Monday, 14 December 2015

#ChristmasTrees #CargoBikes

It is always good to find a new use for your bike and Christmas brings great seasonal opportunities. So when it came to getting our tree at the weekend I thought why not just bring it home by bike. I found the lock doubled as a useful mechanism for holding the tree in place and like many car owners with their magic trees my journey involved a fine pine aroma.
And only a few moments and a few cheers later we arrived home tree in place.
The following day and with a little bit of decorating we ended up with this! An artistic piece titled !Angel in a Balaclava" courtesy of PoP.
If you have time please visit the link and read about little Samira.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

#CyclistsMustBeValued #Health

It is clear from the experience of commuter cycling or everyday cycling in Belfast that cyclists aren't valued. In part this is because we are still at a very early stage of infrastructure improvements but its also in part because there is limited appreciation of the broader societal benefits.

The UK "Cycling 10:10" study earlier this year confirmed that serious health benefits flow from cycling and for any Government that means money saved. Most interestingly it found that by becoming more regular cyclists people weren't only happier and less stressed but they adopted other healthier behaviour patterns, "the snowball effect". Whilst most people tend to underreport their alcohol consumption, certainly to their GPs, the study found that alcohol consumption dropped by 30% in cyclists and 50% of those getting around by bike had an improved diet.

 The 2012 Copenhagen bicycle account found a 30% decrease in mortality amongst those who cycle daily and quantified the annual health benefit of cycling to be a phenomenal 1.7 billion DKK per annum so around 200 million pounds. The 2014 Bicycle account assesses the socioeconomic benefit of a km being cycled compared to it not have taken place as 1.62 DKK so just shy of 20p.

So following this through, if you do this

You end up with this

Which means more of this

But to keep it going it's the little things that count. So do this
And say "tak" by doing this
And as @nigreenways rightly says, if you want them to buy stuff in your shops don't forget to give them somewhere to park.

If you have time please visit

Thursday, 3 December 2015

#Cycling #Benefits #PublicHealth #CyclingTsar

At a time when we have less available public money to spend in Northern Ireland, in part due to the fiscal policies of central Government and in part due to how regional Government has operated, it is important we adopt a longer term strategy and get policies right.

Despite investment in cycling infrastructure being relatively inexpensive set against other capital projects, it has been often viewed by civil servants and roads engineers as some sort of luxury or add on.

Yet far from being a luxury or add on, it is a must. It is a must because it allows the public to themselves through daily routine delivery important outcomes of better physical and mental health. It allows the public through habit to deliver positive outcomes for small retailers, reduced crime, reduced anti-social behaviour, an increase in the urban population and an improved urban environment. Increased population density makes public services more efficient and less expensive to deliver as well as providing a strong income stream for local councils. In turn a positive urban environment drives visitor numbers to a city as well as improves the lives of its citizens. The global column inches dedicated to Copenhagen as a cycling city provides a wealth of positive free publicity.

Whether you think of the growth in health expenditure or the cost of roads maintenance increasing the number of journeys on foot or by bike has positive outcomes for both.

To derive these benefits we need to have significant change in the quality and density of segregated cycle routes. The Belfast bike hire scheme has confirmed what many suspected, that Belfast could be a leading cycling city, but only through sustained (not huge sums) capital investment in infrastructure and an pro-cycling attitude right across Government can we deliver these favourable outcomes.

Danny Kennedy did set up a cross departmental working group on cycling to bridge the gaps between departments but maybe its time we had a cycling Tsar for Belfast or better still Northern Ireland to provide even greater focus.

In urban areas we should target improving the cycle commuter experience and in rural areas we could really get local Government to buy into cycle tourism on the Westport and Great Western Greenway model. A significant component of the European tourism market has already taken a foothold in the South and there is no reason whatsoever it couldn't bike North too.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

#Alzheimers #Cycling #PositiveImpact #MentalHealth

There has been a slight delay in me updating with a new post because of a really important charity campaign I am trying to help for little Samira

It did get me thinking about cycling charity events and the work that is being undertaken in some countries in relation to those with Alzheimers. There has been evidence generated that older people who exercise (including those who cycle) are less likely to develop Alzheimers, but there is also evidence that taking sufferers out by bike slows the negative impacts of the condition. It compliments the argument that those who cycle has more positive wellbeing and mental health outcomes. Anyway in doing some reading into the topic I found @CycleWithoutAge and some wonderful images.

Therefore CargoBikes and Cycling are not just for those who can cycle or their kids. It is for lots of categories of people less able to cycle who can still experience the elements. A volunteer programme operates with people taking residents out for a bike ride to get the "wind in their hair". Could this happen in Northern Ireland too????

Interesting links on this topic appear below

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Most people who know me know I have a little bit of a Northern (Nordic) soul, so it didn't come as much of a surprise when I decided to invest in a Danish cargo bike for the nursery run, shopping and general getting around. This post is my three month or thereabouts appraisal of my experience of Belfast on three wheels.

