Belfast Cycling Study Tour

Northern Ireland Greenways is proud to launch a unique new tourist attraction, the Belfast Cycling Study Tour. Building upon the concept of the legendary Hembrow Study Tours in the Netherlands, we are targeting a niche but growing market of cycling advocates who want to experience the very worst in government-funded cycling provision. The tour is sure to delight everyone with some of the daftest paint infrastructure ever committed to a road surface.

Aspiring to rank alongside Titanic Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway as a magnet for overseas visitors, tours will start every day from Belfast City Hall. Without even turning a pedal, you can marvel at the lack of any visible cycling infrastructure around the hub of the forthcoming Belfast Bike Hire scheme!

Stephen McKay [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Our professional tour guides (Dessie and Smicks) will lead you on an action-packed tour of some truly original and world-class rubbish cycle lanes and more. Here are some of the highlights..

The Belfast Bin Lane

First up, it’s one of the most famous cycle lanes in the world! Swinging round the corner into Upper Arthur Street you’ll be amazed that Belfast has a stretch of near-Dutch standard separated cycling! But don’t expect to cycle along this track – if your tour is on a day that ends in ‘Y’, you’ll be sure to see the local bins on their traditional spot blocking the way. Or trucks. Or vans. Or Christmas trees, we’re not picky. This is one you’ll be telling the grandchildren about.

Bin Lane Greatest Hits

To get the most out a visit to the Bin Lane you should consider some light reading in preparation:

Cyclesaurus

At the other end of the Bin Lane, just 50m away is the latest innovation in cycle safety and probably a world-first: the triangular-green-pointy-hanging-over-a-junction-advisory-cycle-lane-dinosaur-tail-thingy, or Cyclesaurus to give it its technical name. Local cyclists still haven’t figured out the purpose or function of this paint (and it took just one week between the paint drying and the first confirmed collision between a bike and a car) but it’s sure to delight the Study Tour!

Cyclesaurus

The Loneliest Cycle Hoops

Turn the corner and you’ll find the most useless cycle hoops in the country, outside the Department for Regional Development (DRD) and Roads Service offices – basically Northern Ireland’s Transport HQ. Keen observers have notched up 434 days and counting since a bike was last seen attached. Bless ‘em, their day may come!

Clarence Court Cycle Hoops

Apsley-lutely atrocious contraflow

Passing across Ormeau Avenue and onto Apsley Street you’ll experience more Belfast innovation – a one-way street with an advisory contra-flow cycle lane sandwiched between parked cars and oncoming traffic. Phew, it’s a mouthful! Despite much evidence of the benefits a North American-style protected cycle lane (they go on the other side of parked cars) DRD are determined to plough their own furrow, while cyclists plough off somewhere safer like the footpath.

It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the Belfast Cycle Study Tour accepts no liability whatsoever for injuries suffered while navigating Belfast’s daft cycle lanes – you WILL be made to sign a waiver and insurance is compulsory. Moving on!

Apsley Street contraflow cycle lane

The Blind Bus Stop

No cycling tour of Belfast would be complete without one of the longest-standing pieces of daft infrastructure in the city, the bus shelter chicane beside Ormeau Park. Over a decade since designers admitted defeat at one of the busiest pedestrian/cyclist intersections, locals still get a wee heart-stopping thrill every time they go round the shelter and hope to emerge unscathed on the other side.

Ormeau Road Bus Stop

Rumbleside Embankment

Doubling back over the Ormeau Bridge and the start of the more energetic phase of the Study Tour. Belfast boasts a wonderful inner city riverside path for leisurely cycling. But what’s this? Bumpy cobblestone features at regular intervals? Surely this embarrassing 15-year-old mistake will be rectified whenever the opportunity presents itself? Not a bit of it! Repair contractors relayed large sections last year with EXACTLY THE SAME PATTERN OF STONES. Not so good for Belfast cyclists, but great craic for the Study Tour! Regulars at Belfast’s Urban Sports Park T13 described the experience of cycling here as ‘sick’.

BMX / Skatepark / Commuter mash-up

Across the Lagan again passing the Odyssey Arena, and another separate cycle lane, shiny and new. But marvel at the three sharply-angled BMX-style ramps which have been installed to make sure any journey is a fun journey! Five o’clock is the perfect time to observe commuter cyclists unexpectedly taking to the air.

Sydenham Road Ramps

The Spider’s Web

Into Belfast’s docks for another old-school piece of cycle nonsense, the Spider’s Web. The National Cycle Network meets a punishing mixture of lighting columns, traffic sign poles and random bollards arranged in the kind of challenging pattern usually seen in the slalom on Ski Sunday. If you can emerge with your pride and face intact, don’t get too cocky as random glassy debris and unyielding freight lorries are there to mop up the ‘lucky’ cyclists. Exhilarating! The Spider’s Web is an early favourite to feature in the time trial stage of the 2014 Giro D’Italia in Belfast.

Spider's Web Cycle Lane

See No Cycle Lanes, Hear No Cycle Lanes..

Finally we go freestyle and take you up any major arterial road (your choice) to experience Belfast’s amazing advisory cycle lane network. Marvel at parked car after parked car; try your best to see the cycle lane (it’s impossible!) and enjoy tussling with traffic when that cycle lane you’re meant to be in is covered in vehicles. Spot prizes are available for anyone who clocks a record number of illegally parked cars!

  1. Shankill Road  53
  2. Springfield Road  28
  3. Castlereagh Road  15

Tours will run from March to October only, as Belfast’s cycle lanes and greenways are not on the gritting or snow clearing schedule, so we can’t guarantee access or unbroken bones!

We hope to have a grand launch soon with members of the Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Cycling, the Regional Development Committee, and the Minister. Prices for the tour are fixed at 58p per person, in tribute to Northern Ireland’s current annual cycling spend – and let’s be honest if the government spent any more than 58p, this tour just wouldn’t be possible!

