Active Travel Scheme should be inclusive as possible - McAleer
Sinn Féin MLA for West Tyrone and member of the Regional Development Committee, Declan McAleer, has called on the Belfast Active Travel Scheme to be as inclusive as possible in order to encourage greater uptake and increase the health benefits.
Speaking today Mr McAleer said:
“I welcome the DRD Ministers decision to roll out 4 Active Travel Demonstration Projects which are part of the Active Travel Strategy aimed at encouraging people to adopt a more healthy option in terms of travel, especially over short distances.
“The demonstration projects are being rolled out in Belfast, Craigavon, Derry and Strabane.
“The Belfast Public Bike Hire Scheme involves the development of a 3rd generation bike hire scheme similar to those already in operation in Dublin and London.
“It will involve the locating of docking stations 350 meters apart and we heard that it has been a huge success in Dublin with approximately 1 million users in the first 15 months.
“However there are concerns as to how to access the service. It is intended to allow users to access the bicycles by swiping credit or debit cards. This is a quite restrictive approach and may stop many people, especially those from lower income brackets, the elderly, or young people who may not have these cards to use this service.
“For such an imaginative and positive scheme we should be encouraging as many people to use these bicycles as possible ans should be exploring innovative ways to do this.
"One example would be for those wishing to use the bicycles on a regular basis to apply for a user card in conjunction with a cash payment meter. This would identify who has hired the bicycle while not restricting the bicycles to those with credit cards only.
“If we are truly intending to encourage people to have a healthy lifestyle then we need to make these schemes as open as possible.
“I conveyed this to the Head of the Active Travel Project and asked for it to be factored in to discussions with Belfast City Council before a final system is decided upon.
“I intend to pursue these projects through the DRD committee, the Minister and with my colleagues in the constituencies involved. These are excellent projects which have the capacity to provoke a modal shift towards healthy alternative means of transport. I hope that they are just the part of a longer term strategy which will be rolled out further across all of the council areas in the north.”