Belfast bus lane: The mixed results of night journeys

Image copyright Steven Moran Image caption Locals have complained about safety and traffic After dark in Belfast you can still find the city buzzing, with bars and restaurants, artists’ studios and restaurants, but at…

Belfast bus lane: The mixed results of night journeys

Image copyright Steven Moran Image caption Locals have complained about safety and traffic

After dark in Belfast you can still find the city buzzing, with bars and restaurants, artists’ studios and restaurants, but at the same time it is a dangerous place for drivers.

The City Council introduced an extended bus lane on The Esplanade and put up more signs warning motorists of the new lights, but the results of their experiment – while introducing a semblance of safety to the road – have been mixed.

“If you go out at night and stand outside the bus stops you will see drivers coming through and they’ll want to turn right but the bus lights won’t change,” said one woman at the city’s Museum of the Moving Image.

“I know the lights were meant to be changed but the signs weren’t showing it but when I came here at the weekend it was switched on and it worked. But I’ve seen drivers not seem to be bothered because they think they can drive through the red lights.”

BBC Northern Ireland uncovered the facts and figures about the esplanade bus lane.

The council says the trial is assessing the benefits and the impact of the road through summer and winter before making a decision on whether to extend it.

But for now there are signs, a mobile office and a single young staff member turning out to man the four signs explaining the new configuration.

The old bus lane was a manhole cover. This one is covered in cobbles and called a road and river loop. The former was used for park and ride services.

Image copyright Steven Moran Image caption The Esplanade Bus Lane is now a manhole cover, cemented in with cobbles

“We’ve got four buses to run every hour,” said Cathriona Brennan, the community assistant who works on the road.

The Royal Canal relies on bus runs to keep the clock ticking – it is a particular cause of concern in summer as will all the summer camps.

In addition there are the trolleys – commercial delivery vans use the Esplanade as a transition between busy main roads.

Image copyright Steven Moran Image caption Any free time is important for the Royal Canal, which relies on bus runs to keep the clock ticking

And for residents of Belmont the new arrangement comes as welcome news.

“It’s a nightmare before the lights were changed and you can’t make any decisions about anything so if you try and take the dog for a walk you’re going to get stuck,” said one local resident.

“There was a rubbish lorry just on the line but it ran over the little bit of bitumen and slid all the way to the other side and then you can’t see the other side until you’re already half way on the other side and it’s just at that point where it just gets too dangerous.

“I welcome anything that reduces the danger. It’s been a really horrible area to live in for the last six months and it’s made it so much easier to just take the bus now.”

For Tania Nurse and the Stones a traffic diversion is a positive development.

They are regulars at the Esplanade, smoking a cigarette on the way to the Serpentine and drive in to their gallery directly across the road.

They are happy to see some of the old cobbles there but concerned about the impact it may have on traffic.

The council is now considering closing their hours – the Stones are worried by the prospect.

“If it starts closing we can’t get to the store on time and we could miss out on a sale,” she said.

And you get the impression the Stones are not alone.

“Because of the way the roads are there are so many places you can’t turn round in. It’s a lot of road cuts and digging, it’s just taken people a while to get used to,” said Tania.

“Do I like it? No. I like it as a business but I can’t give you a yes and no, I can’t give you the yes or no.”

Leave a Comment