Official Report: Minutes of Evidence

Committee for Regional Development, meeting on Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Trevor Clarke (Chairperson)
Mr J Byrne
Mr John Dallat
Mr R Hussey
Mr Chris Lyttle
Mr Declan McAleer
Mr D McNarry
Mr S Moutray
Mr C Ó hOisín


Ms Orla Campbell, Department for Infrastructure
Dr Andrew Grieve, Department for Infrastructure

Draft Bicycle Strategy Consultation: Department for Regional Development

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I welcome Andrew and Orla. Andrew, I take it that you will lead off.

Dr Andrew Grieve (Department for Regional Development): Yes.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): OK. The floor is yours.

Dr Grieve: Thanks, Mr Chairman. I am glad of the opportunity to come to the Committee and speak a little bit about our preliminary assessment of what came out of the public consultation on the draft bicycle strategy. I am particularly happy to answer members' questions. I think that you all got a copy of the presentation.

I will quickly go through the public consultation process. The strategy was launched on 27 August and followed a number of targeted consultation events in May. Nine consultation events were held throughout Northern Ireland: three in September; three in October; and two in November. The Belfast event was interactive, and a number of other departments were there to reflect the cross-cutting aspect of cycling. Those included the road safety division of DOE, Translink, the police, Sustrans, Belfast City Council and the Road Haulage Association, which brought an articulated vehicle to give people an appreciation of the challenges associated with HGV and cyclist interaction. We also had the Changing Gear seminar on 16 October, and I know that the Chair and other members of the Committee were at that. I think that the consensus was that it was a worthwhile event that helped draw out some of the themes that are highlighted in the draft bicycle strategy. The consultation ended on 21 November, and we have spent a lot of time trying to synthesise all the responses. Today's briefing will give you the highlights of that.

The consultation events were publicly advertised in the printed press and on social media etc. Sustrans, Northern Ireland Greenways and other key stakeholders helped by giving out information about the various events by tweeting about them, which is not something that I am particularly familiar with. Nearly all the consultation events were held in the evening because we got various pieces of feedback during our pre-consultation events that suggested that they should be held in the evening instead of during the day. The events consisted of a short presentation, which was followed by a discussion. The purpose of the meetings was to explain the thinking behind the draft strategy and to give anyone who attended an opportunity to put forward preliminary views. To be perfectly honest with the Committee, we were disappointed with the attendance at the consultation events. We had a total of around 70 across the nine consultation events, so you can do the maths. The interactive event attracted 40 of those 70 participants, but we also had a lot of schoolchildren from Scoil an Droichid, which is a primary school off the Ormeau Road.

The cycling seminar was much more encouraging, with around 180 people attending it. We also had significant media exposure of that event, so a lot more people were reached in that way. In association with that, we developed the hashtag #NIChangingGear, which enabled us to provide information much more efficiently and widely.

There are various statistics on this slide about tweets, contributors, Twitter accounts reached and exposures, of which there were 1·9 million. I hope Committee members know what that means, as I am not altogether sure.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): You even used your hashtag there.

Dr Grieve: It sort of lost me about that point. We had a total of 106 written consultation responses: seven from councils; two from government departments; 20 from professional or trade associations; 14 from other organisations; and 64 from private individuals. Compared with other consultations, some of which have been of real importance, such as the consultation on water charging 10 years ago, this is a pretty good response. We have broken down each of the responses into separate comments, making about 1,000 in total.

I will move on to the draft bicycle strategy and will emphasise the key themes again. Our focus is practical: how do we convert what we know about travelling into how people actually travel? Research from other places indicates that in excess of half the population is interested in cycling but has various concerns about it. The idea behind this draft is to give those people the freedom and confidence to travel by bicycle.

We also want to help everyone recognise that cycling has many wider benefits and is not simply a means of travel. In these days of straitened finances, we need simple, cost-effective solutions to pressing issues, such as health, environment or social benefits. The strategy is built around the following three themes: improving infrastructure, supporting cycling and promoting responsible cycling. We want to continue the work that we have been doing to make it more accessible to citizens.

Orla will now take you through the main points coming out of the consultation in the next couple of slides.

Ms Orla Campbell (Department for Regional Development): I will talk about feedback to the consultation. In the first instance, I will talk about feedback through the consultation events, and then I will move on to written responses.

You will see that there is a word graph on slide 5. This is intended to show graphically the key issues that arose during public meetings. For those of you who are not familiar with this type of presentation, the larger the word and the bolder the font, the more frequently it arose during our consultation events.

The key elements of the strategy were discussed, and there was general agreement among those in attendance that the right things have been included. This is why you will recognise words from our strategy in the wordgram. For example, the words "infrastructure", "greenways" and "training" all came across strongly and positively at our events.

People were also keen to share ideas for local projects and for their areas to be the focus of our pilots or master plans, which we are now calling bicycle network plans. People wanted their areas to be represented rather than have a solely Belfast-focused project. You will also see that the words "Belfast", "Ballymoney" and "Antrim" feature prominently in the word graph. This is purely because they were the areas where we had our best attended meetings and from which we got the most feedback. A number of ideas for projects in these areas were highlighted during the meetings. In summary, people were generally supportive of the strategy and were keen to see the key elements come to fruition. That was the message we took away.

As Andrew said, we had 106 written responses. That is an excellent response rate, and we are very pleased with it. Each response has been reviewed individually and broken down into comments. We have in excess of 1,100 comments, and each one has been categorised, roughly in line with the four key elements of the strategy, which Andrew has already addressed.

It is worth saying that some of the responses were very detailed and contained quite specific actions that will be very useful to us when preparing the delivery plan, which is the next stage of the project. There are numbers against each of the key headings and some of the subheadings. This is just to show you how many of the comments we received can be attributed to that particular key element of the strategy. If we look at safer spaces, you will see that design guidance was the most frequently commented on element of that.

I have broken that down further in the work that we are doing, because a substantial number of responses were general design-type comments. Specifically, people are talking about the need for segregated cycle facilities. There was also a good discussion on shared surfaces; some people are in favour of them, and some are not keen to see them at all. That was one interesting element.

Other comments in this section relate to our commitment in the strategy to develop a design guidance document. That was very favourably received. However, a number of people said — excuse the pun — "Don't reinvent the wheel. There are some very good design guidance documents out there in other jurisdictions. Let's look at those and see if we can apply those to Northern Ireland."

It is also noteworthy that many of the respondents felt very positively about the hierarchy of road users, which is at figure 4.2 in the document. However, figure 4.3, which shows the typology of cyclists, was not so positively received and we are obviously going to look quite closely at that.

Moving on to the comprehensive network, the proposal for a more focused approach — the development of bicycle network plans, as we now refer to them — was positively received. However, similar to the public meetings, the feedback was that they should not solely be focused on Belfast. Additionally, a number of respondents made more general comments about the need for infrastructure to get people cycling.

