Ballymena needs to do more to promote cycling, the North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said.
Mr. McKay, himself a keen cyclist, argues that Ballymena needs to realise the economic and health benefits that the activity has for the town.
And he urged Ballymena council to make the development of a mountain bike trail in nearby Portglenone a priority, given the tourism potential of this proposal.
He said: “There is little in Ballymena town to encourage local people to take up cycling.
“Good cycle parking is nearly non-existent and few markings on the road for cyclists.
“There is a badly worn out cyclepath on the road to Broughshane and that is perhaps indicative of how seriously cycling is taken as a form of transport here.”
Mr. McKay, who chairs the Assembly’s Finance Committee, said he had recently heard evidence about how employee sickness rates could be improved by healthier lifestyles and by the provision of better public transport and cycling options.
“Businesses should consider how they can facilitate employees that cycle or that want to cycle to work by the provision of cycle-parking in particular. Belfast has recently providing additional cycle hoops in the city that have filled up already and there is of course benefits to having these located outside your business through additional footfall in customers.
“There is a very good example of this in Portglenone where the provision of cycle-parking helps attract cyclists travelling through the town to stop and get something to drink and eat.
“What we need to see is improved cycling infrastructure between the town’s estates and the town centre. Experience elsewhere shows that this will remove more single passenger cars from the road that and this reduces traffic and congestion.
“Increased cycling rates will also help improve physical and mental health rates of those that live in the town, including many who live in some of the most deprived wards in the constituency.
“There are many many people in the town who would cycle through it if they perceived it was safe enough to do so. There is an onus on statutory agencies to respond to that demand and I have already raised this with the council. I will be meeting with the DRD cycling unit and Roads Service in the next few weeks to push for a basic level of cycling infrastructure in Ballymena.
“At a time when the potential of cycling tourism is being recognised across the country we really need to see some progress on off road cycling trails in Ballymena.
“Bracknamuckley forest in Portglenone should be developed in the same way as Davagh and Garvagh forests and local people would like to see the council get a move on with the development of this . Portglenone has huge tourism potential that needs to be realised and the development of this trail must be made a priority by the council.”