Letters: Does Derry really want an equivalent of Belfast’s Westlink?

Sir, In a recent editorial (October 4th, 2022), you addressed the condition of local roads and the pressing need for investment in infrastructure in the area.

We wish to reiterate the importance of including active travel options in that infrastructure. Indeed, the Climate Change Act makes it a legal requirement for Stormont to spend 10% of its transport budget on walking and cycling.

3,000 potholes is a shocking statistic and needs to be urgently addressed for all road users. While potholes can cause damage to vehicles, they are more dangerous to people cycling. More than a fifth of cyclists in the UK have been involved in an accident due to a pothole.

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Before a reader responds that cyclists don’t pay road tax, just a reminder, no one does. Motorists pay an emissions tax. We all pay for the maintenance of our roads through our household rates bills.

The busy Buncrana Road.

It’s also worth considering what causes potholes. Have you noticed the increasing size of the average car? The average kerb weight of an SUV is 1,500kg. It’s not just our roads these vehicles are ripping up but our footpaths, with pavement parking rife across Northern Ireland.

Environmental concerns, rising fuel costs and obesity rates highlight how vital it is that any road improvements take into account the need for safe pedestrian routes and cycle paths.

For too long cities and towns have been designed around cars, leaving less space for walking, cycling and spending time in. Car-dominated spaces create congestion and damage our environment and health.

Our cities and towns can – and should – be designed with everyone’s health and wellbeing in mind, rather than cars.

Buncrana Road. (File picture)

The A2 Buncrana Road dualling project has been repeatedly reviewed as the original plans were a throwback to the 1970s: a brutal, outdated, car-dominated solution. More roads lead to more traffic and ultimately more potholes.

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Sustrans has advocated for sustainable travel options to be included in these plans – a bus lane, protected cycle lanes and safe crossings for pedestrians. Does Derry really want an equivalent of Belfast’s Westlink which has severed the whole of west Belfast from the city?

Your editorial coincided with Cycle to School Week. Sustrans Active Travel Schools Programme has equipped thousands of schoolchildren – many in the North West – with the knowledge and confidence in cycle skills but all too often they are denied the opportunity to travel actively and independently to school because of the lack of a safe route.

Our recently opened Active Travel Centre, located within the NW Transport Hub, is the base for our Active Travel Officers for Schools, Workplaces and the NW Greenway who can help local people adapt to a more active way of travelling in their daily lives. It’s open to the general public from 10am to -1pm every Wednesday and from 6pm-8pm every Thursday for a cycle ‘fix and save’.

The current cost-of-living crisis tragically re-emphasises that car use is economically restrictive compared with considerably cheaper active travel methods such as walking and cycling.

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We agree the NI Executive needs to be urgently restored and multi-year funding is vital to improve our infrastructure but we urge government to ensure that the roads are welcoming to all of us – and not just the motorists.

Sustrans Northern Ireland.