Moving on to greater numbers, a number of respondents were supportive of being able to undertake linked multimodal journeys. However, a good body of respondents said that work had to be done on the carriage of bicycles on trains and buses, so there is some work to be done with Translink. There were also suggestions for pilot schemes to be undertaken for bike racks on buses. Respondents also highlighted the need for the provision of suitable cycle parking at key journey attractors in city and town centre locations, schools, and large employment locations. Therefore, there is a need to provide cycle parking in the places where people want to go.

Finally, on inviting places, there was widespread support among respondents for 20 mph zones and limits. A number of suggestions were made for the wider roll-out of those zones and limit areas. On the relationship with DOE Planning Service, a number of respondents felt that cycling, particularly active travel, need to be far better represented in the planning process and in how applications for planning are assessed in terms of transport.

That is a very quick run through the key elements that we have come across. I will hand back to Andrew, who will give you a high-level summary of those emerging themes.

Dr Grieve: The final slide takes in all the comments that were made in the pre-consultation and the consultation, which we have summarised into three themes. With regard to support for the draft bicycle strategy, we believe that there is general support for the vision. Obviously, some people want more in it and some people want less, but there is general agreement on the main idea behind it. A lot of people wanted to see targets in the strategy, and we are happy to look at that. However, we are keen to have realistic and measurable targets; whether they should be in the strategy or in the delivery plan is perhaps a debate that we will continue to have.

One thing that Klaus Bondam highlighted at the seminar — he is a man with a lot of experience in this kind of thing — was that the key to achievable targets was political buy-in and commitment to delivering the strategy.

A constant theme was the need for a good dedicated bicycle infrastructure. Bearing in mind that we have a particular focus on addressing the concerns of the large cohort of the population that is interested in cycling, we need to ensure that the infrastructure that is provided is accessible, convenient and safe for all cyclists to use.

The third aspect is the idea of the respectful use of the roads. We are all road users, and we all have an equal right to use the transport network. We might have different needs, depending on how we travel on the roads. The more general point is the need to encourage and promote a more bicycle-friendly culture within our society and to ensure that neither drivers nor cyclists view each other as the enemy or as interlopers. Cycling culture is very important in all of that.

That is our presentation. I am happy to take members' comments or questions.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Thanks for the presentation. You talked about the seminar. I did not know what to think before I went, but I have to say that I found it enjoyable, so I was pleased that I attended. It was one of those where you did not know what to expect beforehand. Klaus was speaking when I first went in, and that guy's enthusiasm was remarkable; he seemed to live and breathe cycling. I know that Chris from this Committee and a few other members attended.

I turn to your point about political buy-in. If you take that as a barometer, you find that there is not really much buy-in. I know that the Minister was present, in fairness to him. It was a good and interesting event. However, we can have all sorts of strategies, but we are going through a difficult time in Northern Ireland — we touched on the financial pressures before. What bids have you made for finances to make the strategy become a reality? Coming from a rural constituency and local government, one hears from constituents that you talk these things up but that you never actually deliver them. We are talking up a cycle strategy in a difficult economic climate. Andrew, how much have you bid for and how much financial commitment have you got from the Department to make the strategy a reality?

As you said, among those who have engaged, there is general support for the vision/strategy.

Dr Grieve: This year, we bid for £2 million and got £1 million of capital expenditure, and that is being invested in the schools that are participating in the active schools travel programme. The Committee will see some of that programme next week. So we have spent roughly £1 million on that. This year, we spent well over £1 million in Craigavon on the active travel demonstration project. Some years ago, four councils were awarded grants. A lot of the expenditure has taken place this year. Craigavon council has done, and is doing, a lot of work on cycle paths.

There is the Belfast public bike hire scheme; again, that money comes from the Department. So this has been quite a good year. As to next year and the Cycling Unit, we have bid for £4·5 million, rising over the five years of the next Budget period to about £7·5 million. Two thirds of that is capital and one third resource. Resource will be a particular problem, as it is for all Departments. Budgets have not been allocated for next year. In the meantime, we have been developing pilot schemes, in line with a focused approach on Belfast; we hope to deliver those over the next 12 to 18 months.

The important thing about getting money is that you must have projects to spend it on when you get it. At the minute, we are focusing on developing those projects, and we have made bids for the money for next year.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I think that Orla described it as a "wordgram". I listened to what you just said, Andrew, but unless I get a magnifying glass, I do not even see Craigavon mentioned here. Are we going to invest in Craigavon somewhere, no?

Dr Grieve: We held a reasonably well-attended consultation event in Portadown.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): It must have been a very small event. I see that County Antrim is well represented. You include Templepatrick, Ballymoney and Antrim. I am glad that, when the Committee picked a school that was participating in the active schools programme, we decided to go to Antrim town. We are going to Ballycraigy Primary School next week. We picked that school before we had seen your wordgram, so that was very well done. I had to get that plug in.

Dr Grieve: That is working in partnership, Chair.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): There is rural designation. How has the Minister of Agriculture responded to the Department designating rural roads and some with speed limits in excess of 40 miles per hour? Take, for example, the Sydenham bypass, the A55 link road, the Holywood Road, the Saintfield Road and also the Belvoir Road in Belfast. There was something in your paper about the designation of roads with speed limits over 40 mph in rural locations. Those are all designated as being in rural locations.

Dr Grieve: Just give me the question again, Chair.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): How has the Minister for Agriculture responded to your designating those roads as rural?

Dr Grieve: I do not know whether the Minister has responded to that or not. It is a general departmental way of assessing roads.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): It is, but, if you take the roads that I have just cited, the location of those and the volume of traffic, I think there is a bit of conflict in the way in which those are positioned.

Dr Grieve: I share your


The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I will open up the floor to some other members. Declan, you are first.

Mr McAleer: You are very welcome, Andrew and Orla. We have had the consultation on the strategy. Can you give us any indication of where we are with the delivery plan? For example, has there been any tweaking or have any amendments been made to the strategy in light of the consultation?

Dr Grieve: At the moment we are bringing together all of the comments, and, by the end of the month or early in February, we hope to publish a consultation report summarising the different views and ideas that people have had in relation to the strategy. Following that, we will amend the draft strategy to produce a final strategy. Based on the information that we have received, we anticipate that a reasonable number of amendments will be made to the strategy. We have not started redrafting the strategy yet. We are concentrating on producing the consultation report.

Mr McAleer: We noted that the original strategy was not rural proofed. At what stage will the rural proofing kick in?

Ms O Campbell: The delivery plan will have rural proofing with it.

Dr Grieve: Maybe you want to talk about the discussions that we had with DARD.

