Cycling in Northern Ireland

The Cycling Unit provides a focus and co-ordination role for cycling issues and cycling related activities. The Unit is currently developing a number of bicycle network plans for urban areas in Northern Ireland starting with Belfast. The Department has recently published a Strategic Plan for Greenways for Northern Ireland. A three-stage small grants programme to provide support to local Councils for the development of greenway projects across Northern Ireland is under way. At stage two 19 schemes will receive a small grant to develop feasibility studies. A number of these will then be selected to move to stage 3.

Cycling Unit

Cycling Unit logo

DfI Cycling Unit was established in November 2013 to provide a focus and co-ordination role for cycling issues and cycling related activities. The Unit works towards making cycling an integral part in network planning and development and to ensure that cycling provision remains a key element in both strategy and delivery. 

The Unit is central in delivering the vision for cycling:

“A community where people have the freedom and confidence to travel by bicycle for everyday journeys”

Promoting active travel

Cycling Unit also promotes active travel and is currently working with partners in Department of Education and Public Health Agency in the delivery of an Active School Travel Programme with assistance from Sustrans NI.

Bicycle network plans

The Unit is beginning to develop a number of bicycle network plans for urban areas within Northern Ireland and will build on the Bicycle Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Work has already started on a bicycle network plan for Belfast and this will help the development and operation of the bicycle infrastructure in the city for the next 10 years.  It is primarily focused on developing a core coherent city wide bicycle network to provide convenient access to safe cycling facilities throughout the city and further develop the Minister’s vision for the delivery of cycling for Belfast.  We have consulted on the Belfast Network Plan and in the coming months we will meet with stakeholders to discuss outcomes.

Bicycle routes for Belfast

The first bicycle route, encompassing new engineering measures to create a safer space for those using the bicycle, was officially opened on the 23 March 2016 and links Ormeau Avenue to Chichester Street through Alfred Street and Upper Arthur Street.

Work is also substantially complete on a further two schemes (shown below)

  • Durham Street and College Street North from Grosvenor Road to College Avenue
  • College Street and Queen Street from College Avenue to Castle Street

All three routes link existing cycle tracks from the west and south of the city to the city centre.

These schemes are three of five which were consulted on during summer 2016.  Designs for the other two schemes, which will link the east of the city to the city centre, are being considered following consultation.

When complete the schemes proposed will form a continuous 2.5 kilometre route between the Westlink shared footway and cycleway and Titanic Quarter Station which leads to the Ballymacarrett Walkway and the Comber Greenway.  Details of these routes can be found here:


One element of the Bicycle Strategy relates to the development of Greenway schemes across Northern Ireland. The Department has a particular interest in people embracing cycling as a means of everyday travel. Other bodies are more focussed on tourism and leisure.  However, there are many areas of common interest where we can work with other departments and bodies to support projects that deliver mutual benefits. The Department established the Greenways Working Group, a group with representatives from a number of other bodies with the aim of formulating a strategic plan for the development of greenways across Northern Ireland.

The Cycling Unit team can be contacted in the following ways:

Belfast Bike Life

Sustrans, in partnership with the Department produced a ‘Belfast Bike Life’ report in 2015 and will produce the next edition in 2017. The report is based upon the Copenhagen Bicycle Account which gathers data about cycling and people who cycle in the city. 

The Belfast Bike Life report:

  • provides current information on Belfast as a cycling city
  • initiates an ongoing sustainable change in how we will monitor, evaluate and communicate cycling
  • assists in producing a consistent method of collating data which will enable benchmarking and comparative statistics to be carried out in our efforts to increase participation in cycling as an everyday mode of transport

A copy of the report is available at: 

Commuter cycling weather in Belfast

Is it too wet to commute by bicycle in Belfast?

Andrew Grieve, the Head of the Cycling Unit who regularly commutes the 2.5 miles from his home in east Belfast to work in the city centre – a journey which takes, typically, 15 minutes in each direction decided to find out.

The link below includes Andrew’s two reports:


TravelwiseNI is an initiative to encourage the use of sustainable transport options such as walking, cycling, public transport or car sharing. The Travelwise team forms an integral part of the Cycling Unit and continues to promote all sustainable travel options. The team supports events, media campaigns and awareness programmes and works in partnership with schools and businesses.

You can also find out more about active travel and sustainable transport on the nidirect website using the link below:

More useful links

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