed one Osama Bin Laden.

Also, I live in Lisburn. The Royal Mail disagrees and has put us in Belfast, County Antrim, which is doubly wrong. We can see County Antrim from our front door, but we most definitely live in County Down.

So, having established my credentials as someone living in Lisburn and a pedant we can get to the meat of this blog.

Improving Lisburn for active travel

Previously I have complained about the poor cycling infrastructure in Lisburn. There is no point in moaning if you cannot think of ways to improve the place.

A study of medium sized cities across Europe (by which the researchers from Cardiff mean a population between 100,000 and 500,000) has found that if you a) discourage car use, b) build bike lanes and c) subsidise public transport use of bicycles and public transport increase. Or more succinctly: “build it and they will come”. GDP correlates with car ownership and use, meaning higher earners drive more. Although GDP is, as NIGreenways points out, also related to cycling uptake. So not only do wealthy people drive more they also own bikes and use them.

Lisburn councillor Alexander Redpath of the UUP proposed cutting car park charges and increase car parking to revitalise the ailing town centre. He joins a loud-mouthed throng of politicians, a fashion retail guru and small traders who grossly overstate the importance of car access to the success of shops. “Research by Sustrans in a Bristol retail centre showed that 55% of shoppers walked to the shops, 6% cycled, 13% came by bus and 22% drove. However, shop owners significantly overestimated the numbers of those coming by car – they estimated that car users were 41% of the shoppers.” says the Campaign for Better Transport (link above).

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And:

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Redpath fails to understand that allowing more cars into the town centre is detrimental to the town. And it isn’t as if Lisburn is poorly provided for with car parking spaces. Every inch of space that isn’t a building or a road is a car park. And some of these, notably at the Island Centre, are free.

Making shopping in Lisburn town centre a pleasant experience will help, though. The walk from Graham Gardens multistorey to Bow Street is depressing; the Bow Street businesses have their backs turned, fortified with high walls with spikes on top. Some welcome.

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Increasing pedestrianised areas where people can spend their leisure time, and do more than just shopping has been recognised as being of key importance. The DSD Lisburn Masterplan builds on this vision, but to date precious little of it has been achieved.

2014-02-25 13.09.10

Removal of this sign will send out an encouraging message to people who do not use cars to access Lisburn town centre. It should be replaced with a sign directing cyclists to the nearest bike racks.

Cycling in Northern Ireland makes up a tiny percentage of traffic . It is virtually non-existent west of the River Bann. So why should traders make it easier for cyclists? Or pedestrians?

NI Travel Survey 2012

Lisburn’s topography actively discourages any mode of transport other than car use. The design of the one-way system’s junctions and the poor provision for pedestrians around the town centre exacerbate the centre’s lack of attraction to visitors. The town centre is an island cut off from the residential areas by fastflowing streams of traffic. [Added 27/3/14 and amended 29/3/14: On Wednesday, 26/3/14 a 6 year old boy was knocked down on Railway Street (part of the town centre's one-way system) and was admitted to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital where he later died. His twin brother was also injured.]

Lisburn Masterplan Movement

Taken from the Lisburn Masterplan, page 107 (pdf)

A picture starts emerging of a town centre that has provided so well for cars it has ceased to be a destination, even for those in cars.

Multistorey Madness

The Masterplan is full of good intentions, and some proposals are very good. The aforementioned area where Bow Street has turned its back (the McKeown Street/Graham Gardens area) is subject to a makeover. However, it is still written with the car driver in mind, and additionally to developing the Graham Gardens area for more pleasant retail/leisure, car parking provision is expected to increase by adding a deck to the multistorey providing an additional 72 spaces. So we get pleasant retail with a view of a very unpleasant car park.

Littered throughout the plan are proposals for multistoreys; two virtually surrounding the chocolate-box nostalgic station building with its distinctive GNR(I)-coloured bricks. The Masterplan suggests 640 spaces are up for grabs, the bulk of which make up the Lisburn Park and Ride facility, effectively attracting 450 or so cars into the town centre in order for their drivers to go off to Belfast by train and spend their money there.