Ms O Campbell: When we set about developing the draft strategy, we communicated with DARD and asked whether it was more meaningful to rural proof that very high-level strategy or the subsequent delivery plan, which will have a series of actions. DARD agreed that it would be far more meaningful to rural proof the delivery plan rather than the strategy. That is why that decision was taken. We have moved that way with DARD's agreement.

Dr Grieve: So the delivery plans will be rural proofed?

Ms O Campbell: Yes.

Mr McNarry: Happy new year to both of you. I think you know that I am a sceptic. I support the joy that cyclists have in their leisure pursuit, but I am not, as yet, sold on the strategy. I have just a couple of points. On Saturday, in my local village area, on the back roads past my own home, I came across about 30 guys and girls spread out across the road, full of the joys of spring, although it was the middle of winter, and enjoying themselves. I was genuinely pleased for them, but, obviously, they need to be better behaved if they are on a main road. I am sure that message will go out. Yesterday, which was a decent day, although cold, on my way here from my village of Ballygowan, I counted 14 cyclists on the road, clearly going to work. This morning it was a very wet, windy, dirty day, and I did not see one. I need to be convinced that cycling is an all-weather pursuit. Have you had any response from motoring organisations, or have you contacted them regarding your strategy?

Dr Grieve: The AA or RAC — that kind of organisation?

Ms O Campbell: Off the top of my head, neither responded.

Mr McNarry: And others.

Ms O Campbell: We have engaged with the Road Haulage Association, so in that sense —

Mr McNarry: I understand the hauliers; I am just talking about the other organisations. You have not had anything from them. You have not contacted them, no?

Ms O Campbell: Were they on our stakeholder list?

Dr Grieve: I think they were on the stakeholder list, but I will check that for you.

Mr McNarry: If the strategy was successful — this is just off the top of my head — would that be likely to necessitate changes in the Highway Code?

Dr Grieve: Not immediately. It depends on what kind of influence —

Mr McNarry: It either is or it is not. I do not care whether it is immediately. If this is successful, will you need to have discussions with the people behind the Highway Code?

Ms O Campbell: Yes, I think that we would like to.

Dr Grieve: Yes.

Mr McNarry: That is a real major legislative change, as well as a statutory onus on the Highway Code. Do you think that it might necessitate that?

Ms O Campbell: As part of the bigger picture, I think that we would say yes.

Mr McNarry: A very interesting response that I have read is from Sustrans. How much of that response and recommendations are you likely to incorporate into your strategy? It is very comprehensive.

Dr Grieve: A number of things that Sustrans has said are supportive. A number of its suggestions are things that we will incorporate into the strategy. I do not think that I could put a percentage on the number at this stage.

Mr McNarry: Not now, but will you be able to furnish the Committee with what you have identified in its recommendations that you will be willing to incorporate, so that we can match?

Dr Grieve: We are at the position now where we are considering all of their comments. We have not yet carried out the analysis as to which we will include and which we will not.

Mr McNarry: For instance, will you support an annual expenditure of £12·5 million?

Dr Grieve: Not initially, but, eventually, yes.

Mr McNarry: Again, can you be more specific? How long is initially? Is it next year or the year after?

Dr Grieve: Not next year and not the year after. To be given money, you have to have projects to spend it on.

Mr McNarry: Sure, yes.

Dr Grieve: The cycling unit has been in existence for just over a year. We are starting to work on projects. If we were given £12·5 million in capital next year, for example, we could not spend it because we do not have the projects. So, when I initially —

Mr McNarry: I understand that. Are you saying that there is every likelihood that the projects that you will develop could easily use £12·5 million of funding?

Dr Grieve: In five to 10 years, yes.

Mr McNarry: That is very helpful. Sustrans also says that cycling targets should be included in all future Programmes for Government. Do you support that?

Dr Grieve: As a concept, yes.

Mr McNarry: Finally, the issue of traffic is where I do get a bit concerned. Do you support the idea that Sustrans has for free cycle lanes and protected cycle lanes?

Dr Grieve: Yes, but not in all circumstances.

Mr McNarry: You see, part of this, as it unfolds, is that you need to give somebody like me — I would be very grateful — the greater detail on what circumstances you would support that in and what circumstances you would not. Earlier, you talked about rights. The lobby that I receive is from motorists, and they certainly would be very interested to find out what the change in their rights, as they currently exist, would be. I think that it would be very helpful and constructive if, for instance, somebody were to talk about the road between Holywood and Bangor or the road between Belfast and Holywood having cycle lanes. Personally, I think that that would be an absolute disaster, so I think that you need to identify specifically, based on what Sustrans has said, where these free cycle lanes would be and what you mean by "free".

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): David, you have asked the question, and thanks for that. I suppose that the next time there is a seminar we should take you along. I think that Chris and I will take you arm in arm, because I was as sceptical as you were about cycle lanes, but, when you see how it works in other countries and how they have made it a designated lane that protects the motorist and protects the cyclists, you can see how it can work.

Mr McNarry: I am very glad that you are won over.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I am not won over.

Mr McNarry: You are an easy touch.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): No, I am Clarke, not McNarry. The difficulty for me is the finances to deliver such a project, and you and I will probably share that.

In Andrew's response to you, he said that it would not be next year or the year after, so he is pushing that away. This is what worries me about the whole strategy.

Mr McNarry: I just saw a big poster that was probably trying to fool all the people in the world. It was not even a proper road, it was a flipping dodgy road in Germany that they had doctored in the picture. Right? Some story, guys.


There was not a cyclist on it. There was not even a car on it.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I am not a cyclist, but to be fair to those who are, cyclists in Northern Ireland have been the poor relations in what they have in the infrastructure. That was what was brought out most for me on the day we had the seminar. We saw what other countries had, how they developed that and how people embraced it because of having a decent infrastructure.

Mr McNarry: I understand what we saw in Amsterdam. Everybody came back and said that Amsterdam was great.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): We are not going to talk about that; we are talking about cycling at the minute, David.


Mr McNarry: What they were on when they were in Amsterdam and what gave them that opinion is another matter. I want to be clear about this: there is a growing number of cyclists, certainly among young people, and they need to be treated with respect. I will give you an illustration of where they do not get that respect. I know that works both ways, but it is an irritant.

I also want to know about these free cycle lanes, and I will illustrate that also. There is not a cyclist on the road today.

Ms O Campbell: There were two.

Dr Grieve: I beg to differ, Mr McNarry.

Mr McNarry: Well done. We are going to create cycle lanes and put a roof over them to make sure that people use them, because they are not going to use them much on a day like today.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I think that is unfair. Look at what has come to Northern Ireland in the last couple of years with the Giro. If you compare that with the situation two or three years ago, you will see what the Giro has done for Northern Ireland and the interest that it has brought to cycling. If you go out on a Sunday afternoon, you will see that, although people may be out for leisure, the fact is that they are out on bicycles. I never thought I would have seen myself saying that. To me, they were the bane of my life, cycling three abreast while I was driving along a normal road. That is why you have to have provision for them.

