Northern Ireland Minister announces vision for 'quieter streets'

Could more space for cycling and walking be the norm in cities after lockdown?
Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced today a new walking and cycling champion will be appointed and one of their first jobs will be increasing the space available for cycling and walking as a matter of urgency.

In a statement to the Northern Ireland Assembly announcing the appointment of the walking and cycling champion, the Infrastructure Minister said: "I want to increase the space available for people who want to walk and cycle by extending pavements, pedestrianising streets and introducing pop up cycle lanes."

She said: "I will also be asking the Walking and Cycling Champion to establish immediately an action focused group of stakeholders, from both within and outside government, to provide advice and challenge to my Department and to ensure that we consider opportunities and build on the positive changes we are seeing when it comes to higher levels of walking and cycling during the current emergency.

"I also want us to work in collaboration with communities, including for example to identify and create ‘Quiet Streets’ where pedestrians, cyclists and play have priority and motor vehicles are guests."

The champion's appointment will be agreed in the coming weeks and the minister said they would ensure the government "deliver[s] our commitment to increase the percentage of journeys made by walking and cycling. Inspiring our communities, restructuring our spaces, changing forever the way we live – and changing it for the better."

I want to work with communities to create 'Quiet Streets' where pedestrians and cyclists have priority and motor vehicles are guests.

Nichola Mallon, Infrastructure Minister 

With consideration being given this week to reviewing the lockdown, the ministerial statement also highlighted the need to look ahead: "out of the darkness of this pa​ndemic and into a better world that we need to build for ourselves. Greener, cleaner, healthier and happier people and places must be our aim as we learn to live with this new normal during and after Covid-19.”

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK's head of campaigns, said: "The minister's announcement is great news for Northern Ireland and Cycling UK really welcomes the fact that for the first time there will be a dedicated champion for walking and cycling at the top table. What she has set out is an ambitious vision but one that can make a real difference to the way people live and travel every day."

The minister also announced areas had already been identified in Belfast City Centre and in Derry City that can be quickly transformed to provide better space for cyclists to correctly observe social distancing guidance and she would work with councils to identify more as a matter of urgency across the North.

Josh Murray, Cycling UK's engagement officer in Northern Ireland, added: “I am delighted to hear of the appointment of a Cycling and Walking Champion and look forward to working with them. Just last week we called for an approach similar to that in other cities around the world such as Brussels and Milan where unused road space was converted into temporary cycling and walking space, so it was encouraging to hear as someone who cycles in Belfast that areas in the city where this could happen have already been identified."

Last week, Cycling UK and Sustrans wrote jointly to the Infrastructure Minister asking her to urgently consider widening pavements and introducing temporary cycle lanes and asked members to highlight changes they would like to see in their area.

Cycling UK is currently calling on residents of Northern Ireland to help the Department for Infrastructure identify where safer space is needed for cycling and walking during lockdown. 

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