Consequences

If you have this:

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Wexford, Ireland

And do this:

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The consequence isn’t this:

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Good infrastructure is planned and built in such a way that a poor decision by any traffic participant does not have a fatal consequence.

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Cycling to School 2

The School Run. How inappropriate is that phrase?! Nobody is on foot and nobody is going anywhere fast.

Almost a quarter of rush hour traffic consists of parents dropping off children at school. Most parents claim it is dangerous traffic conditions that prevent their going to school on foot or by bike. Going on foot or by bicycle is something the parents did when they were young.

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Sustrans run events at schools and claim a great increase in cycling and walking. They get a great response locally and highlight the alternative to the car for the school run. But. The Dutch would call this “een druppel op een gloeiende plaat”, a drop on a white hot griddle.

St John the Baptist PS on Finaghy Road North are currently taking part in a Sustrans scheme, as have other schools in South Belfast. Yet judging by the hopelessly gridlocked traffic on Finaghy Road North the scheme is not working well enough. Perhaps participation in a scheme is part of the answer, not the whole answer.

When parents are conditioned to think car equals safety and convenience no one is going to be persuaded otherwise. Many see driving a car as their right. (It isn’t; it is a privilege.) Some people won’t be persuaded however juicy the carrot.

Clearly carrots alone don’t work. We need a stick.

Over breakfast, after yet another near miss the previous day, Olivia remarked how they should just close the streets to cars and HGV for 15 minutes to enable parents and children to walk and cycle to school.

The ink was barely dry on my blog about the school run in Finaghy and Edinburgh go and do this. At first the council only agreed a pilot at 5 schools, but parent pressure encouraged a bolder implementation at 11 schools. Some say it’s not bold enough.

School runs are typically short (less than 2 miles) and are much more efficiently covered by bicycle or on foot. If it becomes clear you can’t drop junior off at the school gate and have to walk the last 400 metres and back to your parked car you might as well walk all the way.

This can be done in Belfast. And should be done everywhere. The prize is a huge reduction in congestion and more children and parents being physically active on a daily basis. What’s not to like?

It will upset some people. A parent at my daughter’s school said I should “get a car”. Like everyone else. My guess is that she is in a minority, and most parents would gladly not sit in a traffic jam.

Olivia adds: when due to a recent fatal collision the Malone Road in Belfast was closed, traffic ground to a standstill across South Belfast. When no buses appeared, because they were stuck in traffic, hundreds of people walked down to the City Centre. Many walked three miles and more. And the weather wasn’t great.
It shows that people can be persuaded to walk (and walk great distances) if they are not given another option.

Evolution

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Tramore Beach, Downings, Co. Donegal

Olivia and I discussed how the slope up to the House of Sport in Belfast was limiting our enjoyment of the Cargobike. It is great for the school run and bringing home large bags of cat litter. Not so much if there is a hill to go up.

We’re not talking the Col De Madeleine here, but vicious nonetheless. We needed a bit of extra power. So the plan was born to try and fit an electric motor to the bike.

After a bit of Googling I decided to contact E-fietsspecialist in the Netherlands, based near my home town of Venlo. The site is in Dutch only.

They offer a standard “ombouwset” at 3 levels. I emailed them that I wished to fit it to a Cargobike with 20″ front wheel with rollerbrakes. They then quoted me for a bespoke package, based around their €649 “luxe set”, taking into account the power needed to pull the heavy bike along.

As I intended to fit the battery in the box I decided not to take the special luggage rack. This saved quite a bit of postage and packing.

I paid directly by SWIFT bank transfer and the package was delivered efficiently within 3 working days.

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An experienced bike mechanic with the correct tools could probably do the conversion in an afternoon, but I am a stranger to the world of bike thingummyjigs and doodlewhatsits. It took me a little longer.

I tackled the work in small bits. I divided it so I could complete each task and still use the bicycle every day.