Mr McNarry: There is nothing better than seeing a young family of four or five all on the road. That is really lovely, etc. That is good on country roads, but is there room for them on our main roads? I am not too sure.

Dr Grieve: Mr McNarry's points are very important. When it comes to where you should have free cycle lanes and segregated cycle lanes, it is important that the Committee knows what we are talking about. Orla mentioned that a lot of the responses talked about proper design guidance. Most of the design guidance that we have seen sets out the information that you talked about. I welcome those points.

Mr McNarry: I understand that.

Finally, I am grateful for your honest answers, but it is key that you said that, if there is a likelihood that this strategy could make changes to the Highway Code, the significance of the strategy is illustrated. I would also like to know what the changes to the Highway Code will be, because that is massive.

Dr Grieve: We have a number of things in mind. There is a thing in Denmark called a two-stage right turn. Without going into all the details, instead of moving out to the middle of the road to turn right, you keep on the left-hand side, you have a waiting area and whenever the traffic lights change, you continue on the left. It keeps cyclists out from the middle of the road. A thing like that would need a change in legislation and a change in the Highway Code. That is an illustration of the kind of thing that we are thinking about.

Ms O Campbell: If Mr McNarry is interested, we have videos of each of the speakers from the day of the seminar. We are creating shorter clips to make available on Facebook and the like, but if you are interested, we can certainly supply you with the presentations from the day.

Mr McNarry: I would be very glad of that. The worst thing that you can do is ask a salesman to look at somebody else's sales ware.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): We will move on from that one.


Dr Grieve: I thought you were going to offer Mr McNarry a cycle.


Mr McNarry: I have a bike. It is a Palm Beach 1948 —


I cannot get a motor on it, that is the only problem.

Mr Ó hOisín: I am certainly not a sceptic, nor am I an easy touch. You talked about the embracing cycling due to infrastructure provision. I think that the real revolution in cycling happened because of the cycle-to-work scheme, which got more people than ever before back into cycling, particularly when it was rolled out through local government. I know that, when I was in local government, I was passionate about getting it introduced.

Unfortunately, the mandate ran out before I was able to avail myself of it, but I was able to do so last year. I declare an interest: I availed myself of the cycle-to-work scheme.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): You should count yourself lucky that you did not try to get it here. You can get it only one month in the year.

Mr Ó hOisín: I understand that, but I was on the ball and was able to avail myself of it. I encourage everybody else to do so. I think that only two or three Members out of 108 have availed themselves of it.

Mr Lyttle: It was not available until I made enquiries. I had to press before it was available, but now it is, so you have benefited from that, Cathal.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Just in case David wants to get a cycle, you cannot avail yourself of it; you can avail yourself of it only in one month of the year in the Assembly. It is not open 12 months of the year. In every Department —

Mr Lyttle: The applications are open for only one month of the year.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): It is open only in March here.

Mr McNarry: Can you get a tandem? Could John and I get a tandem?

Ms O Campbell: You absolutely could.

Dr Grieve: You could get an electric bike.

Mr McNarry: I am up for that.

Mr Ó hOisín: The point that I was trying to make was that that encouragement will lead to a sea change across the board. Unfortunately, the cycle-to-work scheme is not widely available; its provision is quite restricted. There is a piece of work to be done there.

As far as encouraging cycling provision is concerned, particularly in local government, Wales brought in legislation. Has anything been advanced in the strategy to look at potential legislation to encourage cycling at local government level?

Dr Grieve: We have begun a little piece of work. We have looked at the Welsh Active Travel Act, and we have done a little bit of work to scope out a potential comparable Bill in Northern Ireland. We are at the scoping stage at the moment.

Mr Ó hOisín: I do not think that we can underestimate the cycle-to-work aspect. I know of people who signed up in the first tranche of it and started off on average bicycles of £400 or £500 and are now on specialised bicycles. Some of them are doing 50 miles or 100 miles on a Sunday morning or whatever. That was the revolution in cycling.

Mr Ó hOisín: It is definitely catching on.

Ms O Campbell: A lot of the comments we received to the consultation were to that effect; they agreed with what you are saying. There is some work to be done on the wider roll-out to encourage more employers to take it up and to see whether it can be applied more widely; perhaps to those on lower incomes or those outside the job market. Those came across quite strongly in the consultation.

Mr Dallat: I bounced out of bed early this morning to come to hear this. What I have picked up is that you are gilding the lily. Your consultation had an average of fewer than eight people; so you are trying to promote a product that people clearly have no interest in. Otherwise, they would have turned up. What needs to be done?

I will give you an example: nobody knew what Walkman radios were until somebody said, "Oh, you need these", and they promoted them. There was no need for custard creams until somebody generated the interest in them. In an area where we have the highest rates of heart disease in Europe and where obesity is now affecting 70% of men — myself included — and road deaths are rising again, is it not depressing that fewer than eight people turned up per meeting to find out about this wonderful project, which I support in its totality?

Dr Grieve: I would not say that it was depressing, but —

Mr Dallat: It was a failure.

Dr Grieve: We were disappointed. At a number of our events, where very few people turned up, we got some ideas for better ways to consult. We are going to take those ideas onboard. Asking people to give up an hour or two to come to a place is not the best way. We are exploring the avenue of social media and targeted phone calls to people who may have an interest and ask them questions over 10 to 15 minutes. You are asking people to commit to 10 minutes on the phone. We have other ideas. We need to think them through, but you are right.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Take John's point as a barometer, Andrew. I think that Chris raised this point one day: consultation processes, in the main, do not provide many consultees. A good lot of the members sitting round the room have been members of policing and community safety partnerships (PCSPs) or district policing partnerships, where people are interested in crime and antisocial behaviour.

However, you go to a public meeting, and there are six people at it. You cannot take that as a barometer of people not being interested in a subject. People are interested in trying to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour and the lack of policing visibility. However, you have a themed public meeting in an area, and six members of the public are there. That is not a barometer that things do not work. Whilst I have not entirely bought into all of this, the fact that the consultation response was low is just symptomatic of how people respond to public consultations. It is not an indication of people not being interested.

Dr Grieve: That has been my experience.

Ms O Campbell: Attendance at the public meetings was low. However, the number of consultation responses was quite high relative to other government consultations. We were pleased with that. The seminar was also part of our consultation events, and it was phenomenally well attended. So, there are different ways to look at it.

Mr Dallat: We could develop that argument. Crime and cycling are totally different. We are all interested in crime, particularly when our houses are broken into. However, largely, we have not even begun cycling, apart from the ones who go out in their Lycra on their flashy bicycles. The people who are suffering heart attacks, having strokes and everything else have not even thought about getting on to a bicycle. That is the point, and that is the difference.

Dr Grieve: That is the big tranche of the population.

