Department for Infrastructure “neglecting Northern Ireland’s future” says charity

Department for Infrastructure “neglecting Northern Ireland’s future” says charity

In the run up to the election in May 2022, Cycling UK sought pledges from candidates to support an Active Travel Act in Northern Ireland. Despite repeated correspondence with Minister O’Dowd and the department, the Minister is now reneging on his pre-election pledge

Cycling UK today (Wednesday 14 September) has released correspondence with Minister O’Dowd, who leads the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), which highlights his failure to meet a pre-election commitment to enable more cycling and walking in Northern Ireland.

In the run up to the election in May 2022, Cycling UK sought pledges from all candidates to support an Active Travel Act in Northern Ireland and asked:

“If elected, do you pledge to support; Investment in Cycling, Walking and Wheeling – introduce an Active Travel Act”

Including Minister O’Dowd, 53% of now sitting MLAs committed their support. Such an Act, mirroring similar ground-breaking legislation in Wales, would enshrine a commitment in government policy to enable more cycling and walking.

In rejecting his pre-election promise of support for an Active Travel Act [Minister O’Dowd] is neglecting Northern Ireland’s future as he locks us all into a fossil-fuelled dark age

Andrew McClean, Cycling UK’s spokesperson in Northern Ireland

Despite repeated correspondence with the Minister and the department, the cycling charity has learnt the Minister is now reneging on his pre-election pledge and will not commit to an Active Travel Act.

Andrew McClean, Cycling UK’s spokesperson in Northern Ireland said:

“Minister O’Dowd, who is responsible for our roads and the way we move, is dithering and locking us all into future car dependency. In rejecting his pre-election promise of support for an Active Travel Act he is neglecting Northern Ireland’s future as he locks us all into a fossil-fuelled dark age.

“Across Northern Ireland, we’re facing the burden of a cost-of-living crisis, with driving an expensive necessity for many. Making cycling and walking more accessible gives us all a choice, a choice to make cheaper, healthier and more environmentally friendly trips for those local essential journeys.

“It’s baffling the Minister and his department can’t see the short- and long-term benefits of encouraging more cycling and walking.”

Cycling UK recognises there is only so much a minister can do while the government in Northern Ireland is currently not sitting. However, the charity argues active travel is being ignored to the detriment of the residents of Northern Ireland.

“To date, Cycling UK has received flimsy excuses as to why the Minister is doing nothing to help people travel cheaply,” said Mr McClean. “He’s signed off on new road schemes, so the very least he could do is begin scoping or beginning the consultation process on an Active Travel Act.”

The Minister has approved two new road-building projects and has guaranteed funding for a Greenway Project which his predecessor at the DfI, Nicola Mallon, had set up.

There has also been a decision to consult for a third time in the space of a year on a trial cycle lane for the Limestone/Cavehill Road in Belfast. This is a key first part of delivering a cycling network in Belfast, which campaigners say the DfI has been needlessly delayed through repeated consultations that fail to reveal new information.

Contact information 

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not being monitored. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900-1700) please email publicity@cyclinguk.org or call 07786 320 713.

Notes to editors 
  1. Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often. www.cyclinguk.org

  1. The Belfast Bicycle Network Delivery plan has had three consultations within a year as follows:

  1. 14 June 2021 – consultation with local business and park users

  1. 4 March 2022 – information letter to businesses and residents along with advanced notice letter

  1. 22 April 2022 – consultation with local residents from a campaign against the cycle lane

(Source: https://belfastmedia.com/newington-residents-association-cycle-lane-petition) Each consultation has failed to find new information and has been enacted on the back of a vocal minority in opposition to safe cycle lanes for children to ride on to school.

  1. Links to correspondence between Cycling UK and DfI

  1. Cycling UK’s Northern Ireland Assembly Election campaign 2022

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