I was forewarned. I follow a fair few Hackney cyclists on Twitter. They are an unhappy bunch. And with some justification too.


Blurton Road

As I type this the Evening Standard presents their survey of cycling fatalities since 2008. It is a grim report, detailing how in over half of cycling fatalities in London HGV employed in the construction industry are involved.

Since the start of 2015 Hackney has seen two cycling fatalities, both involving turning HGV. One cyclist, Akis Kollaros, was killed on Homerton High Street at its junction with Wardle Street. It’s in background of this picture (where the silver car emerges).


This is a fairly typical two way main road around Hackney. There is nothing to help cyclists cope with heavy traffic, including numerous large goods vehicles and buses.

Just a short distance away is this ridiculous bit of cycling infrastructure:


Wow. If only it ran for more than a few yards…

The Council want to rip it up and turn the adjacent one-way road (a notorious rat run) into a two-way. I’d like to rip up the lane too. But only to replace it with something better. Local campaigners have blogged about it so I’ll not repeat their excellent and professional analyses.

The one good thing this short stretch does is lead cyclists safely between two side streets that form a staggered junction with Wick Road. They form a good quiet North-South route from Homerton High Street past Homerton Station to Victoria Park.


And the contraflow lane on Bradstock Road looks like this:


Yes, please can we have some of that in Belfast?

Elsewhere there are not so pretty contraflow door zone cycle motif monstrosities, such as this one in Hassett Street:


A pity that the photo of the van almost covering the painted cycle motif is more representative of Hackney than the nicely separated cycleway above.

If there is one thing Hackney consistently does well is the clever use of filtered permeability and one way streets, closing off roads for through traffic. In the Netherlands similar measures are used to make streets “autoluw”, where cars don’t impose.

What Hackney consistently does poorly is help cyclists at busy junctions and on major roads. The Council expect bicycle users to use the quiet back street routes, rather than form contiguous cycle tracks along main arterial routes like the A10 or A107. This subject has been covered before by Mark of ibikelondon. I have seen no evidence it has altered much since the post was written.

I watched with morbid fascination as an older cyclist slowly moved across two lanes of traffic on Mare Street at the Amhurst Road junction, indicating and gesticulating all the way, then go between two moving buses to turn right and continue up Mare Street.

The junction sits between the pedestrianised section of Mare Street (where cycling is allowed) and the Martello Street cycle and foot path.

Where the Martello Street path crosses Richmond Road it does so using a very Dutch feeling design. There are elephant footprints marking the cycle way across the road, adjacent to a zebra crossing. This is revolutionary stuff in the UK! My wife was not much impressed by my raving on about a crossing.


Google reveals it as an update on a previous design that did not include the pedestrian crossing.

Obviously cars must yield to pedestrians who start crossing. This is clear in the Highway Code. But will bicycle users starting to cross trigger the same response? It appears they do, though I’d counsel against riding across without checking both ways.

(I must qualify this by saying I passed it twice and twice cars stopped for bicycle users. This is obviously not representative.)

What my wandering around Hackney has revealed is a disjointed approach to cycling. Bicycle users are very welcome to use the quiet back streets and are helped with useful filtered permeability, signage and in some cases impressive cycling infrastructure.

However, on main roads bicycle users compete for space with heavy traffic. And this competition has seen two deaths since the beginning of the year.

Hackney does not seem to recognise that cyclists want to take the shortest, most direct route, pushing them instead onto back streets which don’t quite connect up to form a useful cycling network.

It is said you make up your mind about the success of a job applicant in the first few seconds of the interview. The job on offer is “Cycling Capital of these Islands”. Is Hackney a contender?

No, despite some very well executed ideas. A neighbouring London area, Waltham Forest, is planning a mini Holland which, on paper, looks very good. If they make it happen they could very well run off with that trophy.


Bicycle parking on Chatsworth Road

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 saw the opening of the £5mln Lagan Weir Bridge. It is more of a reopening because it is a replacement for the first Lagan Weir Bridge.

The first bridge was a of relatively simple construction comprising of a series of decks between the weir’s buttresses. It was completed in 1994.

The Weir serves to stop mudflats being exposed between Stranmillis and the City Centre. Dredging and aeration also helped reintroduce life to the river.


At either end of the bridge there were a flight of steps for and two semi circular ramps to allow prams and mobility scooters on to the bridge.