Ms O Campbell: They are exactly the people whom we want to get on to bicycles. It is about how we touch those people.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Councils have already started work on that. They are giving free gym membership to people who have been referred by their GP. I do not know about all councils but certainly some, to be fair to them, are already embracing that. They are identifying those with the illnesses and saying that they can give them free gym membership for x number of months, and people are actually staying on at the end of that.

Mr Dallat: That is the very point that I was coming on to. New councils will come into being in April. They will be buoyant and looking for ideas and wonderful ways in which they can be different from the old councils that are fading out. Surely this is something that they could do in a bigger way, given that they have bigger budgets and cover larger geographical areas. Has any thought been given to that?

Dr Grieve: One of the teams that works under me does a lot of work with councils annually: Walk to School Week, Walk to School Month and Bike Week. The chap responsible for this is beginning a series of meetings with the 11 new councils to develop what work they will do and how we can support them. It is an area that needs a lot of additional work, and it is one of the strings to our bow.

Mr Dallat: Amsterdam was mentioned earlier. The only thing that I can remember about Amsterdam is the mice: they were everywhere. The first cycle lanes that I saw were in France almost 30 years ago, yet you say that it could be 10 years before you spend your budget of £12·5 million. I will not attribute all the blame for the lack of success in promoting cycling, healthy lifestyles and so on to you — that would be grossly unfair — but is that not crawling pace?

Dr Grieve: If I gave the impression that we are not going to do anything for five or 10 years, I am sorry. There are a number of elements. For a year or two now, when there has been a transport intervention, Transport NI has also made provision for walking and cycling in its ongoing programme. It has, for example, put a wide pavement for combined walking and cycling on one side of the A2 and A8 roads. That is the incorporation of walking and cycling into general road infrastructure. Alongside that, we are working on a number of pilot projects in Belfast. We came up with a long list of about 20. There are eight in the Belfast area that we are looking at, and we want to roll those out over the next two or three years. So, there is work ongoing, but you have to get a head of steam up in order to increase the volume of projects and expenditure.

Mr Dallat: Finally, rural-proofing has probably been about in the Assembly for the best part of 16 years. I do not think that anybody actually knows what rural-proofing is. The question that I ask you is this: if you do not rural-proof the strategy, how on earth can the delivery plan be right?

Ms O Campbell: The decision was taken that, because this is a high-level strategy, there would not be sufficient detail to rural-proof. We are saying that we want to deliver a comprehensive cycle network for urban and rural areas and greenways.

That is quite high-level. When it comes to the delivery plan, it will drop down a level and will contain specific actions. DARD officials agreed with us that it would be more meaningful to rural-proof those because you have greater detail at that level.

Dr Grieve: I think that we will talk to DARD again.

Mr Dallat: I think that you should.

Dr Grieve: We will undertake to do that. Over the next week or two, we will talk to DARD again with our draft strategy in our hands.

Mr Hussey: I want to go back to Mr McNarry's points on the Highway Code and legislation. I have concerns that, following the success of the Giro d'Italia, for example, we have people who seem to think that, "Well, 30 people on bicycles can just take over the road and carry on". That happens. The Highway Code used to state that you had to ride single file. That does not happen. We have people who will take over the road, people who will ride bicycles with no lights or brakes. Whilst I accept all the points that have been made that we have to be very positive about these things and they should be encouraged — I do not have a problem with that — unfortunately, I have a problem with some of those who engage in these activities. They seem to think at times that, because there are 30 of them, they can take over the road. I left Omagh at 7.00 am this morning, David, and I did not see anybody on the road either.

Mr McNarry: It was dark.

Mr Hussey: It was dark. Joe and I would have come up on the tandem only Joe would not take the front.


I have problems with that and with how the legislation, if there were legislation or a highway code, would be policed, for want of a better word. What are your views on that?

Dr Grieve: I share your concerns with you and with the cyclist — someone who uses a bicycle. Although we have probably all done our driving tests and have all —

Dr Grieve: I do not intend to go into that. We are probably not as familiar with the Highway Code as we ought to be. Certain activities and behaviours of all road users are probably permitted in the Highway Code, but everyone else thinks that they are not. That is a general point. I think that what you are highlighting, though, is the importance of proper training for all road users. Drivers have to sit a test; they have to do a theory test. What kind of training or requirements are needed of people who use bicycles on the road? Those are all things that we in the cycling unit are open to considering.

Mr Hussey: I could not drive a car without a provisional licence and being shown how to do what I have to do. Anybody can get a bicycle, jump on it and head into town. Basically, that is what can happen. You might have absolutely no idea of what you are doing. All of us have seen people on a bicycle suddenly decide to go onto the pavement because there are cars in front of them, suddenly decide to become pedestrians and use the crossings to cross the road, and then head off in a different direction. That causes me concerns that I have raised before. If cyclists are prosecuted for this, it will be said that we are anti-cyclist. I am not anti-cyclist: I am pro-safety. This is a major concern of mine.

Dr Grieve: We support you in that view.

Mr Hussey: You said that six councils responded. I take it that those were six of the 26?

Dr Grieve: Yes.

Mr Hussey: Which six were they?

Ms O Campbell: I will have to check my list; I can email that to you this afternoon.

Mr Hussey: I was concerned when the events took place that Omagh, the county town of Tyrone, was not one of those used. Reference was made to Antrim and to other places. Omagh is the county town of Tyrone; there is a cycling initiative in the town and plenty of old railways. I have never been to Amsterdam. Those of us who went to Mayo saw a marvellous use of the old railway line and greenway. In my part of the world — I am sure that Declan and Joe would agree with me — there are plenty of old railways that could be used to accommodate cyclists. It means that you could have 30 people on them. To me, that is more positive.

To me, that is the way forward.

Dr Grieve: We had one of our pre-consultation events in Omagh, and that is why we did not go back to Omagh. We had a consultation event in Enniskillen, and a number of people from the Omagh Cycling Initiative came to that, but they got lost or something. So, we then visited them specifically in Omagh. I also went down to Omagh at Declan McAleer's invitation. So, I do not want anyone to have the idea that we are forgetting about Omagh.

Mr Hussey: He did not tell me. Otherwise, I would have got on my bike and gone to see you.


The question was asked about the AA and the RAC being involved. I thought that was very useful. If they have not responded, maybe they should be asked. Maybe driving schools should also be asked. How many negative responses did you get?

Ms O Campbell: There were no one-line responses. So, you could not say that a response was wholly negative. Every response mentioned some elements that they did not like in the strategy and some things that they do not want to see, but it may also have had some very positive comments. So, there is not a positive/negative list, but there were, as I said, comments such as, "Yes, we support the focused approach. However, we do not want it to be just in Belfast".

