Derry has more miles of traffic-free walk and cycle routes than some of the most populated cities in the world, with around 5,000 journeys by bike or on foot being recorded in the city centre alone every day.
Sustrans said recent records show that the numbers of walkers, cyclists and runners have all gone up, with proposals to develop a Bike Share scheme along the lines of the ‘Boris Bikes’ in London.
Sustrans have been working with the local council for over a decade to develop a network of greenways and help secure funding for the projects.
The charity’s North West branch also undertakes work with thousands of local schoolchildren to promote healthy, environmentally friendly activity among the next generation.
Ross McGill, Sustrans NW Area Manager, speaking ahead of the Big Bike Festival, which kicks off this week, said there is now 80kms of traffic-free paths, including a 20km route connecting the city’s three bridges and heading out as far as the border with Carrigans.
As well as the routes out to Newbuildings and Prehen in the Waterside,plans are also progressing to develop a route out to Strathfoyle.
“The Council has just submitted a bid for European funding for greenways to Buncrana, Muff and in Strabane and Lifford as part of a masterplan.
There is also the idea of a 250k route linking Derry and Letterkenny and on to Burtonport,” Mr McGill said, adding: “In the next few years we might see a Bike Share Scheme in the city. It’s a possibility - Galway has a scheme, Cork and Limerick have them.”
Mr McGill said the usage of the greenways that have been put in place has helped provide an economic boost along the routes and also increased the tourist potential. However he said there is still more to be done to fill gaps along the routes and in terms of government funding.
The amount of people recorded on 11 counters across city centre parks and walkways equates to approximately one metric ton of CO2 savings per day.
Over the course of one year, this is the equivalent to electricity used by 50 homes. The Peace Bridge itself now averages about 3,000 trips a day.
Highlights of the Big Bike Festivals include the ‘Get Cycling Show’ with bikes, trikes and karts, in Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place on Saturday to Sunday, June 11 and 12.
Sunday, June 12 will see the UK’s only Street Velodrome roll into town for a full day of free try outs and head-to-head action at Guildhall Square.
The Festival closes on Saturday June 18 in Castle Street, Strabane with a full day of high flying, two-wheeled aerobatics with the 360 Stunt Team.
For a full programme of all the events go to: www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/Big-Bike-Fest/North-West-Big-Bike-Fest.