East bank access


West bank access

But look! The first bridge was not a shared space. It was a footbridge. Where cycling was banned.

With much fanfare Department of Social Development (the government department in charge) billed this as an investment in cycling, by allowing cycling on the new bridge.

The DSD, rather than DRD, are taking the lead as the weir and bridge has been part of the Lagan regeneration project, bringing the river back to life and developing the derelict river banks for housing and leisure. The bridge reconstruction is part of DSD’s Queen’s Quay Masterplan (pdf)

Graham Construction won the contract for the new crossing. They also were responsible for the ramps at either end and the replacement of the wasteful Halogen floodlighting with energy efficient LEDs.




So we get a gracefully curved shared space, crossing the river. And three benches down the middle towards the west bank of the bridge. There is no separation between pedestrians and cyclists.

On the positive side, the wider deck (up to 8m) will give much more space to pass. Or stop, sit on a bench and eat your piece.

To me it has echoes of Rotterdam’s Rijnhavenbrug. The Rotterdam bridge is built on a much bigger scale, with a lifting section to allow ships to pass. Mark Wagenbuur comments that the deck arrangement will only work in situations with few cyclists. Rotterdam has a low cycling uptake in comparison to the rest of the Netherlands, but their low is still a 4- or 5-fold of Belfast’s figure.

Another shared space bridge in the Netherlands is Venlo’s Weerdsprong. It is remarkable for its lighting design. Venlo also has a cycling modal share roughly double that of Rotterdam. It will be interesting how all three designs cope with the disparate demands of cycling and walking.

Doomsayers are blasting the plan, with the arguments boiling down to shared space = no space for cycling or pedestrians. And where there’s conflict there is local radio phone in show host Nolan.

I am no fan of shared space, but I like this bridge as a public space.

If you want a bridge with separate space for cycling to cross the Lagan there is the QE2 within a stone’s throw upstream.

On Thursday a little bird told me that DRD were having an information event at their HQ in Belfast’s Adelaide Street.

Here is the press release.

We weren’t given much notice. Yet I found myself with a spare 30 minutes, grabbed a Belfast Bike from Bradbury Place and went to inspect the plans.


On offer were two versions for an improved two-way cycleway between Chichester St and Ormeau Ave, one with the cycleway to the east, the other to the west (the current situation). The plans are designed to improve the network of paths between Belfast Bike Hire stations at Arthur Street, Alfred Street and the Gasworks.






The plans are not yet finalised and many details remain to be resolved.

Cycling Unit staff were open to suggestions and ideas. For instance, having parked cars act as protection for the cycle lane was suggested by a number of people and I got the impression DRD would look at this variant.

Some of the “details” are quite serious.

There is an obvious gap in provision on Ormeau Avenue. Currently a short stretch of shared use path connects the Gasworks site to Joy Street. Are DRD proposing to extend the shared use path to the next junction? Or is something better in the pipeline, perhaps a protected cycleway all the way from the Gasworks to Blackstaff Square?

The importance of this missing link will become very evident when the Gasworks Bridge opens. More cyclists will use the routes leading to the bridge. A similar gap exists at Shaftesbury Square where there is no eastbound cycle lane or crossing connecting Donegall Road and Donegall Pass.

It would be better for the Cycling Unit to start a discussions with the DRD Dinosaur Unit that is still looking to implement the Southern section of Belfast’s inner ring, so blocking any development along Ormeau Avenue (and blighting the area with fenced off surface car parks). Plans for a gyratory to take traffic between Cromac Street and Bruce Street should not stop the development of a cycle path along the Avenue. Ormeau Avenue is wide enough to reallocate space for cycling.

I suspect the gap is left in the plans as leverage for further budget and development. A holistic large-scale area-wide approach may well be unpalatable to the car lobby within DRD.

A second issue is the Advanced Stop Lines in the design. Why? Why in the UK are cyclists abandoned when they need protection most, i.e. at junctions? The lane needs to come right up to the junctions. The design plans for the May Street crossing are a case in point:


The minor junctions in the design are designed right: the lane carries across the side road; and priority is given to the cyclists over traffic emerging from side streets. I’d prefer a little more hard protection at the corners to stop drivers left- or right-hooking.


The Cyclesaurus Memorial Junction

The good news is that the Cyclesaurus is going to die. At last (see design above). However, the issue of cyclists needing to cross the carriageway (and pass each other on the right side) has been moved to the path’s entry points at Chichester Street and Ormeau Avenue.


