Cyclists risking lives on our rural roads

One of the cycle paths in Ballymena. INBT49-217AC

One of the cycle paths in Ballymena. INBT49-217AC

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Cyclists are ‘taking their life in their hands’ on rural roads in the borough, Deputy Mayor Hubert Nicholl has told a Council committee.

His comments came last week when members were asked to approve a civic response to the DRD’s Draft NI Bicycle Strategy which is currently out to consultation.

The committee heard that the vision of the 25-year strategy is “to establish a cycling culture in Northern Ireland to give people the freedom and confidence to travel by bicycle and where all road users can safely shares space with mutual respect”.

Council’s response flagged up a number of concerns, not least that the draft strategy had not been subject to “rural proofing”, pointing out “there is a risk that this draft strategy might unintentionally become focussed on the larger cities of Belfast and Londonderry/Derry”.

Approving Council’s response, Committee members were particularly supportive of its view that rural proofing is “critical” to the strategy’s long-term success.

Cllr Hubert Nicholl said that a rural strategy was required due to the danger posed to cyclists by traffic, stating: “You are taking your life into your hands on rural roads.”

“Big lorries are passing you by at 60mph with 40ft trailers on - they just suck you in, especially if it was a youngster - they wouldn’t have a chance,” he said.

Recalling having ridden on one occasion to Ballymena via the main Ballymoney line, Ald. Sam Hanna admitted “the once did me! I’m telling you she’s a dangerous set-up. You are taking your life in your hands,..You have to hold on to your bike,” he said.

Mayor Audrey Wales said local cycle lanes also posed a hazard, claiming that “nine out of 10” of them were strewn with rubbish and fallen leaves.

“They are actually dangerous for our cyclists to use,” said Cllr Wales adding the “onus is on the department” to keep them clear and safe.

In response to a query from Cllr Paul Maguire about Council’s involvement in the ‘cycle to work’ scheme, Council Officer Bernie Candlish informed the committee that a working group had been set up and that a report was scheduled to be brought back to Council in the New Year.