Taxis in Belfast bus lanes will endanger cyclists, say campaigners
Although not perfect, bus lanes provide priority and a lower-traffic environment for cyclists, but changes to the way taxis are licenced in Northern Ireland could mean many more vehicles using the routes.
Up to 2,000 more vehicles could use the routes if ministers approve the changes. This is a cause of concern for many people - 86% of respondents to the consultation held last year, opposed the plans.
Tom McClelland and Barry Flood, CTC representatives in Northern Ireland, joined protesters campaigning against the move.
He told UTV: "Bus lanes are perceived to be a safe place for commuting cycling."
"If we get more and more private hire taxis in bus lanes there's a real risk and real perception of increased danger which will put off more cyclists."
Taxis aren't an economic way to travel. Taxis are seen to be expensive, they are polluting, they are certainly not socially inclusive. Our view is: cycle to work. It's an awful lot cheaper, it's good for your health, it's good for the environment and it's socially inclusive."
CTC Campaigner in Northern Ireland
CTC's original response to the consultation on taxi licencing (which would effect access to bus lanes) said:
"CTC believes allowing all taxis into bus lanes will reduce the performance and service of public transport, endanger cyclists lives, further suppress cycling at peak times and create another barrier to modal shift.
"No apparent consideration has been given to how these proposals will affect the proposed Belfast Hire Bicycle Scheme.
"CTC believes the current arrangements should continue: Belfast Public Hire and Taxi Bus services having access to bus lanes, other taxis given access only for collection or set down of fares. Before additional access is given, qualitative research should be undertaken to measure and calculate the effect of additional access on bus lane performance and the effect on cyclists and suppression of cycling."
In London, attempts to allow private hire vehicles into the bus lane network were rejected by Transport for London last year.
Taxis are expensive, inefficient and create congestion. With some support from the Department, commuting by bicycle in Belfast has risen by 60% in 10 years, whereas commuting by taxi has fallen by 24%.