West fudge


East fudge

The designers have drawn a patch of shared space to fudge the ends. But as above, good design at the junction can sort this out.

One big disappointment is that Upper Arthur Street remains open to cars. What is the rationale behind this? There are two on-street parking spaces in one version, none at all in the other. Why do cars need access at all? There needs to be access for deliveries, emergency services and collecting refuse, but I struggle to see the need for any other motorised vehicles.

As you drive down May Street a sign directs you down Upper Arthur Street for access to the Montgomery Street and Victoria Square multi-storey car parks:


Sign on May Street

It appears DRD see Upper Arthur Street as a shortcut to access city centre multi-storeys.

One of the principles underlying Groningen‘s successful cycle strategy is making drivers go the long way around, but giving cyclists, pedestrians and public transport direct access. Here, motorists are given a sneaky shortcut, consequently access for pedestrians and cyclists is compromised.

When you pass this sign you have already passed Montgomery Street. But the street’s one way direction is “wrong”. And arguably the person who ignored the previous right turn on to Victoria Street to access Victoria Square should not be rewarded with a shortcut to make up for their foolishness.

To access the multi-storey the direction of the one way Montgomery Street could be reversed between May Street and the car park entrance. Cars exiting can leave the area by Gloucester Street and Seymour Street.

All things considered, would it not make sense for Upper Arthur Street to be closed off for motorists, allowing for the carriageway to be used as a cycle route and increasing outside space for the street’s cafés and restaurants? Here’s an example in central Utrecht, photographed by @cyclingchch:


I don’t often advocate the removal of a cycle path. Here, removing cars and the infamous bin lane are probably the best solution.

BBC Northern Ireland on Monday, 25 May 2015, showed “Something to Ride Home About”, featuring the best of cycling in Northern Ireland and Michael Smiley.


The photo above shows a cyclist approaching Belfast’s award winning Cyclesaurus. The cycle path is a two-way provision running alongside one ways Alfred St and Upper Arthur St. The latter section is colloquially known as the bin lane.


The cyclist continues on the green path across the junction. And this leaves him on the wrong side of the street. Where they ran out of paint.


This is the new and improved Cyclesaurus.

The correct way to use this marvellous piece of official street graffiti is of course to keep to the left of the lane. Stop and yield to all traffic approaching the junction. Then cross the junction diagonally. DRD have kindly provided a miniature cycle lane as an aide memoire to cyclists.

Someone in DRD must be really proud that it was featured on TV.

A special mention and thank you to Olivia who inspired me to tell you this story:

Time has flown on the island of Sodor. In the days after Thomas’s original tales a very important man came and told the Fat Controller to shut all the branch lines.

Only Gordon was allowed to thunder up and down the main line for a little while longer. Not all the branch lines were closed: after a big argument a couple of suburban stretches were kept.

The narrow gauge lines in the mountains were abandoned. And the Thin Controller lost his job. He went to a second career as a tour guide at the Railway Museum, so he could still talk to his little engines when nobody was watching.

Gordon was soon retired, replaced by dodgy, unreliable Canadian diesel engines, who pull comfortable and elegant French coaches; they don’t get on at all. Now the local railway lines are operated by a fleet of busy Spanish diesels. And often you see a green Japanese diesel train in Tidmouth when the express engine has broken down again.

All rural services, once operated by Thomas and his friends are now taken care of by buses. The original Bertie Bus is in the museum together with Henry. No one is really sure why they kept that engine; all he did was toot, huff and puff.

Mrs Smith lives in a little house off one of Tidmouth’s main roads. The main road is clogged with cars and buses. Cars were the future they said. Motorways would snake across the city, whisking people here and there. The reality was somewhat different. The city’s roads are congested, noisy and smelly. It does Mrs Smith’s asthma no good.

Her mother’s cottage by the former railway line was surrounded by a fragrant garden, with flowers and blossoms of every kind imaginable. She remembers her mum telling this crazy story about her saving the life of a talking engine. Certainly, every year she was entitled to one free trip to the seaside, courtesy of the railway company. But when the line was abandoned she didn’t go to the seaside anymore. “I don’t care for coaches”, she used to say.

Mrs Smith prefers getting about on a bicycle. She has an antique black bicycle with a basket. Such as a community midwife would have had in the middle of the last century. People point and laugh as Mrs Smith cycles past.

