South Belfast rat run revisited

Mark Wagenbuur shows in his Bicycle Dutch blog how roads in residential neighbourhoods in Utrecht are blocked with retractable bollards to stop car drivers using them as rat runs.

Essentially, a rat run allows a motorist to avoid a main road bottleneck, rush hour congestion or a busy junction. However, ratrunning makes the nearby side streets noisy and unsafe.

In 2013 I looked at a notorious South Belfast rat run, Strangford Avenue, which is used to bypass the Malone Road B23/Balmoral Avenue A55 junction.

The road surface of Malone Hill Park is very poor, undoubtedly worsened by the many additional drivers choosing the tree-lined back streets over the main road.

This is how it could be fixed:

I have superimposed the Google Streetview from this junction in Utrecht, Netherlands, on this junction in Belfast. Utrecht and Belfast are very similar in size, but couldn’t be more different with regards to active travel and public transport.

Retractable bollards are placed diagonally across the junction. Allowing emergency and permitted maintenence vehicles across, but severing the rat run.

It would cut off the through route from Malone Hill Park to Strangford Ave. Or in the satellite image below separate the blue streets from the red streets.


Yellow: A55 Belfast Outer Ring; green: proposed Greenway

To stop motorists choosing Malone Court as an alternative exit it could be made a one way towards Mount Eden Park, marked with a black arrow.

Retractable bollards are expensive to install and maintain. But I can see little need for them to be retractable at this location.

It is an idea worth exploring. We all want peace and quiet? We want our streets to be safe? And bollards, should they prove not to work at this location, can be removed easily.

2 thoughts on “South Belfast rat run revisited

  1. Your map in this post made me think of something. Would it be possible to build a dedicated cycle lane parallel to some sections of railway? These would need to be fenced off of course to stop cyclist and trains from “interacting”.

    However a quick look at Google maps shows many sections of track with ample space on the side where brush/overgrowth could be removed to make way for a cycle lane. There are also areas where there is a third, older and partially dismantled track that is no loner in use.

    I’ve also noticed stretches like these while on the train and thought it was such a waste of space. Then again maybe there is some silly law stating a minimum distance/clearance of tracks.

    This might even be implemented in long sections and the best part is it would run through or along areas of dense population so it would be easy to access for a lot of people.

    In theory it would allow people to cycle through the city center in 4 different directions without going near a road.

    Could this be a possibility or in someway fit in with a broader cycle highway plan (not that there is such a plan at present)?

    Just a thought. Or maybe even just a dream.

    1. An obvious choice for a Lisburn to Belfast cycleway. Google NIGreenways. He would have a good grasp of what can be done with existing operational lines.

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