First, I replaced the front wheel with the new motorised one retaining the brake, tyre and tube.
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It required a bit of creative thinking as the fork rubbed the engine housing if fitted according to instructions. By moving both spacers to the non-brake side it slipped in easily. I refitted the brake cable and secured to motor power lead with a cable tie.

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No room for error

The next job was fitting the brake sensors. I cut off the end caps from the cables and pulled them out from the handle bar end. I cut through the protective sheath just above the first cable mount on the stem below the handle bars. Then I removed a 4 cm section and pushed the brake cable back, this time through the brake sensor. I fed the cable all the way through and refitted the end caps and tuned the brakes.
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At this point I also fitted the display (centrally on the handle bar) with the controller button beside it.
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Then I removed the left crank arm (I got a crank puller from Chain Reaction Cycles) and glued in the pedal sensor using epoxy resin. I replaced the crank arm. I had to Google what a crank puller looks like, so I could find it in the shop.

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I drilled a 20mm hole centrally about 5cm from the back of the box and fed through all the wires and connected these to the controller box. There is only one way to fit the wires to the controller.

The battery requires an initial overnight charge so I hooked it to the provided mains adapter and let it sit. I had to fit a UK-standard plug, because the kit came with a European one. The battery can be uncoupled and removed easily. I have it secured with heavy duty velcro stuck to the foam padding the battery was sent with.

The foam pad cushions the battery from blows and shaking and protects the wires coming out of the controller end. I also tidied away all leads and wires with cable ties and the provided cable tidy.

The following morning I switched it on and miraculously it all worked. As soon as you turn the pedals the engine kicks in and it pulls you along. You have to keep pedalling to get the assistance from the engine. Braking cuts the engine and it doesn’t restart unless you turn the pedals.

The bike sounds a bit like a milkfloat, but it is a joy to sail up a hill that previously nearly killed us.

Inspired by a late afternoon commute home: Carryduff Riverside Path

It struck me, as I was cycling from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust’s Knockbracken Healthcare Park towards home that the minor roads I was travelling down were just asking to be explored on foot. The landscape is scenic, forested, fields bounded by hedgerows, clattering streams. Except there is nowhere to walk or get away from car traffic.

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The river to the left is the Carryduff River which wells up in the countryside above the village of the same name and flows rapidly down towards the Lagan at Shaw’s Bridge.
Around Shaw’s Bridge there is an extensive and popular network of tracks maintained by the National Trust.
I asked myself why could we not develop a track to run along the river from Knockbracken down Shaw’s Bridge? Like so:

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Obviously the red line is for illustration purposes only.

There are existing tracks that could be knitted together to form the path. (@KenDeBiker posted the link on Twitter.) The land is owned both privately and by a number of government departments.

Someone, possibly the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) or the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), could take up this idea, do a feasibility study and make it happen in partnership with the local communities, the Rivers Agency, National Trust, Belfast City Council and Lisburn and Castlereagh Council.

In Belfast, the Connswater Community Greenway provides a useful template to follow. Many of its benefits apply here as well.

The potential for a Carryduff Riverside path is enormous.

Firstly, it provides a traffic-free link from the A24 Saintfield Road, within easy reach of Cairnshill Park and Ride to Shaw’s Bridge and the Lagan Valley Regional Park. Also, this path would give the community of Purdysburn Village a safe walking and cycling route to the main road and amenities. Local traders and retailers along the route will see opportunities to bring their goods and services to the passing tourists.

The Carryduff River is a wildlife corridor, frequented by badgers, kingfishers, otters, bats, etc. In developing a path the interests of wildlife and the natural environment must be paramount. Rather than running cables to lighting and signs, these should be solar powered, and hooded so artificial light does not disturb the river valley.

On Twitter Steven Patterson of Sustrans mentioned the existing path behind Lough Moss Leisure Centre in Carryduff going towards Purdysburn. My initial idea was not ambitious to include Carryduff, but why not? Link it all up and have a complete off-road path from Carryduff into Belfast. This would encourage commuters and school children from Carryduff to get on their bikes rather than join the very inaptly named rush hour on the A24.

