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It's Crunch Time - Thoughts on ANDBC's Future Growth Strategy

At the end of this month the Ards and North Down Borough Councillors will discuss the Cycling Masterplan that has been in gestation over the past nine months.

This is a good time to remind councillors of the reasons why this plan is so important for Bangor's and its residents' future. Our campaign group also wants to be crystal clear about what we want and why we want it. There are a lot of interdependencies of the various aspects of the masterplan. Past history and current projects show that many officials and consultants involved in planning various projects in our borough fail see the big picture because they are stuck in their comfy little silos. We will clarify some of the issues here.

1. Bangor must become a city of people, not vehicles. Historically residents have felt entitled to drive and park anywhere and everywhere. Bangor used to have a beautiful beach down at the marina. That made the town one of the go-to resorts on this island.

Then some time in the second half of the 20th century misguided town planning turned the beach into a massive car park. Out-of-town shopping centres became fashionable. This started the decline of Queen's Parade and the town centre, leading to the sad sight (site?) facing us today. Times have changed: climate change is upon us amd obesity is a massive public health problem. The planned redevelopment of Queen's Parade and making cycling into Bangor attractive can assist in addressing both of those issues.

2. Easy cycling makes people happy and healthy: it's a fun way to exercise and run errands - as long as it's safe. It will improve residents' mental health.

3. Cycling has been proven to save the city centres by making them more attractive through the absence of cars. It also boosts the local economy as shoppers stay longer. Anyone doubting this should visit any European city outside the UK. Your eyes do not deceive you: there are shoppers on bikes everywhere!

4. Create a 15 minute city: Bangor and its suburbs are perfect for the 15 minute city concept where everything one needs on a daily basis (work, shopping, education, healthcare, and leisure) can be reached in a quarter of an hour by bicycle. This requires a multi-disciplinary approach from all concerned, involving transportation planning, urban and residential design, and governmental policymaking to create well-designed public spaces and residential quarters. Silo thinking is out, collaboration is in.

5. Build it and they will come: Bangor is moving towards a better future in slow motion. The Queen's Parade development has been in limbo for 25 years and is still moving at a glacial pace. The Flagship Centre is a comatose white elephant waiting to be revived. The Bangor Waterfront Redevelopment currently does not include any bike parking and I don't remember seeing any on the plans for the Queen's Parade project either. Unfortunately the multi-agency cooperation mentioned in point 4 above is hobbled by silo thinking which needs to be erased. It is high time local politicians stopped kicking various cans down the road and start seeing the Big Picture. Cycling is part of that picture and Bangor currently has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build Bangor Bike Park with Peaceplus funding. The decision-making process related to Peaceplus is like a microcosm of what has happened to Bangor over the past 50 years as it declined into dereliction: partisanship, mediocrity and lack of accountability rule over the vision of a better future.

Without BCP the Cycling Masterplan isn't worth the paper it's printed on. The only purpose a Cycling Masterplan without BCP has is to demonstrate the failure of our governing institutions to grasp that traditional transport models have to evolve to provide a better future for our children and grandchildren.

6. Change the message and open up the city centre: give Bangor city centre a shared use focus where pedestrians and cyclists are equally welcome. Make Active Travel the first choice when it comes to going into Bangor and meeting friends for a cappucino at one of the local cafés.

Anyone insisting on driving can go to the soulless Leslie Bloomfield shopping complex and grab a coffee at the charmless Starbucks drive-through.

7. Build cycle routes through the heart of Bangor: we call on the Department for Infrastructure to liaise with us so we have some safe cycling corridors from outside the ring road down to the marina, the Open House, the cafés, bars and restaurants as well as the numerous boutique shops.

8. This would link Bangor's city centre with its outlying neighbourhoods and reduce traffic volume while improving air quality.

9. Build for 12 year olds, vulnerable cyclists and the elderly: the main objection we hear when we ask Bangor residents why they don't cycle is that they feel it's too dangerous. Better cycling infrastructure will alleviate that fear.

