14/10/2022

New Active Travel Hub Opens At Cathedral Gardens

A new Active Travel Hub at the city's Cathedral Gardens, beside the new Ulster University campus, aims to encourage people living, working, studying in, and visiting Belfast to walk and cycle more.

Housed in two refurbished shipping containers, this Belfast City Council pilot project is anticipated to be on site for approximately two years and will be a resource for local communities, workers and visitors, as well as staff and students of the city's further and higher education facilities.

The Active Travel Hub is supported by the Department for Infrastructure, the Department for Communities, Ulster University and the Public Health Agency and is being operated by social enterprise Big Loop Bikes and Sustrans.

Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10am-4pm, the Cathedral Gardens Active Travel Hub will offer:

• cost effective bike repairs, bike purchase and leasing schemes from Big Loop Bikes

• a programme of activities, training and events delivered by Sustrans including led walks and rides, on road cycle training, journey planning support and active travel promotion to encourage and support more people to walk and cycle

Lord Mayor Councillor Tina Black explains: "This Active Travel Hub is part of our Future City Centre Programme, at its core a ‘Bolder Vision' for Belfast. We want to encourage people to travel actively and sustainably in Belfast because we're committed to making a positive contribution to people's health and well-being and helping to protect our environment.

"Cathedral Gardens is a perfect location for the Hub, especially given how close it is for communities at the north end of the city centre and the influx of new students attending the new Ulster University campus. I look forward to seeing lots of people from all over the city and beyond visiting the Hub – whether that's to meet up for a led walk or cycle, get tips on walking and cycling routes, get their bike repaired, to lease or buy a bike - or for training to help them cycle more confidently in the city."

Minister for Infrastructure John O'Dowd said: "My Department is pleased to support this pilot Active Travel Hub which will be a welcome facility for those wishing to walk, wheel or cycle in Belfast city centre. I am committed to increasing opportunities for active travel to help address the climate emergency and promote greener travel and initiatives such as this one at Cathedral Gardens can make a real positive difference in people's lives."

Welcoming the new Hub, Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA, said "I am delighted to see the positive change being delivered through the Covid19 Recovery Revitalisation Programme. My Department introduced the Programme to assist our towns and city centres in their recovery and it is making real change. I commend Belfast City Council and their partners in their vision for promoting opportunity for healthier lifestyles alongside a cleaner environment. The Hub will no doubt contribute to the area as a vibrant and engaging place for people to enjoy." 
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Andrew Dougal, Chair of Board, Public Health Agency said: "We're really happy to support the Active Travel Hub in Cathedral Gardens to encourage and enable more people in both communities and workplaces to walk and cycle as part of their day to day lives. The PHA encourages people to build active travel into their day as it can help contribute to meeting the Chief Medical Officers' recommended amount of physical activity of 150 minutes each week. Research shows that physical activity can improve sleep, help maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress. It also reduces the risk of developing chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and respiratory conditions."

Prof Paul Seawright, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Ulster University said: "Ulster University's Belfast campus is ‘car free' and we are actively encouraging our staff and students to use sustainable travel options for their journeys to and between campuses. The University has developed its own Park and Ride facility to help support those wishing to avail of bus and rail options; we have been working closely with Translink in providing journey planning advice and have developed a city centre cycling and pedestrian map for staff and students - so if they wish to travel by bus, rail, bike or on foot, there is support and information available.

"In addition, the new Belfast campus offers almost 200 free secure cycle spaces and the University operates a cycle to work scheme, giving staff the opportunity to obtain a bicycle and all the safety equipment they may need.

"It's fantastic to see the Active Travel Hub literally on our doorstep. The University already has an active staff and student cycling community with hundreds of staff and students regularly travelling to campus by bike and the Active Travel Hub will offer them valuable, additional support and will hopefully encourage more staff and students to get cycling."

Big Loop Bikes, a Turnaround Project enterprise, is raring to go at the new Active Travel Hub. Director and Founder of the Turnaround Project, Richard Good commented: "Partnering with Belfast City Council to establish this new Hub represents the next stage in our journey to create positive impacts for people and our environment.

"We'll be providing advice, bike repairs and servicing to help people get active and stay active, right in the heart of the city. Bikes are good for people and the environment: you can save money on travel, improve your physical and mental wellbeing, meet people, and reduce pollution.  At Big Loop Bikes we take this a step further. A key link in the circular economy, we rescue bikes from landfill, repair and restore them, for the community to enjoy."

Caroline Bloomfield, Sustrans Director commented: "We are delighted to be working with Belfast City Council and partners at the Cathedral Gardens Hub. The high-profile location of the Hub in the city centre and adjacent to the new Ulster University presents a great opportunity for us to support people to make a change in how they travel through a programme of led walks and cycles, cycle skills training and information. Working alongside Big Loop Bikes, our programmes will help people to overcome barriers and build confidence so they can travel actively - walking and cycling is the most healthy, environmentally friendly and affordable way to travel."

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