The main obstacle along the route will be crossing the Hospital Road. To start off with a signalled crossing will be needed, similar to the Comber Greenway crossing of the A55 at Knock. A much more elegant solution would be a short tunnel beside the river.

The Belfast Metropolitan 2015 plan mentions a greenway in the area running beside main roads from Cairnshill towards Shaw’s Bridge (link by Geoff Caves). These are useful in encouraging more local active travel, but have little of the tourism potential that a Carryduff Riverside path offers.
Having recognised the need for paths in the area, the Metropolitan Plan can perhaps be modified?

In the meantime go and explore the countryside and lanes in this overlooked corner of Greater Belfast.

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View across Belfast from Ballycoan Road

You won’t be disappointed.

Lisburn Road Urban Clearway

At the tail end of 2013 the Department of Regional Development started a trial to relax Urban Clearway restrictions on the main routes from the south of Belfast into the city centre. Car parking was to be allowed countrybound in the morning, and citybound in the evening. The reason for the change was to encourage local trade.

The Urban Clearway restrictions are in force citybound between 7:30 and 9:30, countrybound between 16:30 and 18:00.

So how is the trial going? Friday, 23 May 2014, 8:56. Lisburn Road citybound:

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Oh look! They got a ticket! But that doesn’t deter others.

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And why are they there?

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The driver kept the engine running and had the car in reverse gear.

You can view that whole sequence here.

Further down the road:

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Full marks to Lynas for keeping the bus lane clear. Zero marks for obstructing pedestrians. Not as if pedestrians can go on the road to bypass the HGV:

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200 metres down the road:

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We can’t forget taxi drivers:

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And our daily bread:

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Is this encouraging our local economy? Or is it inconveniencing public transport and endangering cyclists?

This trial was to run for 6 months and ends next week, at the end of May 2014. It has been a resounding failure. No doubt DRD will reinstate the previous restrictions…

Update 17 July 2014:

Chris Murphy reports that the original 6 month trial has been extended for another 6 months from the end of May 2014.

Final word

Having received no negative feedback from stakeholders the trial arrangements were made permanent at the end of the 6 month extension.

Best of Belfast

NIGreenways offers a study tour looking at the worst of Belfast’s cycling infrastructure. The Guardian included the “Spider’s Web” from Belfast’s Harbour Estate in their list of the world’s worst cycle lanes.

Reporting on the Giro, Dutch cycle racing pundit Gio Lippens said of Belfast:

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He used “fietsen” – every day bicycle use, not “wielrennen” – road racing. Is he right?

NIGreenways lists the worst. I want to highlight what is good about cycling infrastructure in Belfast. Let’s celebrate:

1. Stranmillis Embankment;

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2. Upper Arthur Street / Alfred Street;

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3. Park Road;

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4. Victoria Street;

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5. Barrack Street (a notorious rat run closed off, kept permeable for cyclists);

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6. Castle Street (not the ASL, but the contraflow lane);

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7. Belvoir Drive (a pinch point, with bicycle bypasses either side);

Belvoir Drive

8. Saintfield Road (cyclists on shared use path are given own lane and priority over traffic on side road – apologies for the shaky picture);

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9. Translink trains

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“So what”, I hear you say, “a bike on a train…” It’s the strap holding the bike upright. These are the little things that make cycling in and around Belfast better.

All of the above can be improved. There are plenty of things wrong with what I have shown. But it’s a start, all of this wasn’t here when I arrived in the early ’90s. Let’s encourage our politicians and the Department of Regional Development to keep going and put in more good cycling infrastructure.

(The Lagan Towpath, Comber Greenway, Sam Thompson Bridge and so on are excluded because they are all shared use.)

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.

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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.

Lisburn: Room for Improvement (II)

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.

Lisburn: Room for Improvement (I)

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.

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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.

Cyclesaurus

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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