Would a Park and Ride facility for commuters at the presently mothballed Knockmore halt in the midst of an industrial area not make more sense and keep these additional cars out of the town centre?

Lisburn, the gambling addict

Having gambled on cars and lost, Lisburn, like a gambling addict, continues to gamble on cars. Maybe it is time for a new direction, and start conveniencing those who arrive by means other than cars? I am always struck by the bravery of the people who wish to shop in Lisburn and who decide to walk from their house outside the town centre. Coming from the west pedestrians need to cross the Longstone Street gyratory, a fast-flowing circle of traffic. It has no provision for cyclists on the gyratory itself (I do not rate Advanced Stop Lines as cycling infrastructure and agree with NIGreenways they are useless).

The entire arc of A-roads around the south of the centre from Seymour Street in the east to Thiepval Road in the west needs to be looked at in great detail and make it less of a barrier. The Masterplan, though recognising the issue, does not wholly explain how traffic will be discouraged from using these roads, and providing for more parking space within the arc will not do much to lessen the deadening effect of these roads on the town centre.

There is a glimmer of hope in the proposals for the Laganbank site around the bridge at Sloan Street. Plans for a hotel, residential development and some commercial space will perhaps also include plans to turn the adjacent roads into an altogether more pleasant space. I do have an interesting idea (I didn’t, but saw it on the Internet) on how to improve that particular corner of Lisburn and put the town on the map in terms of cycling infrastructure.

More of that in part 2.

First we had this:

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Note how cyclists must give way to a post. Soon Northern Ireland’s Roads Service realised that giving way to an immovable object wasn’t going to work.

The man with shares in the green paint factory went, “I know, I know”. And he did this:

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He was obviously inspired by this creature from just after creation the late Jurassic. The cyclesaurus was born.

An unnamed source tells me that the Caleban was not amused at having dinosaurs roaming the streets of Belfast once more. Pictures of dinosaurs might lead people to question the veracity of the account in the bible. And doubt the existence of Dr Ian Paisley himself.

And so, on Monday, 13 January 2014 a SWAT team descended on the defenceless dinosaur and killed it.

When the dust settled and the smoke cleared there was a new beast. The book of Revelation says: “It had four frightful heads and wings like a bird. Its terrible voice when it started to speak was a yowl and a growl and a croak and a shriek.”

Here it is. Bow at its feet, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists! For it shall defeat everyone who lays eyes on it and cause many Road Traffic Collisions.

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Ever since I discovered mapfrappe.com I’ve been hooked on comparing cities and countries.

So here is Utrecht superimposed on Belfast: http://mapfrappe.com/?show=14616

Utrecht and Belfast have similar population sizes, about 300,000 in a wider urban area of approximately 640,000. Utrechters look up to the Dom tower; people in Belfast have the same fondness for Samson and Goliath. Both cities are great holiday destinations. Belfast hosts the Giro d’Italia’s grande partenza in 2014; the Tour de France sets off from Utrecht in 2015.

So, two peas in a pod.

Not quite. Here are Utrecht’s cycle lanes:
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And here are those of Belfast:

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I’ll leave that without comment…

When I was a child I had a blackboard and I used chalks to draw road maps with improbably intricate junctions, little towns and so on. I filled the town with small Lego buildings and drove my Matchbox cars around the road network.

Every time I cycle around Lisburn I am reminded of this. A toy town, with a weapons-grade road network.

On 28 August I cycled from Knockbracken Healthcare Park to Knockmore to collect our car from Lindsay Cars Accident Repair.

Here is the route I took: 

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Pretty much a straight line, 9.9 miles from door to door. From KHCP, up the old Saintfield Road, then Mill Road, Mealough Road to Drumbo, Drumbo Road, Tullyard Road, down Glen Road and left on the Hillhall Road to Lisburn. In Lisburn: Sloane Street, Laganbank Road, Governor’s Road, Longstone Street, Longstone Road, Moira Road and right into Knockmore Industrial Estate.

