Roads Minister Danny Kennedy has outlined plans for a cycling revolution in Northern Ireland.
As a first step, a dedicated cycle unit will be established in the Department for Regional Development to develop infrastructure plans. The new unit will work closely with organisations such as Sustrans, who have been recently contracted to promote cycling and walking in schools, as well as other cycling stakeholders such as the National Cycling Charity (CTC).
The Minister (pictured) said: “My key focus is on the movement of people and goods across Northern Ireland, whether that is by car, public transport, bike or on foot.
“My Department currently has a dedicated unit to promote more active forms of travel generally however I think we need to add to that resource and focus directly on cycling plans.
“I feel more needs to be done for Northern Ireland to close the gap on other European cities in promoting cycling.
“We need an increased focus on cycling if we are to keep pace with other countries and this requires focus and drive.”
Referring to a recent announcement that a number of English cities and national parks are to share a major investment in cycling, the Minister said the time was now right for a greater focus on cycling in Northern Ireland.
He added: “This new unit will work closely with other Government departments and key stakeholders to make sure cycling promotion is effective and co-ordinated. Safety is a major issue for cyclists and ensuring they can travel safely, especially around the city centre and on busy roads will be one of the main areas of focus. We will of course have to look at ways of investing in better infrastructure to support this.”
During the incoming year, the Minister said he will be providing over £4million to fund active travel demonstration projects in Belfast, Londonderry, Craigavon and Strabane.
There are plans to introduce around 4.5km of new cycle lanes and as part of the Active School Travel Programme, a range of cycle and walking skills training will be provided to pupils in 60 schools across Northern Ireland over a three year period.