Generally it has been positive despite the early advice I received from McConvey Cycles who I had initially approached to source a bike for me. Even today I have the advice stored in the back of my mind, "we don't do those", "but could you order one for me" (and presumably make profit), "no, the clue is in the name mate, they aren't made for this country". Honesty and inaccuracy in equal measure. I am confident the view will change, because there is definitely interest and a market for them.

I have found that handling on three wheels is an education and very much a learn as you go experience. I definitely feel safer on three than I did on two wheels vis a vis interaction with motor vehicles.

Being on a wider bike forces a cyclist to occupy more of the road rather than retreat to the gutter which is a positive. Not sure how the PSNI would view my bike width given the advice to not cycle two abreast, but my experience of the police on cycling issues hasn't really been a positive, they really don't seem to get the bigger picture of positive outcomes for social interaction, public health and so on. Like DOE, they seem to have a touch of the zero cyclists means zero cycling casualties view of life.

Drivers in Belfast continue to be very much a mixed bag of people trying to cut you up to be stationary at a red light first contrasting with those who are wonderfully respectful of you as a fellow road user. Maybe there is an element of cycling Stockholm Syndrome whereby you over appreciate basic courtesy because it isn't forthcoming from all, but there are definitely many very good drivers out there!

One particular trait I have noticed is a number of drivers who give the impression they feel they have right of way (when the don't, emerging from a side road for example) simply because you are on a bike, but this isn't restricted to drivers, pedestrians sometimes give the same impression on crossing the road but to date I haven't minded stopping and can confirm I haven't run anyone over yet!

On the electric or not question, electric assist has meant that I don't feel like I have been on a hill (at least upwards) for three months. It is a really good component of making every day cycling available to many more people and I would certainly recommend.

Most importantly of all my son loves travelling in the front and we are able to cover 20-25 miles a day without a great deal of effort!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Lidl Belfast Versus NIGreenways -there can be only one!

Lidl seems to have displayed some rather poor judgement in taking on twitter sensation and legendary cycle blogger when he made the simple suggestion that they put cycle parking at their Belfast store.

After all they seem to have a standard design from elsewhere.

I have weighed up this contest in the way that any sports pundit would and have been driven to the absolute conclusion that there can be only one victor -NIGreenways.

After all even Lidl in Dublin has cycle parking. Image the fury if some local politicians found out that the parking provision for Lidl "in the North" was denying them parity with the Republic or their basic rights!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

#BetterBelfast #UrbanAcupuncture #Gehl #HumanScale

I often talk about my vision for a #BetterBelfast and the type of city I would like to see us inhabit in the future. Like everyone, my thinking is influenced by where I have been, what I have read and what has made a positive impression on me. It isn't simply about drawing a picture of what I would like to see in the future, it is about the type of thinking that will shape the future and future decision making. For me anyone wishing to take decisions about the future of our city must watch the documentary "The Human Scale".

Whether you agree or not with the views expressed, it will make you think about our city and how to maximise its potential in a way you may not have thought about it before. The idea is about making it a pleasant place to live by taking planning decisions that focus on people and the human living environment.

And of course it also means doing projects that make the city fun. My current personal favourite -dancing traffic lights

Friday, 10 April 2015

#LessonsFromFinland #Babies #Future?

I remember a few years ago when I found out about the wonderful start in live that the Finns give their babies. I never wrote about it at the time because I thought it is inevitable that something similar would come to the UK, but sadly it hasn't happened yet. Therefore I have decided to make my pitch for British babies to have a Finnish start in life! It sends a strong message about all children getting an equal start in life as well as reflecting national identity -it brings people together. Please read more with the link below.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

#MakingPublicTransportCheaper #NIR

I support Westminster extending TaxSmart to rail travel in Northern Ireland –TaxSmart means you can pay for public transport before you pay tax on your earnings –making your travel much cheaper. For commuters it is an excellent incentive to take the train and it would reduce congestion on our roads making a positive difference for motorists

Saturday, 21 March 2015


It was really exciting to see docking stations appear in and around the city centre this week in preparation for the launch of the Bike Hire Scheme. This scheme has the potential to improve public health (in Copenhagen over 100 million is saved per annum in healthcare because of high levels of cycling), re-balance the pace of movement in the city centre and most importantly make getting around lots of fun! I remember when the London scheme was first launched with a degree of criticism but after a few months even the greatest sceptics acknowledged it was a success. Boris bikes have succeeded because the operators have continually tweaked and refined their plans as they have gone along to better serve demand and the market. The same will of course have to apply to the Belfast scheme and maybe by this time next year Danny Bikes will roll of the tongue nearly as easily as Boris Bikes! And naturally I am keen to see a second phase of the scheme expand it further into the south of the City.