Cathedral Quarter is first in a wave of planned pedestrianisation initiatives - Nichola Mallon

 Picture by Mal McCann.
 Picture by Mal McCann.  Picture by Mal McCann.

THE first in a wave of planned pedestrianisation initiatives to support the north’s recovery from coronavirus has been announced by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI).

Hill Street and Gordon Street in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter will be pedestrianised on a trial basis initially.

Work will start next week.

Footways will also be temporarily widened in a series of streets across Belfast:

  • Linenhall Street - from May Street to Ormeau Avenue;
  • Bedford Street - from Clarence Street to Ormeau Avenue;
  • Dublin Road - from Ormeau Avenue to Shaftsbury Square;
  • Great Victoria Street - from Howard Street to Bruce Street.

The temporary widening of pavements in Belfast’s Linen Quarter is also due to begin next week.

Belfast Chamber described the moves as “sensible”.

DfI said work is also planned to extend waterfront spaces in Derry in the weeks ahead.

The announcement comes as the hospitality industry in today’s Irish News called on DfI and local authorities to embrace an innovative approach to helping bars and restaurants reopen.

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said using space such as roads, green areas and even multi-storey car parks could help the industry reopen within social distancing guidelines.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon described the first wave of changes as innovative and creative.

“We are now living in a new normal and part of that is ensuring we create more opportunities for active travel, with more safe routes for walking and cycling.

“Some of the changes we will make have not been tested before. They may not all work, but we have an opportunity now to try new things and to learn from them.”

“Work will also begin in Derry to create extra space for people using the riverfront and in the weeks ahead, working closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council and other stakeholders, we will develop plans to reduce the traffic and improve conditions for pedestrians within the City Walls as businesses begin to reopen. 

“We are also working with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council on quick and innovative solutions in Newry that not only promotes active travel but supports our communities facing new challenges and our new way of life, as we adjust to our new normal.”

Ms Mallon said work is already underway within DfI to establish a walking and cycling advisory group with representatives from a wide range of public and voluntary sector organisations.

“In the coming weeks I will announce plans for pop up cycle lanes and quiet streets across Northern Ireland. 

“At a time where there are constraints on public transport, I want to make it easier for people to choose to cycle. I am particularly keen to improve links to our hospitals to help those frontline healthcare workers who are at the heart of our response to this pandemic. 

“My Department is also looking at ways we can support communities, particularly those in disadvantaged inner city communities who do not have easy access to space for recreation and leisure and I will be making a further announcement on this soon.”