Lisburn should put a sign up saying “Cyclists not welcome”, much in the way that other councils put bars across layby entrances to stop Travellers stopping there.

I’ve commented before on Lisburn’s poor cycling facilities.

Hillhall Hell

The route across Lisburn took me down a short stretch of the Hillhall Road. I have never been so scared, or so close to death.

I tried avoiding this road. Google drew a blank, suggesting long detours adding miles to my journey. I simply could not avoid the short stretch between Glen Road and Church Lane, Hillhall.

I briefly considered continuing on the Tullyard Road and then down the Comber and Saintfield Roads into Lisburn, but I am not a grimpeur: the Tullyard route is better known as the Bloody ‘ard route.

Traffic was so heavy that crossing into Church Lane (a right turn across two lanes of traffic) seemed the more dangerous option. Instead I persevered along Hillhall Road.

Why is it that people have to overtake so urgently? Why is it they have to do so without considering other road users? If it isn’t safe, don’t overtake. Is there traffic coming the other way, don’t try and fit yourself between them and me.

(My breath is wasted complaining about motorists’ behaviour, though. As a cyclist I am per definition a Red Light Jumper and therefore lose all arguments, ever. And obviously I don’t pay road tax, so that’s me told.)

The real issue is the road’s narrowness and many bends and corners, coupled with the high traffic volume. There is a poorly maintained pavement down one side and there are no cycle lanes at all. Between Mill Road and Pinehill Road, Drumbo, there isn’t even a poorly maintained footpath.There are no crossing points for pedestrians, and with the demise of Hillhall Primary no lollypop ladies there.

On this twisting narrow road a continuous rumble of traffic taking a shortcut from East Belfast to Lisburn and the M1 and vice versa. It is a rural rat run. A hell of a road.

And the Saintfield and (Old) Ballynahinch Roads out of Lisburn are no better. A cyclist died there in 2012.

A solution? Best practice from elsewhere in Europe (trying very hard not to mention Netherlands again and again) suggests a kerb-separated cycle lane beside these roads.

However, there is a more interesting alternative for a cycle path from Hillhall Village to Lisburn town centre. Church Lane runs from the Hillhall Road to the back of the Hillhall Estate. Take a left and you’re back at the Hillhall Road at Largymore Primary School. Take a right and a right again and you are on the NCN9, yards from the Island Civic Centre.

Church Lane, Hillhall

Now imagine cars banned from Church Lane, with vehicle access limited to residents and farmers tending their fields. Red or green tarmac to mark it clearly as a cycle path. Children from Hillhall village could cycle, almost traffic-free, to the nearest school; grownups could get to work and the shops in Lisburn without getting the car out of the drive. With a kerb-separated path along the Hillhall Road as far as Glen Road, the residents of Drumbo could equally benefit.

Entering Lisburn by bicycle down the main road is daunting. At the bottom of the Hillhall Road there is a roundabout – never a good place for a cyclist. Crossing over the M1 bridge, you want to be in the right hand lane to go straight down the Hillhall Road. The bulk of the traffic wants to go in the left hand lane down Largymore Drive towards the M1. Expect to overtaken and undertaken, or both at the same time.

Remember all those cars that overtook with inches to spare, speeding as they did so? Recognise the lorry from the tree surgeon’s that nearly took you out with the wood chipper it was towing? Here they all are waiting at the red traffic light at the junction with Sloane Street.

All that reckless overtaking and speeding and they are as quick as a cyclist. Annoy them further by staking your claim to the Advanced Stop Line. I, on this occasion, found access to the ASL blocked by cars waiting to leave the petrol station forecourt.

The Saintfield and Ballynahinch Road converge and dump the cyclist on the Saintfield Road roundabout at the other end of Largymore Drive link Road.

The roundabout centre islands would be an ideal place to put the “Cyclists not welcome” sign.

All the traffic from rural County Down is funnelled down Sloane Street. There are some stretches of green tarmac to help the cyclist, but confidence and strength are needed to make it to the ASLs and get out of the path of turning vehicles, especially articulated lorries trying to round the corner on to Laganbank Road. This is definitely not a safe place to cycle, and people will prefer using the pavements.