Mr Hussey: I agree that we do not want it all to just be in Belfast, but are there concerns that people have seen the consultation and assumed that the only responses that you want are those that are in favour of it? I accept that you believe that you have had a good response. I do not have a problem with that. There is sometimes an issue with the public perception of what you are trying to achieve. Therefore, people sometimes might not respond. Do you think that that is the case? Are you happy that this will be seen as a fair consultation?

Ms O Campbell: The point you are making is a potential risk with all consultations. If you are not engaged in something and do not want to engage with it, you will not. The way we approached our consultation was to make it as comprehensive as possible and as inclusive as possible. So, I hope that that is not the case. However, I acknowledge that, out of the whole population of Northern Ireland, we had 106 responses. Therefore, some people do not want to engage with it.

Dr Grieve: Public consultations are not a scientific thing.

Mr Hussey: That is quite true. Even I agree with that.

Mr Lyttle: As Chairperson of the all-party group on cycling, I welcome the strategy. We have MLAs from all parties on the all-party cycling group. It is positive, and I welcome the increase in cycling in Northern Ireland, particularly in Belfast. I welcome the creation of the cycling unit and the cycling strategy. It is encouraging to hear that there will be delivery plans and targets attached to that and that there will be investment. The all-party group conducted a consultation at a round-table event of its own, and it had around 40 people and organisations represented, from various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and, indeed, economic bodies as well, and I think that the overriding message is that the transport, health and economic benefits of cycling are wide and varied. Indeed, I welcome the Regional Development Committee inquiry into cycling, which has made a useful contribution. The all-party group was able to contribute to that Committee inquiry and to this strategy as well. So, it is a positive development.

There are stats that speak to some of the points that have been raised this morning, Chair. The number of Belfast cycling commuters has increased by 60% in the last decade. That is coming from a very low base. The journey share continues to be low, and that is why we need to see the action that is proposed. We have seen the average distance travelled per year increase from 12 miles to 55 miles. So, there is undoubtedly an increase in cycling.

Mr McNarry: Is the member on the delegation?

Mr Lyttle: I am just happy to put forward the arguments that support the need for the strategy and for an increase in investment.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): You should join the team then.

Mr Lyttle: I support the work of the team. Concerningly, the investment per head of population in Northern Ireland is, I think, around 50p. In the Netherlands, I think that it is around €24 per head. So, there are big barriers to overcome. I would like to hear more detail in relation to what cyclists can hope for from the strategy, specifically in terms of local cycling facilities, work to improve education and bring about attitudinal change and the reallocation of road space to dedicated cycle lanes.

I support the work of the strategy, and I am keen to hear about the specific ideas that we have.

I should add one other stat. The Government spend £44 million a year on trains, and an average of five journeys a year per train are made, whereas they spend around £1 million on cycling, and around seven journeys by bike per year are made. There is undoubtedly work to be done there, and I am keen to hear a bit more detail —

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): On that last stat, the population of the Republic of Ireland is larger than the population of Northern Ireland. The figure that you are citing is not calculated using head of population. Orla, do you want to come back on that?

Dr Grieve: What can cyclists expect? The strategy, in effect, is about setting out a vision and seeking political commitment to that. I cannot be definitive about what political commitment there will be. I know that there is political commitment, but how great it is, and the extent to which it is a cross-party commitment, remains to be seen. If there is political commitment, the population — I do not want to say "cyclists" all the time — can expect, over the next five years, to see pilot projects where there is good end-to-end infrastructure that is of good quality and is adequate, safe, accessible and convenient. Initially, those projects will be in Belfast, but they will move from Belfast out to the provincial towns.

Within five to 10 years, I also hope to have, and we might expect to have, a more joined-up greenway network, spreading right across Northern Ireland. Therefore, in general terms, cyclists can expect to have safe infrastructure.

What was the second point?

Mr Lyttle: How do you foresee being able to achieve a fundamental shift in investment in order to carry out the type of work that you want to do?

Dr Grieve: Again, it comes down to political commitment. In that sense, we are very keen to see the Committee's cycling inquiry published or made available, because we would like to see that commitment reflected in the strategy. That will give us a good sense of the commitment that is there. If there is commitment, it becomes possible, because it is the political commitment that drives the priorities.

Mr Lyttle: Is it important, then, to ensure that there is Executive endorsement of the final strategy once it is published?

Dr Grieve: Executive endorsement would reflect the cross-cutting nature of what we are trying to do. I am not in a position to say whether we are going to seek Executive endorsement.

Mr Lyttle: Obviously, the benefits from cycling will help achieve positive outcomes for other Departments' targets as well. I hope therefore that other Departments are taking a keen interest in the strategy from that perspective and are considering how they can support its delivery on those grounds.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): There is a difficulty with all of this. I know that you passionately support this, Chris, but I listened to 'The Stephen Nolan Show' this morning, and the discussion was about pressures on A&E departments and people's operations being cancelled. How can you make extra money available just to promote a strategy at a time when finances in Northern Ireland are at, at best, bursting point?

Mr Lyttle: I take the point, but we have to consider the preventative contribution that cycling makes to health in Northern Ireland.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): In the short term, it will not.

Mr Lyttle: We are trying to be creative about preventative —

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): It will not help deliver those operations that are needed this week.

Ms O Campbell: We also need to draw out the benefit:cost ratio of cycle infrastructure. You have seen the CTC's response: it talks about some schemes returning a 5·95 benefit:cost ratio. The Department for Transport in England thinks that a medium return for a transport scheme is 1·5 to 2. That is exceptional —

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Orla, statistics are wonderful things. I built a house nine years ago, and, if I had spent half as much again, I could have cut my energy costs by more than half, but it would have taken me 15 years to get the payback from that.

In Northern Ireland, we are in a financial position where we have to be careful about what direction we push money. This is not the Finance and Personnel Committee, but I think that we are all here with the realisation that Northern Ireland is at a pressure point in terms of its finances. In an ideal world, if we had more money, we would be throwing it at this, but I think we have to look at the priorities. One thing for me about this strategy is that we are doing road infrastructure projects, but, when we are doing those, we should be integrating. We should not be coming back in 10 years' time and saying that we need to build cycle lanes. It is about integrating it as we go along. It is not about reintroducing or trying to realign roads just to make cycle lanes. To my mind, that would not be value for money in the current climate. That is where I have the difficulty.

This is a personal opinion: generally, the political support for a strategy will be reasonably high, but, when you put down the financial argument, I think it will be more difficult for people to put their hand up to give additional money for it. I listened to the radio this morning and heard that people who were going in for routine surgery this week had their surgery cancelled because of pressures on emergency departments. Sorry, Chris.

Mr Lyttle: I have already made my point. Health reasons may have contributed to the need for surgery for some of those people. It may have been preventable had they had access to sustainable modes of transport. We do not know.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): But some of those who were waiting to have surgery this week could not jump on a bicycle. That is not going to fix them.

