Open Botanic: An active travel and healthy street strategy for Botanic Avenue, Belfast

Agustina Martire, Laura Michael, Sara Lynch, Aileen Cummins, John McCann

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Active travel infrastructure in Belfast lags behind most European cities.
This problem has been highlighted by academics, administrators and
politicians. Despite the recent change in discourse in politics and the
media, due to the climate breakdown, pollution and road safety, there
has been virtually no change in the infrastructure that supports car
dependency in Belfast. Only 25% of people walk to work, while only 2%
cycle; 19% of primary school kids walk to school, while only 1% cycle;
17% of kids walk to post primary schools while none of them cycle. These
are not just numbers. They reflect a way of life that hinders the health and
wellbeing of people across our city. While we believe that the Department
for Infrastructure should be championing the transformation of modes
of transport to favour active travel, we understand that this needs to be
supported by research. We also believe that this needs to be done one
road at a time, to build a network that will be effective and safe to foster
the change in travel modes in Belfast.
Our team spent close to one year in a research and engagement exercise
to measure travel modes in Botanic Avenue and to assess the difference
between perceptions of cycling, walking and driving among local residents,
visitors, businesses and organisations. Echoing similar research carried
out around the world, we observed that that while local businesses believe
that about 70% of their visitors arrive by private car, only 20% actually
do so, while all others arrive by foot, bike and public transport. We also
found that there are on average approximately ten times more pedestrians
passing through the Botanic Avenue area than cars parked on the street.
Moreover, there is an overwhelming majority of respondents surveyed that
want a transformation of Botanic Avenue in terms of walking, sitting and
dining space.
This report presents the results of this research, and points to a
recommended way ahead. Other research projects at Queen’s are
investigating the reasons behind car dependency in Belfast, while the
Minister for Infrastructure announces ‘car free’ Sundays. The next natural
step will be for the Department for Infrastructure to implement a trial cycle
lane in Botanic Avenue. This will allow us to continue the a collaborative
research project by engaging with stakeholders to assess their reactions
to the changes in infrastructure. We believe that this joint approach would
bring a better, healthier, more liveable, accessible and inclusive Botanic
Avenue for the future.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages60
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2021


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