Laganbank Road/Governor’s Road

We’ve got to the Laganbank Road. Google suggests a detour along the Lagan Towpath, which I ignored. There is a steep incline, with traffic lights at the top, then a descent towards the Hillsborough Road junction.

I needed to go straight over. There is some green tarmac between the two traffic lanes to help you.

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Getting there in rush hour is an adventure. Note how narrow it is. Of course, cars should not be impeded at all. Ever.

Here’s what a Lisburn cyclist says of Governor’s Road:

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There is some cycling infrastructure here too. Going up to the roundabout (more of a gyratory: there are houses in the middle) there is some green tarmac between the double yellow lines, no more than a bike’s length. It is possibly the shortest, narrowest cycle lane in the UK.

The final stretch

The Longstone Road is one of those one-and-a-half lane wide roads. People don’t know whether to drive single file, or if they can both fit side-by-side as they overtake the cyclist. Without causing too much bother the lane can be reduced in width, and a separate bidirectional cycle lane created.

What inevitably will happen here is the creation of a cross-hatched lane separation down the centre of the road. This will limit the space for cycling and force drivers to overtake cyclists more closely. The separation is put in place to prevent glancing blows between vehicles travelling in opposite directions. Laudable, but it also endangers the lives of cyclists. Has anyone investigated if lane separation was a factor in the death of this cyclist in Newry?

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Elsewhere in Lisburn

  • The one-way city centre race track

As most towns with delusions of grandeur Lisburn has an impressive town centre one way system. It is a two-lane wide track with numerous junctions, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings. It resembles my childhood urban planning fantasies most. The Lisburn DSD masterplan recognises the urban race track’s detrimental effect on the town centre, despite it being the main access to the town-centre multistoreys, surface and underground car parks. The corner of Bow Street and Antrim Street, with a diagonal pedestrian crossing is a collision waiting to happen.

Rounding the corner from Antrim Street into Bachelor’s Walk cyclists will prefer to use the left-hand lane, to prevent drivers undertaking. Feeding across fast-flowing traffic is not easy. Only those well-versed in Cyclecraft, vehicular cyclists who cycle as if they are driving a car, will not find this daunting. The overwhelming majority, me included, would prefer not to.

There are ASLs along the circuit, but with no thought given how a cyclist can safely access these (providing they are not blocked by a car), they are pretty useless. At either end of the pedestrianised section of Bow Street bicycle parking is available; 3 double hoops at each location.

  • The Wallace Avenue cycle lane

With much fanfare, I exaggerate, DRD announced that it had completed a cycle lane in Lisburn in June. Yes, there it is, right at the bottom of the press release, almost a little afterthought. So what did we get for our taxpayers’ money?

We get an advisory cycle lane that runs almost the length of Wallace Avenue. You can guess that it stops short of the junction with the A1 Seymour Street, leaving the cyclist marooned in queuing traffic. But why is it an advisory lane? The lane is on the northern side of the road, where parking is prohibited. This, surely, could have been a mandatory lane, with at least a rumble strip to stop cars straying into it; better still marked with lane dividers, or, ideally, a kerb.

Again DRD excels in falling well short of best practice. A missed opportunity.

  • Prince William Road/Knockmore Road

We have had the bad and the ugly. Is there any good? There is and it is here!  Lisburn possesses an off-road cycle network. No lie – I can hear the gasps from the readers. This kind of path will encourage school kids to cycle, and people to leave their cars in the drive.This is what I would love to see more of in towns and cities across Northern Ireland. It could be better of course: the signalled crossings are not clearly separated for pedestrians and cyclists. Also, along Knockmore Road cyclists have to give way to cars on side roads, though efforts have been made to slow traffic down with speed cushions at minor junctions.

Finally

Did you know that in 2013 Lisburn was European City of Sport? Me neither. But there you go. Here is the dedicated website. Of course the city council are promoting this with adverts on the back of some Metro buses in Belfast. And guess what sport was not featured…

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