Mrs Smith uses the bus lanes to get into town. It’s not great; and officials from the government are forever hatching plans to make it worse. She protested against allowing taxis in bus lanes at City Hall and got a photo taken by the Tidmouth Mail, probably because she was the only woman there.

But a little while ago an information leaflet came through the door telling her that the bus lanes were to be extended and would be for the use of buses, cyclists and permitted taxis between 7 in the morning and 7 at night.

The new buses, all called BeRTie, were full of themselves: puffed up for having Priority over other traffic; they had Magic and could Change the Traffic Lights to Green. And with their Camera Eyes they could Enforce. And BeRTie buses were so important they could never be late.

Mrs Smith cycled down the bus lane one day when all of a sudden a BeRTie Bus hurtled past her beeping its horn loudly. Mrs Smith was so shaken she stopped cycling altogether.

The New Controller, however, was delighted, because BeRTie was on time.

Mr Clyde lives a couple of streets up from Mrs Smith. He has a family bike and uses it to take his twin boys to school. People recognise him because of the bicycle. People don’t laugh at him or his bike. They stand dumbfounded and slack-jawed. Children think it’s wonderful and all want to have a go.


When the Government announced their plans to have BeRTie buses he campaigned to stop them using the abandoned railway branch line as an “Expressway” for the BeRTies.

Mr Clyde even wrote to the Fat Controller to come out of retirement and speak against the plans at a Rally. The Fat Controller replied though he supported the campaign, public speaking was no longer possible on account of his throat cancer caused by smoking too many cigars.

Mr Clyde had been delighted when the campaign succeeded in saving the abandoned line as a Greenway. And now he was delighted to see the BeRTies with a halt at the end of his street.

One day Mr Clyde was taking his twin boys to school, going along the BeRTie Bus lane when he overtook a BeRTie at a halt. When Mr Clyde was beside the bus it suddenly pulled out. Mr Clyde was sandwiched between the beeping BeRTie and a car that was overtaking Mr Clyde.

Happily, no one was injured but Mrs Clyde would only agree to him cycling if he stayed on the pavement. Mr Clyde thought a bus stop bypass would have prevented the “near miss“, but the New Controller said there wasn’t any room, or money to put in such an expensive thing. He blamed the Project Creep for the lack of money. The Project Creep doesn’t do anything but costs money nonetheless.

BeRTie Bus’ camera eyes showed that he hadn’t done anything wrong. BeRTie was pleased and so was the New Controller.

Darla and Chuck are from Omaha. They love Sodor because Darla’s great uncle by marriage has a Sodor heritage, and that made her a Sodor-American. She was the President of the Sodor Friendship Association in Omaha. Chuck also has a Sodor heritage, but mainly because he believed that Sodor was part of Sweden and his grandparents emigrated from Sweden.

Darla and Chuck hired some Pimm’s hire scheme bikes to see the sights and visit the address where the great uncle lived. (The original terraced house is no longer there, because it was cleared to make way for a motorway that was never built. Instead it is a run-down surface car park.)

Darla and Chuck were cycling on a BeRTie Bus lane when a large lorry turning left cut across their path and they were both killed instantly. The lorry driver drove on for about 100 metres before onlookers managed to attract his attention and stop him. He put his phone down, telling his lover he’d be a little later than usual.

The Coroner was scathing about many things, but mostly about the design of the BeRTie Bus Lanes which gave a false sense of security to cyclists, but in fact, as in this case, led them into the path of danger and their untimely death.

The lorry driver, the government, the Mayor and the New Controller said they were very, very sorry. However, they soon forgot all about it when a member of One Direction said something vaguely intelligent: “Let’s stop pretending bus lanes are cycling infrastructure that will encourage non-cyclists to start cycling.”

But no one understood that really.

Dear Cargobike Dad:

I am an American physician resident in China for the last decade, moving April 2015 to Belfast to take up a post at Queen’s. I have been a year-round bike commuter for 25 years in a number of places, the last 10 car free, and I am very much hoping to commute and shop in NI by bike. We will be living in Hillsborough […], R/T of 25-30 mi per day to work at Royal Victoria Hospital. I was hoping I might ask you some questions about resources for planning a cycle route, advisability of using a MUP like the Lagan Towpath for this ride, etc. I will certainly understand if you are too busy, given that you must receive a number of such queries. But then “Saving the Life of a Befuddled Ex-Pat” has the ring of an interesting blog post! In any event, thanks for providing such a great resource for cycle advocacy in NI. I would very much like to get involved in local advocacy of that nature, not much space for such in China…Please feel free to contact me by email if it is convenient for you to reply.

