How cycling can benefit businesses in Northern Ireland

During Bike Week, Cycling UK's engagement officer in Northern Ireland Josh Murray considers the situation for commuting in Northern Ireland, and how the pandemic may give commuters the opportunity to choose cycling.

Life will never go back to normal after the global pandemic has finally moved its way through the UK. In Northern Ireland, there are still many restrictions on everyday life. Although many are still working from home a few businesses are starting to open up. 

For those returning to work, COVID19 has posed the question of how we can do things differently?

In Northern Ireland, just like England, Wales and Scotland we have seen a ‘boom’ in cycling over the past few months and we hope more people will be using their bicycle to commute to work.

It will take some time for confidence in public transport to be restored, and we cannot go back to the way things were. 2018-19 statistics revealed that only 2% of commutes are done via bicycle whilst a staggering 81% were by car, even a small increase in this number will result in gridlock across our towns and cities like Belfast.

While the number of those choosing to cycle is extremely low, the number who want to cycle given the right conditions is vastly higher, and it shows us the room for vast improvement.

Cycling UK have been heavily involved in campaigning for improvements to cycling and walking infrastructure in Northern Ireland and in recent weeks we have seen developments in this.

At the start of May the Cathedral quarter was pedestrianised and footpaths in the Linen Quarter were widened. Talks have begun over the development of the Sydenham Greenway which will help connect Belfast with Holywood and Bangor.

Last week, work began on improvements in Derry/Londonderry where new cycle lanes are being installed and existing ones widened along the waterfront.

Just this week new ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes were announced in Belfast on Dublin Road and Grosvenor Road with improvements to existing cycle lanes on Oldpark Road and Crumlin Road. These roads were picked specifically to allow better access to Belfast city centre and for keyworkers to cycle to work, predominately in the city’s hospitals.

These developments demonstrate the enormous benefit cycling can have on the local economy and local businesses in Northern Ireland. We’re seeing cycling to work not only as an enabler, allowing businesses to re-open but it also makes employees travel to work safer with a reduced risk of infection.

They can have many added benefits too; reduced congestion, reduced carbon emissions, less requirement for parking areas and more green space.

Throughout Bike Week 6-14 June and the #7daysofcycling campaign we hope to demonstrate the value of switching the car for the bike for everyday journeys. With more people cycling, it can have a tremendous and powerful effect on the economy and especially for business.

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