Ms O Campbell: No, but it is taking a long-term view, is it not? It is preventing —

Dr Grieve: We are highlighting a human behaviour problem. Chair, what you have said is important. Where you can make the change when you are doing other things is one area that we have focused on. That is what is happening in Transport NI. It takes 25 years or 40 years for even that to make a difference.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): As a rural representative, I am worried that we are very urban-focused, as you said again today. Most of us around the table represent rural constituencies, but it seems it does not matter about health and well-being if you live in Omagh or up in East Londonderry, is it? If you are from Belfast, they will look after you, but if you are from other parts or represent a rural constituency, it does not matter; they will not worry about the health and well-being of those individuals.

David, you wanted to make a supplementary point.

Mr McNarry: This project may be good enough, but, no matter what change you are going to bring about, there is never a good time to do so in terms of budgets; there never is. We are in increasing difficulties. The Chairman makes the most valid comments about, "We can't do that because of this". Whilst I am sceptical, I do not want you to lose your vision. Your vision is quite important. I think you need to reshape it. If that vision is projected over 25 years, we are all thinking that the buy-in is now or it is not. I think you will agree. The buy-in has to be for the vision that you are talking about. A lot of your stuff is upside down, economically, as far as I am concerned. I just do not see how it would work. Setting aside the passion for it, and we know Chris has passion for it, we have to take cognisance of the user factor. That is certainly going to grow. At the moment, I think your vision is good, but the buy-in is not there. I think that is what you need to improve. The Chairman is absolutely right: we need to deal in realities. Passion is all very good, but we need to deal in the realities. At the moment, if you are asking me to sit down with my constituents and ask them whether we need more money for another bed at the Ulster Hospital or to build a cycle lane from Templemore Avenue to the Ulster Hospital so that they can get to the hospital on their bike —

Mr Lyttle: There is a cycle lane there already, by the way.

Mr McNarry: That shows how much I see of it, because there is nobody on it.

Mr Lyttle: The Comber greenway.

Mr McNarry: I know the Comber greenway. The difference with the Comber greenway is that it is now a nightmare for the people who are walking on it, because they bloody well get knocked down by the cyclists. That is my constituency, and it is a problem.

I think that I have made my point, which is that you have something. Your vision is very good. It is futuristic, but the substance needs to be better.

Ms O Campbell: Do you think that you could steer us towards how we might do that? Is it by clearly demonstrating the benefits?

Mr McNarry: Absolutely, yes. My other job is as a consultant, and, if you want to employ me, I will willingly —

Dr Grieve: I am happy enough to talk to you, but I am not sure that employment would be —

Mr McNarry: You employ all sorts of bozo consultants, so you may as well.

Mr Byrne: Which consultation event had the most people attending and the best quality of engagement? In my part of the world, as Declan and Ross know, we have quite a number of wheelers or cycling clubs, including Fintona Cycling Club and Strule Wheelers. Every year for the past seven years, the Gina Carrigan charity cycle has taken place. Some 150 to 200 cyclists head off on a Sunday morning, and they raise £25,000 of funds for a cancer charity by cycling from Omagh to Belcoo and back. That is what I call volume cycling: a lot of people going out and buying a bicycle and Lycra. These are big numbers. Has there been any quality engagement at such an event where you would get the real feelings of cyclists?

Dr Grieve: The event that had the biggest attendance was the one in Belfast. In fact, the two events that we had in Belfast had the biggest attendance. When we went to Omagh for the pre-consultation event, we had two people, which is why we then engaged with the Omagh cycling initiative.

Mr Byrne: Let me make an observation: cyclists do not want to go to meetings; they want to get on a bicycle. They might fill out a questionnaire if someone asked them to at an event.

Dr Grieve: That is what we discovered. We are trying not to cater just for the needs of what we see as cyclists or the Lycra brigade.

Mr Byrne: The nightmare that I have is that there will be a major incident some day at one of these events: three or four cyclists could be knocked off their bicycles, and there could be some deaths. That would concentrate minds on infrastructure, the Highway Code, behaviour and protocols.

Mr McAleer: Very briefly, and thanks for letting be back in, Chair, I support the comments that Chris made about this being a long-term strategy. The reality is that you bid for £2 million but got £1 million. What we are talking about here is prevention. Look at the effects of obesity — I think that I can use myself as an example. This strategy could start to get people to shift themselves on to bicycles and help them to address that.

We must bear in mind that we went some way to doing a cycling inquiry. We heard from Dr McBride about the benefits of cycling and the impact that it can have on addressing issues such as obesity, and I honestly believe that, for the money that we are talking about, the long-term benefits will be huge. So, I think that it is important to think of the long-term impact.

Dr Grieve: I just happened to look at a report that was sent to me the other day, and it gives the costs of people being overweight or obese on the island of Ireland. In 2009, the direct costs — what you can measure — were £90 million a year in Northern Ireland. The indirect costs that the report talks about, and I do not know how robust those are, are £220 million.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): We are back to statistics, Andrew. You can have all your strategies —

Mr Lyttle: You have to use them.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Yes, you have to use them, Chris, but you can bring in a strategy and you can bring in cycle lanes and everything else, but not everyone will engage in it. You were talking about obesity, but, if you look around the members in this room, you will see that, bar you and — we will not name people —

Mr McAleer: You already have.


The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Half the Committee membership, including me, would be classed as obese. Use that statistic if you want to, but one of the things that the Department and cycling unit could do to help is to make sure that, when roads are being built, they include cycle lanes.

Secondly, it really galls me that everyone can join the scheme at any time of the year in all the Departments, yet in this Building the scheme is only opened to staff in one month in the year. It should be made compulsory for every employer in Northern Ireland to allow their employees to purchase the bicycle.

Cathal talked about the cycle-to-work scheme. It makes it easier for people to purchase the bike. They are not going out to spend £500; they are spending £20 a month. It is nothing to them, and nothing will make it easier for people. You can have cycle lanes. We have a lovely cycle path from Antrim to Randalstown, but there are very few people on it. That is where David's point comes in. You have to make the product more available. The scheme is there, but the employers are not making it available to their employees. I think this Building is a typical example. When it first came in, it was not even open to Assembly Members; it was open to staff. Why do they make exclusions? It should be open to everyone. Your cycling unit and the Departments should put pressure on employers to offer it to their staff. Once the staff have the opportunity to do it, they will embrace it.

Mr McNarry: You read out some figures. You identified the benefits of cycling and the impact they will have on those figures. Tell me how they will be reduced. How many obese people in Northern Ireland will not be obese tomorrow if they ride a bike? I know that is broad-brush.

Dr Grieve: There are studies —

Mr McNarry: Tell me, because people need those facts and figures about benefits. It is all very well saying that £200 million is being spent. How do we save it?