Best regards,

Dear Nathan,

Thank you for your kind comments. As for your questions about a Hillsborough to RVH commute, I put it to Twitter and between their replies and local resources this is what I came up with.

Type your query into Google and it says to take the A1 from Hillsborough to Lisburn. Don’t ask Google! Their recommended routes are often in the chocolate teapot category: useless.

I would not advise cycling up and down the A1 from Sprucefield to Hillsborough. It is a busy fast dual carriageway trunk road with a poor safety record for cyclists.

Road users who want to avoid the A1 have two options. The first is to take the Comber Road out of Hillsborough, then take a left through Ravarnet into Lisburn; the other is to take Culcavy Road and after crossing the M1 motorway take the first turn right (Blaris Road) towards Lisburn. The Blaris Road is an on-road section of NCN9 and leads to the entry of the Lagan Towpath. The latter, Culcavy Road route, would be my preferred option.

The Towpath is heavily used by cycling commuters between Lisburn and Belfast. It is unlit, so a good set of lights is essential in the darker months. Some sections are prone to flooding. Twitter is a good source for up to the minute news of it being passable. Look up Lagan Valley Regional Park on Facebook; they update their pages regularly with notifications and events.


Towpath traffic east of Lisburn (top left to middle right, source Strava heat map)

In Belfast continue on the Towpath all the way to the Botanic Gardens entrance on Stranmillis Embankment. Go through the park (anti-clockwise) and exit the park at Botanic Avenue behind the main Queen’s University Belfast buildings. At Shaftesbury Square take the Donegall Road. Then the first right past the petrol station (Roden Street) and cross the Westlink into the Royal Victoria Hospital campus.

In winter time Botanic Gardens is closed in hours of darkness, so leave the Towpath at Lockview Road, Stranmillis, then up Stranmillis Road towards the Ulster Museum and Queen’s University Belfast, joining University Road. Turn left into Elmwood Avenue, then right and immediately left into Jubilee Road, the entrance to Belfast City Hospital. Turn right after the multi-storey car park then left, across the mini-roundabout and on to the Donegall Road. Then as before.

The main drawback of the Towpath is it’s definitely the long way round. And doesn’t go in the direction you want.

Some cyclists use the Sandy Lane short cut to avoid the scenic route:


If you are a confident commuter, a straight run down the A1 between Lisburn and Belfast is shorter and quicker than the Towpath. This stretch of the A1 carries less motorised traffic because of a better alternative route for cars: the M1. It has stretches of cycle lane and the bus lanes are open to cyclists in the morning and evening rush hours.
The shared use path on the outbound Belfast Road, Lisburn is best avoided by cyclists. It is poorly conceived and badly executed.

Join the A1 in Lisburn town centre, continue on the road into Belfast. Take the Jubilee Road entrance to Belfast City Hospital, then as above.

Better by bus?

Public transport options are good with regular express bus services to Hillsborough from the bus station at Glengall St (behind the Europa Hotel), which is within easy walking distance of the Royal. Some services also stop at the halt at the foot of the Roden Street footbridge.

Best of both worlds (and what I would do if I were in your shoes)

Cycle to Lisburn railway station, fold up your QUB Cycle 2 Work scheme Brompton or similar and take it on the train to Belfast. From Great Victoria Street Station cycle to the Royal. There are no restrictions on folding bikes on Translink trains.

You are of the campaigning kind so you can ask your local political representatives (councillors and MLAs) to lobby the Department of Regional Development (soon to be the Department for Infrastructure) for a two-way, 4m wide cycle way between Hillsborough and Lisburn, running to the east of the main A1 road, serving Sprucefield, linking to the Towpath, Lagan Valley Hospital and Lisburn town centre.
It is election year (and next year also) so politicians are open to seduction by a good vote winning proposal.


Our Cargobike causes much rubber necking in Lisburn. It is not a cycling town. It will be good to see more bike users showing there is an alternative to the car!

Deep in the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) 2015 there is a section devoted to Community Greenways.