10. Enable Active Travel to schools: the roads around all of Bangor schools are mayhem in the morning and afternoon. Address points 7 to 10 to make Bangor a much more pleasant place to live.

11. Introduce safe cycle parking: there are not nearly enough bike stands in the borough. The council was asked to install a bike rack at Brompton Bay for open water swimmers eight months ago. The request is still pending as council officials work out what they have to do. Come on - we are talking about a single bike rack here, not the complete redesign of Ward Park!

While we're on that topic: the consultants/architects/urban designers who worked on the plans shown a couple of weeks in Carnegie Library failed to provide any bike racks in Ward Park. Seriously? I am not sure who disappoints me more: the useless experts or the council officials who didn't pick up on this before the plans went out for public consultation? Again, nobody sees the Big Picture. Where's that wall?

12. Join the dots: don't create car-dependent green spaces, make them accessible by bicycle. Cairn Wood is a prime example of this: the area was modified with lots of new paths to provide a number of lovely walks. Unfortunately the new parking lot can be reached safely only by car because the B170 Craigantlet Road is truly scary even for an experienced cyclist. No thought was given to anyone who might want to use their bicycle to go for a walk. Last time I looked, there was no bike rack either - more silo thinking.

I was shocked to learn that the Comber to Newtownards greenway is now in limbo because the Deparment for Infrastructure objected to a section of it to be routed along the hard shoulder of the A21 dual carriage way. Again priority is given to cars over Active Travel. Our MLAs should be all over this and call out DfI over its failure to embrace Active Travel. It may surprise you but DfI actually has an Active Travel Section. Why are they not pushing back internally on this decision? We invited them to address our members a month ago. Maybe we haven't heard back because we ask difficult questions?

13. Apply the transport hierarchy and invest accordingly: ANDBC must put pressure on the Department for Infrastructure to commence spending its Active Travel budget on walking and wheeling and stop spending those funds on fixing potholes. Our politicians need to explain to Westminster that the budget cuts implemented over the past 13 years of Conservative rule have ruined our infrastructure and ask for a rebalanced (higher) contribution.

14. Just because you can doesn't mean you should: having a car doesn't give its owner the right to drive it everywhere. You may have to avail of Park & Ride services for the last mile. If you don't like that, get on your bike!

We need to get our head around the scarcity of safe cycle lanes and start reallocating road space from private to public use. It may sound drastic but to effect profound change we need to accept that the convenience of small pockets of residents should not be allowed to override the safety of cyclists or a national Active Travel transport strategy: cycle lanes must be painted with solid white lines (which means they are in force all of the time and parking in them is not permitted), not dotted ones.

15. Insist DfI revises planning regulations for new developments to facilitate Active Travel by bicycle - force developers and town planners to prioritise cycling in line with the Transport Hierarchy, as outlined in 4 above.

Councillors, put your money where your mouth is - stop paying lip service and finally make ANDBC a truly bicycle-friendly borough. Council officials, please stop consulting and relying on clueless consultants (we have seen what they achieved during the Coastal Path fiasco - nothing apart from costing rate payers £300,000) and actually get a project completed! Feel free to print out this blog and use it as your to-do list as you implement the borough's Cycling Masterplan.

Bangor residents rely on you and the Department for Infrastructure to work together to create a coherent, safe, direct and accessible segregated cycle network in our borough.

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Idea: A21 picnic at the section holding up the Comber - Newtownards Greenway. Would some of the cycle clubs coordinate on a date and time to get a huge boost in numbers for photo opportunity and press release?


Good reading and an inspiring vision. Ideally this vision should inspire and focus ANDC. Couldn't they do a feasibility study?

Replying to

I'm not sure another study/consultation is needed? 😉


All of these points are relevant to the future of our city. We can’t get them all done immediately, but it would be good to see a start being made. When can we expect to see a start being made?

Replying to

Your question is one for our councillors. I suspect we will know more after 1900h on Wednesday 29 May 2024...

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