Shared Use(less) Paths

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.


Being the campaigning sort I took to Twitter:


Followed by:


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.


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.


4 thoughts on “Shared Use(less) Paths

  1. There’s a whole lane of carriageway that could be made into a decent Dutch-style cycleway, with floating bus stops, according to the photo. So the argument that “there isn’t enough space” is only valid if you put giving road space to motorists above all other considerations (which is silly, as motor cars are hopelessly inefficient for local urban transport).

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