When I saw the title “Lagan Valley Regional Park (LVRP)/Bog Meadows/Whiterock Community Greenway” and skimmed over the proposed route my heart nearly leapt for joy, because here was a proposed route that would take us on a Greenway between home and our primary school.


Greenway (green) and route to school (red)


All is not what it seems.

Here is the entire route. As with any urban planning document it is huge. Handily, someone also provided this route description:

Begin at Shaws Bridge within the LVRP and travel in a northerly direction, past the Queens University Playing Fields and the House of Sport.

This is the A55, so not exactly an off-road experience here. You will share the greenway with 30-35k cars a day. The pavements are shared use. While the road racing fraternity ignore the shared use path, commuters use it increasingly:


At the Malone Roundabout, travel west along the Upper Malone Road, cross the road and travel along Harberton Park.

If you’re cycling you must join the road at the Roundabout just at the point where traffic speeds up to leave it. The alternatives are to get off and push or ignore the law and cycle on the pavement.


End of 🚲 route

A signalised crossing will be needed here to cross the Upper Malone Road.

The area around Shaw’s Bridge has become a major destination for MTB cyclists. No safe access to the tracks around Barnett’s Demesne is provided. Groups of school age children use the pavements along all major roads in the area to get to the tracks.

Jeff Dudgeon, Balmoral UUP councillor says, “[o]ne of the most frequent complaints I received from constituents during my election campaign was about cycling on pavements.”

Instead of going along the very noisy and busy A55 I go underneath the ring road beside the river and then up the lung-bustingly steep “Clement Wilson Ramp”. This leaves me at the signalised pedestrian crossing north of the Malone Road Roundabout. From there I go down the Strangford Avenue rat run, to join Harberton Park and on to rejoin the A55.

As does the Greenway. Because the landowners are not yet on board with the idea of a Greenway from Harberton Park to Lisburn Road pedestrians and cyclists are diverted back onto Belfast’s Ring Road:

The following section of the greenway is inaccessible to pedestrians
Travel along the periphery of the RUAS Showgrounds and Balmoral Golf Club.

Alternative Pedestrian Linkage
Travel to the end of Harberton Park and turn left down Balmoral Avenue. At the junction with the Upper Lisburn Road, turn left and travel in a south westerly direction until you reach the railway bridge leading into Musgrave Park where you can rejoin the Greenway


The A55 Greenway

The following section of the greenway is fully accessible to pedestrians,

but not cyclists.

Turn left and travel along the Upper Lisburn Road to no. 24. Cross the road here and continue down the narrow footpath and across the railway footbridge into Musgrave Park.


You would think a pedestrian link to a hospital site would be fully accessible for people of all ages and abilities. And the irony is that the hospital is the Northern Irish regional centre for orthopaedic medicine, rheumatology, sports medicine and has a rehabilitation unit. But isn’t easily accessible for people with any kind of problem walking.

But back to the Greenway A55:

Travel north west through Musgrave Park and out onto Stockmans Lane. Turn left along Stockmans Lane and travel towards the motorway (M1) roundabout, before passing under the M1 bridge to reach Kennedy Way.

Stockman’s Lane is the A55. As is Kennedy Way:

The following section of the greenway is inaccessible to pedestrians

Travel north along Kennedy Way before turning right into Blackstaff Road and a further right into Blackstaff Way. At the bottom of Blackstaff Way, turn left onto the vacant ground. Travel around the boundary of Milltown Cemetery and through St Galls GAC Playing Fields onto Milltown Row. Travel west to the top of Milltown Row, cross the Falls Road and enter the Falls Park.

This bit of the “Greenway” leads through a light industrial estate. You are treated to the back of an Asda, a council waste recycling site and various commercial units. Lorries thunder up and down. Happily, there is an alternative involving Belfast’s Ring Road:

Alternative Pedestrian Linkage

Travel along Kennedy Way. At the roundabout beside the Westwood Shopping Centre, turn right onto the Andersonstown Road. Continue along this road, which becomes the Falls Road, in a north westerly direction. At the Falls Road / Glen Road roundabout, continue straight on, passing Milltown Cemetery on the right. Enter Falls Park on the left and rejoin the Greenway at this point.

[added 28/3] It will be a relief for cyclists to leave the Andersonstown and Falls Road behind at Falls Park. This stretch of the “Greenway” includes two notorious roundabouts. The first at Kennedy Way is terrifying.


