With the Belfast Bicycle Network due to be launched "in the next few weeks", we felt it was a good time to go back and review the original draft document (first published in 2017).
Cycul and a host of other local cycle campaigners fed into the lengthy consultation process after publication, expecting to see the revised network commence in mid 2018. Needless to say, nothing has happened since.
3 years have come and gone and the energy and enthusiasm leading up to the initial publication has lost much of its fizz. A year of COVID and the resulting restrictions has seen enthusiasm go even flatter.
However, news on the grapevine is that the Belfast Bicycle Network is back on the agenda, off the shelf, on the table and soon to be in the headlines – announcements are imminent.
IBC – interested but concerned
Reading through the draft document again we kept coming across the phrase “interested but concerned”. The draft document states that the proposed network is designed “with this cohort in mind”. After some digging we found the phrase is ubiquitous in bicycle planning – a general catch-all for people who would like to cycle but are concerned about safety issues.
Page 15 – Draft Belfast Bicycle Network 2017
The phrase was coined by Roger Geller, the bicycle co-ordinator at the Portland Office of Transportation, USA back in 2007. To understand attitudes in his city he created 4 broad categories:
- “strong and fearless”: ~1% who currently cycle;
- “enthusiastic and confident”: ~9% who currently cycle;
- “Interested but concerned”: ~60% people who don't cycle but are interested and have concerns about traffic;
- “No way no how” make up the remainder at ~30% – non-cyclists.
Geller maintained that IBCs (the largest group) are the group of citizens who will only cycle if proper cycle infrastructure was provided.
The Draft Belfast Bicycle Network document assessed that “interested but concerned” makes up around 53% of the Belfast population. That’s an awful lot of potential cyclists!
But who are this group of "interested but concerned" citizens.
- How interested are they?
- How concerned are they?
- Are they all concerned about the same thing?
- What happens if the Belfast Bicycle Network simply never gets built?
- Can people become regular cyclists without cycle lanes?
It turns out that there has been little, if any research into this group of users. It assumes they are a homologous group with all the same level of interest and concern.
So… with the help of the Department of Infrastructure through their Road Safety (Safe Travel) grant scheme, we spent a few weeks asking over 700 IBCs in Belfast their views.