Cycling: who exactly is responsible?

In my letter to Attwood I made an elementary mistake. I thought he was responsible for cycling. He isn’t and he is.

At present cycling in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of at least 6 Northern Ireland Executive ministers.

Yes. SIX. I know you don’t believe me…

I am watching TV, feel the effects of too many pies. There is an advert from the Public Health Agency. Go cycling!

The Public Health Agency is part of the Department of Health. Edwin Poots is the responsible minister (soon to be replaced by Jim Wells).

I get out the boneshaker, oil the chain and set off down the Lagan Towpath. The path is entirely within the Lagan Valley Regional Park. I leisurely ride along and enjoy the experience.

The Lagan Towpath is administered by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. They, for instance, are responsible for replacing the narrow footbridge at Drumbeg with a wider, wheelchair accessible one (for which they don’t have money).

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is run by Carál Ní Chuilín.

The experience of cycling down the Towpath got me contemplating my commute. I could cycle. It is very do-able 5 miles.

I set off on a Monday morning. It is scary out there! Drivers fail to notice me; they speed. I must buy a jacket with reflective panels, lights and an Airzound. Now they will notice me. I hope.

The minister in charge of Road Safety is Alex Attwood, Environment Minister, photographed cycling at the opening of the Newtownabbey Way.

On my way to work I try and use Advisory Cycle Lanes and Bus Lanes. I find they are blocked by parked cars and elsewhere used by impatient motorists. I read the paper and see that taxi drivers want access to bus lanes too. Who’s in charge?

The minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy.

He also is the minister with the biggest transport-related budget. He intends to spend practically all of it on two road projects. Pedestrians and cyclists have to make do with 0.003% of that budget. That is not a typo.

Because he is Mr Transport Moneybags the press refer to him, incorrectly, as the Transport Minister.

Oh well. Things will improve. There are urban plans that set out where we will live, work and how we get from A to B in decades to come. Nelson McCausland at the Department of Social Development does all that. You look up the Lisburn Masterplan and your heart sinks. The Masterplan only recognises the leisure cyclist who will go to Lisburn as a tourist.

Cycle tourism, as an aside, is promoted by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, funded by Arlene Foster‘s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

With so many departments and ministers is it any wonder cycling policy is fragmented?

Everyone is responsible, and no one is responsible. Cycling is at the bottom of everyone’s list.

Motorised road traffic is similarly fragmented, but at least has the lion’s share of attention and money in the DRD budget.

There are two ways around this fragmentation. Move all transport issues into one Department for Transport. Or, set up a separate Transport Agency who work with the existing rogues’ gallery of ministers to deliver transport objectives.

Addendum

NI Greenways (@nigreenways) tweeted at 0:44 PM on Mon, Oct 29, 2012:
@StripyMoggie turns out DARD is responsible for developing MTB tracks and #cycling on forest trails! http://t.co/AVMnXMBe

And:
Ross McGill (@RosspMcGill) tweeted at 0:57 PM on Mon, Oct 29, 2012:
@nigreenways @StripyMoggie then there’s translink who are resp. for parking, access on trains and links to stations!

(Translink are wholly owned by the government.)

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