Greenway Roundabout

The slope across the roundabout, the high central island make it difficult to see cars coming. Trying to cross as a pedestrian, pushing your bike is no better. On all approaches motorists queue across the zebra crossings, and driving across them when pedestrians are crossing. It’s captured by the Google car:



The only reason cyclists are not killed here is because cycling’s modal share in West Belfast is 0%.

The roundabout where the Andersonstown Road morphs into the Falls Road is no better. It is a wide unmarked triangular space with a circular “feature” in the middle. It’s a free for all.

I have looked for it and I cannot find the roadside sign saying the Highway Code is suspended in West Belfast and it’s do as you please.

However, back to the Greenway:

From Falls Park it is not far to the glorious end:

The following section of the greenway is fully accessible to pedestrians
Follow the pathway in a northerly direction through Falls Park, past the playing fields and Belfast City Cemetery, out onto Whiterock Close and along the Whiterock Road into the Belfast Hills where the greenway ends.

There is however an alternative that isn’t accessible for pedestrians. What is the point of that? And it includes yet another of these terrifying roundabouts, where traffic pushes on regardless of what or who has right of way. It’s the Falls Road / Whiterock Road roundabout:

The current roadworks to accommodate the Belfast Rapid Transit lanes do not help.

Alternatively, exit the Bog Meadows at St James’s Road and travel in a northerly direction along St James’s Crescent and onto the Donegall Road. Travel west to the top of the Donegall Road and turn left along the Falls Road. At the Falls Road / Whiterock Road roundabout, turn right and continue up the Whiterock Road.

The following section of the greenway is inaccessible to pedestrians

Travel through the Belfast Metropolitan College Campus past St. Johns GAC grounds to Corpus Christi Church. Cross Springhill Drive and continue along the Springhill open space, past the playground and onto the Springfield Road. Turn left and continue along the Springfield Road and connect back into the greenway route at the Whiterock Road beside New Barnsley Parade.

But wait! There is another route. An alternative to the alternative:

Alternative Pedestrian Linkage
From the Whiterock Road, travel past the Belfast Metropolitan College Campus and turn right along the Ballymurphy Road. Turn right along Springhill Drive and then continue north along the Springhill open space to rejoin the Greenway at this point.

Pedestrians or cyclists? Pedestrians and cyclists?

The first obvious observation is the complete lack of thought given to cycling. Accessibility is used only in reference to walking. What is the overarching vision for Community Greenways?

Community Greenways serve a variety of functions including:

• Offering pedestrians and cyclists [my emphasis] the opportunity to travel from one green area to another via pleasant green surroundings; and
• Providing an ecological haven and green linkage along river corridors, pathways and disused railway lines.

To put it bluntly, the whole route needs to be re-evaluated from a cyclist’s point of view.

Also, can we really say that the A55 is a “pleasant green surrounding”?

Does this Community Greenway offer a reasonable alternative to using the pavements along the A55 for pedestrians and cyclists?

No and no.

To make this route work we need to gain public access to parcels of privately owned land. Consideration needs to be given to places where the route crosses main roads and the M1 motorway. There is a need for signalised crossings and perhaps a tunnel or bridge to cross the M1.

If we want cyclists to have full access Harberton Park needs to be upgraded to include cycle tracks. We need fully segregated tracks along the Upper Malone, Lisburn, Andersonstown and Falls Roads. The pedestrian footbridge at Musgrave Park Hospital needs to be upgraded so people of all ages and abilities can use it.

The wider picture

West Belfast has a very low uptake of cycling, due in no small part to the complete lack of cycling infrastructure. Plans like this can improve the environment for cycling. Combined with initiatives to encourage multi-modal transport (cycling to a secure bike parking at a Belfast Rapid Transport halt along the Falls and Andersonstown Roads, perhaps) the cycling share may increase. Large employers such as the Royal site of the Belfast Trust are to be commended for encouraging staff not to use their cars. And the Belfast bike hire scheme should be extended to the Royal site as a matter of priority.

Is there potential for better? Maybe. The Southwest Gateway plan may give a very good alternative to parts of the greenway route set out in the BMAP. And in my opinion the two plans should be combined taking the best elements of both.

I don’t think I will personally benefit from the Greenway for the school commute. It remains to be seen if any of it can be realised by the time my youngest leaves primary school in 2023.


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