Steady Minister, steady!

We hope the Belfast Cycling Study Tour will form an important pillar in the bid to host Velo-city 2017, and that the new DRD Cycling Policy Unit will look at offering some of these daft features protected heritage status as they set about revolutionising cycling infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Sign up today, you’d be daft not to!

.

Thanks to @rosspmcgill and @chrismurphy201 for inspiring the Belfast Cycling Study Tour concept, and of course to @davidhembrow and @judyhembrow for their actual work to promote safer cycling infrastructure in the real world!

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29 thoughts on “Belfast Cycling Study Tour

  1. Sounds brilliant, can’t wait to come over and see all those features. Oh wait, we have them all here in Manchester, shan’t bother. Very entertaining piece, thank you.

  2. Fantastic tour! But one feature you failed to mention is the possibility of a shower. One of the best places is at the traffic lights at the entrance to Ormeau Park. DRD recently spent thousands on the drainage system there, but happily a large puddle still forms at the lights. Just wait there for a bus. They always oblige by driving close to the kerb. Be quick with the shampoo because you won’t have to wait too long for a rinse as they always come along in twos and threes.

  3. Brilliant! This is inspiring stuff. Can I just add that based on tonight’s commute we could also rename the gasworks path “dogshit alley” providing interesting slalom opportunities to add to the bone-shaking rumble strips.

  4. Ha class! Cyclesaurus is a very confusing junction to begin with, and there’s a “give way line ahead” parked on the cycle lane. Is the cycle lane part of the main road or not? Very confusing.

    BTW donegall road is an urban clearway 0800-0930, but a lot of times there’s cars parked there too…

  5. There’s also the stretch along the Lagan from Thanksgiving Square (Nuala with the Hula) to the Laganbank road past the Waterfront Hall, though I don’t think the Roads Service or the City Council manages this (it’s Lanyon Place Management Company or someone). It’s supposed to be a National Cycle path but is very hostile to cyclists and has recently become more hostile to pedestrians.

  6. […] The most interesting thing to happen to Belfast cycling this year hasn’t happened yet. The new cycling unit in the Department for Regional Development will probably get up and running in early 2014. It promises a new approach to government investment planning, embedding cycle-proofing across all departments to -prevent missed opportunities. Of course, it also means our cycling future is in the hands of the Department that brought you Cyclesaurus. […]

  7. I’m a keen mtber and decided to get a road bike recently to get some clean miles in. I was worried about it being boring and less extreme for a crazy guy like me. Hell no! I followed the cycle network route from Comber to Jordanstown and got lost at the Custom House? I’m surprised it wasn’t a feature. A great combination of cobbles to blur your vision and tiny signs to squint at make for some extreme urban riding on my aluminium road bike. Then the car park near Hollywood arches on the Newtownards Rd? A cycle lane that runs between reversing cars coming out of their spaces with a nice wee blind curve. 15years of mtb riding can’t train your reactions like this!

  8. you want to live here in downpatrick we do not even have a single cycle lane no one seem interested so we are left to fight the traffic alone

  9. Yesterday at evening rush hour I passed a road traffic accident on the Ormeau Rd in the Bus Lane ouside Bell Towers. This is a fairly new Bus Lane – probably just a couple of months. It seems that a cyclist had been knocked off his bike by a motorist who was trying (most likely in a hurry) to rejoin the inside lane as it reverted to a non-Bus Lane. The motorist was totally out of order as the Bus Lane didn’t end for approx another 20m. Fortunately I don’t think the cyclist was seriously injured. I’ve been told it was the second bike/car accident this week at the same spot. If this was indeed the second in a week it looks like a bloody dangerous spot for cyclists and the DOE should be taking action to prevent further accidents.

  10. If I may add something too, I am a Dutch nurse, commuting to work by bicycle through Belfast on a near daily basis. I realise I am spoiled in my own country, but it’s not just the infrastructure that has been bothering me since cycling in Belfast. I find many car drivers also extremely rude. On numerous occasions car drivers have honked their horns at me, for no apparent reasons, but scaring me every time. Or worse, raise their middle finger (again for no apparent reason), and worst of all, screaming at me through open windows when they’re driving past me! As it always comes as a surprise, it really shocks and scares me, thankfully I have so far always been able to hold my bike on the road! So overall speaking cycling in Belfast has been a very unpleasant experience for me, and there have been times that I felt really scared to go out on the roads, considering to walk or take the bus instead. I really hope the government will make Belfast more bicycle-proof! Belfast being such a traffic-congested city, it would really make sense! It’s a small city with few hilly roads, so perfect for cycling!

  11. Was (perhaps naively) hoping to see some progress with our bike infrastructure when I started reading this but I must admit it did make me smile.
    Typical Belfast wit applied to a serious problem.
    I suggest we go the dutch way – make cycling the main mode of city transport.
    If we went the whole hog and legalised cannabis and prostitution in Belfast too then we could forget about wasting all that money that the tourist board spend on historical tourist attractions like the Titanic exhibitions and spend it all on getting people onto their bikes safely.

  12. Just do what an increasing number of cyclists are doing…cycle on the pavement. Any morning or evening you can be buzzed or struck by a bike along the length of the Albertbridge Road and crossing over the Albert Bridge. Some of them even wear their helmets and high viz jackets especially to cycle on the footpath….how very safety conscious. I was going to point this illegality out to the PSNI cycle patrol I spotted in May Street one morning, but they were cycling on the pavement too.

  13. Home Secretary’s comment re cycling on footpaths:

    The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.

    Having been forced on to the iron rails on the Albertbridge three times, I’m afraid that ‘fear of traffic’ is a very real issue for me.

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