Dr Grieve: That is a good point. One or two studies have been done that demonstrate that.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Could you forward them to the Committee?

Dr Grieve: That would be useful. The study was done by Queen's University Belfast, so I would need to clear it with them.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Let us go back to the point I was making about the cycle-to-work scheme. If you make that more available, people will take a keener interest in cycling. Then people will engage with you. We have not got the right infrastructure in Northern Ireland. At the moment, it is a leisure activity for most, because we have not got it. It has to be made easier, more accessible and more affordable, and the only way to do that is through the cycle-to-work scheme. Where it has been used, it has been proven to work, and at no cost.

Dr Grieve: I declare an interest, as I have participated in the cycle-to-work scheme. It costs me £10 a month. However, it is not our scheme. It is not a cycling unit or DRD scheme; it is an HMRC scheme. It is a tax pay and ration scheme. Whatever system you put in place has to be approved by HMRC. It has to meet their guidelines. It is an employer scheme. We are more than happy to talk to the Assembly Commission. We can show them the 12-month-a-year scheme, but there are certain requirements in relation to that.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I am not just talking about the Assembly.

Dr Grieve: You are talking more widely.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I am talking generally. I think the cycling unit should be working with employers in general, because this is not a cost to the employer. Yes, it is an HMRC scheme, but there are no implementation costs to the employer. I spoke to someone working for an NGO, whom I will not name. If you look at my Assembly questions, you will find that I have asked all the Departments about the scheme being open to their employees and related NGOs. It is not open to NGOs, but it is open to their employees, which is fair enough. From my point of view, it is a no-brainer. This is a scheme that should be available to anyone. Whether they take it up or not is a different matter. Once it is made available and people embrace it, they will come to your door and say, "We need, we need, we need ...". We can talk about the small number of respondents today. That in itself will make people realise how poor the infrastructure is in Northern Ireland, because they have got something they can afford to purchase.

I went to shop one day, and I was convinced that an ordinary bicycle from Halfords would do me. I will not name Halfords — any shop. I wanted to buy a cheap bicycle, at the bottom end of the market. Sammy Douglas told me that buying a very cheap bicycle is like buying a farm gate with wheels. I did not think that that was true.

I went to Halfords and to another shop and looked at more expensive bikes, rode them around the shop and thought, "Actually, there is a difference". However, given the pressures that people are under, it is difficult for them to go out and buy £300, £400 or £500 bikes through a one-off payment. The scheme —

Mr McNarry: What bike did you buy?

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): I have not bought one yet, David, but I will do so when the scheme opens in this Building. It is not open for me or anybody to join until March. If it were open to everybody all year round and each employer offered it, then, come the spring, you would see more people on the roads, which will feed into the points that Chris made about health and well-being. However, it is not being made easy for people. You can have cycle lanes, but people still cannot afford to buy bicycles.

Mr Ó hOisín: Chair, I agree 100%. To encourage cycling, you obviously need a bicycle. Someone touched on the point earlier that it not just about encouraging this in the private sector but encouraging those who are unwaged to get bicycles.

I know that the public hire scheme will soon be operating in Belfast. I have seen a similar scheme operating in Dublin, and it is absolutely perfect.

A taxi sits outside here every day to take people up and down to Dundonald House. I am just giving that as an example. When I was in Limavady Borough Council, I encouraged the council to buy two bicycles for staff to do the short messages that they were required to do, and there was a good take-up of that. All those other wee encouragements push everybody over the line.

Mr McNarry: Chairman, with this great picture that you are all painting that, in five years' time, we will all be riding bikes, is there a feeling that, all of sudden, we will not need buses or trains?

Ms O Campbell: No.

Mr McNarry: What is the factor in that?

Mr Dallat: Take the bicycles on the trains.

Mr McNarry: That makes a lot of sense —

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): We are going off on one, but the factor in that, David —

Mr McNarry: You could jump on a train, travel a hundred miles and arrive in some city on your bike and say, "Look where I have come from".

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): If people used their cycles, instead of taxis and buses, to make short journeys, there will be a saving for the public purse. I think there is a knock-on benefit, but you still have to make it easier for people to join.

Mr McNarry: I might be very receptive to anything that puts Translink out of business.


The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Chris. Are you sharing his point about Translink?

Mr Lyttle: I think that you are identifying improvements that can be made, as some people said, and not cost a great deal.

Ms Campbell: Absolutely.

Mr Lyttle: In recent surveys, the three main barriers to cycling were identified as bike ownership, infrastructure safety and the weather, although, when you compare Northern Ireland with other countries with high cycling levels, the weather is comparable. Some useful suggestions have been made, even about Assembly provision and things like that. It would be good to take action on some of those points, and a small number of Committee members, who are keen and interested in seeing some of those actions being taken forward, could gather to take them forward.

Mr McNarry: We could ask the Ministers to give up their cars and cycle to work every day. That would be a good idea, would it not? Look at the savings we could make there.

Mr Lyttle: I think that you are making useful points, Chair. Thanks.

Mr McNarry: Was I excluded?


The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): OK, members, I think that everyone has had an opportunity to speak. I thank Andrew. I know that we deviated slightly at the end. I think that there is enthusiasm, but there is also a realism about where we are in Northern Ireland. Maybe you will take some of the members' points on board.

I do not think that anyone in the Committee is against making it compulsory for all employers to make schemes available to their employees. There are real benefits from that, and I think that Chris's point was well made. The benefits for health and well-being are at an early point. However, I think that, later on, they will feed into the strategy that you are trying to develop, Andrew. Maybe, by the time we get to that stage, money will be available to try to deliver those things.

Thanks for the briefing. It has been useful. It was maybe a longer session than we anticipated at the start, but —

Dr Grieve: Chair, I want to thank you as well. I must say that I found the discussion very enthusiastic. I appreciate that.

Mr McNarry: Do not read it like that. That is going a bit over the top.


The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Members, we had better move on.

Mr Lyttle: Chair, my computer is playing up a bit. Is a summary of the consultation responses available to Committee members?

Ms O Campbell: Not yet. We hope to have a report by the end of the month.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): Thanks again. OK, members, agenda item number six —

Mr McNarry: Just before you move on, Chairman, I wonder whether, in the light of the conversation, the Committee and you would agree to asking the motoring organisations whether they have an opinion on the draft strategy.

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): The only difficulty that I have with that is whether they were on the list.

Ms O Campbell: We will need to check whether they were on the stakeholder list.

Dr Grieve: We think that they were, but we would need to check that. If they were not on the list, would the Committee like us to take that up?

The Chairperson (Mr Clarke): There are two points. If they were on the list and did not respond, I do not think that we should go any further. If they were not on the list then, if the Committee is content, we should ask them to respond.

Dr Grieve: Do you want us to ask them for a response?

Mr McNarry: Yes, that would be good.

Dr Grieve: We can check that out.

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