Making active travel the norm for our university community and beyond
As part of our special blog series, Queen's Voices on COP26, John McCann, Queen's Transport Manager, Estates Directorate, shares how Queen's University Belfast has been working to increase active travel by students and staff and help reduce carbon emissions.
You have heard it all before – 'it’s too wet', 'it’s too cold', 'no where to park', 'can’t get a shower' – and of course, the biggest one of all, 'the traffic'. If we started off with this mindset nothing would be achieved and the car would continue to be king!
The University has, however, over a number of years tried to break down some of these (perceived?) barriers to cycling and to make it more inclusive for staff, students and more recently, the local Queen’s community.
Through the Travel Plan, the University has committed to reducing the number of single-occupancy car journeys taken by staff and students to the University. One way that we have worked to achieve this goal is to make the alternative - active travel - more appealing.
We have invested significantly in cycle parking at the University and we now have parking for over 1,100 bikes across the campus. In addition, we also have 12 secure cycle parking locations which are also covered by CCTV. All our new building projects, and significant refurbishment projects, have cycle parking provision as a core component and we have shower and changing facilities across all sites.
However, to make cycling more accessible and to ‘bring the bike’ to staff and students, we have recently opened a Bike Hub at the University.
The idea for the Hub was the result of a number of conversations with local social enterprise Big Loop Bikes, who, up to now, had sold refurbished bikes to students at the start of each academic year. The University and Big Loop Bikes wanted to grow the number of staff and students that cycle as their preferred mode of travel and to make Belfast a more connected city. The Hub offers bikes for leasing through the academic year, as well as the sale of refurbished bikes, the servicing of bikes and the sale of safety equipment. Through significant stakeholder engagement, the Hub received funding through Belfast City Council from the Department for Infrastructure and supports ‘A Bolder Vision’ for Belfast, which aims to give walking and cycling greater prominence in the city.
To help improve cycling infrastructure in the vicinity of the University, we have also been working with academic colleagues from the School of Natural Built Environment on proposals to add a cycle lane on Botanic Avenue. Significant research on the viability of a cycle lane and stakeholders' attitudes to such an intervention has been undertaken by undergraduate and post-graduate students and a final report, recommending a number of options, has recently been presented to the Minister for Infrastructure for consideration.
For too long the car has dominated the road space in Northern Ireland.
If there has been a positive to come out of the COVID-19 crisis, it is surely that people now demand outside space for walking and cycling to be available like never before. We don’t have to wait on new technologies to change the way that we travel and help reduce our carbon emissions: the bike, the bus and the train are already available. However to make real, significant and long-lasting change, we all must work in a collaborative manner so that behavioural change embeds and becomes the norm.