In this series, we ask practitioners, experts and enthusiasts for their take on Northern Ireland's built environment - where are we now, how did we get here, and where are going?
Stephen Pollock, Roads Service, Department for Regional Development
Q. The DRD minister last week announced some major changes to traffic in central Belfast - is the car no longer the preferred mode of transport?
Last week Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy launched the consultation process for an ambitious Traffic Masterplan for Belfast city centre entitled ‘Belfast on the Move.’ This plan aims to substantially reduce traffic levels in the city centre and provide more road space for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.
Around 30,000 vehicles per day travel through the city centre on the streets either side of City Hall. About 60% of this is through traffic, with no final destination in the city centre, causing needless congestion.
By providing the alternatives and promoting their use, we can encourage people to change how they travel. As they switch in significant enough numbers, congestion can be reduced and business, the economy and the environment will all benefit, and whilst we need to continue to provide real alternatives to the car, we also need people to choose to use them. We need behavioural change.
That said, we have to be pragmatic. There is a balance to be struck. Transport needs to be a catalyst for growth, not a constraint. We need to have the right infrastructure to allow people and goods to move, supporting our economies as we move out of recession.
The vision for Belfast is to achieve a city centre where access by public transport is given a much higher priority than at present and a street environment tailored to the needs of pedestrians rather than the private car.
Related: Further details on the proposals can be found on the Belfast On The Move website