Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced a new walking and cycling Champion with a clear focus on transforming communities and developing creative solutions to support our new way of living during and post COVID-19.
Addressing the Assembly yesterday, Minister Mallon said:
“I am delighted to announce that there will now be a walking and cycling Champion within my Department. Our champion will ensure that we deliver our commitment to increase the percentage of journeys made by walking and cycling. Inspiring our communities, restructuring our spaces, changing forever the way we live – and changing it for the better.
“I want to increase the space available for people who want to walk and cycle by extending pavements, pedestrianising streets and introducing pop up cycle lanes. I have already identified some parts of Belfast City Centre and Derry City that can be transformed in this way and I intend to work with councils to identify more areas across the North as a matter of urgency. Changing how we use our spaces will transform communities right across Northern Ireland – creatively change lives – enable social distancing and encourage health and mental wellbeing.
“This environmental and public health work will be done on a collaborative basis, with an action group, formed from both within and outside government. I also want to work in collaboration with communities, including identifying and creating ‘Quiet Streets’ where pedestrians, cyclists and play have priority and motor vehicles are guests.
“As the Executive looks this week to review the lockdown – we all need to be looking ahead – out of the darkness of this pandemic and into a better world that we need to build for ourselves. Greener, cleaner, healthier and happier people and places must be our aim as we learn to live with this new normal during and after Covid-19.”
My Way Access welcomes this statement from Minister Mallon. We ask that the consultation involves members from the disabled community working together in a forum to ensure that the new Champion within the Department for Infrastructure can assure the walkways and cycle paths are fully accessible and inclusive to all people.
As Vice-Chairperson of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council‘s Disability Advisory Forum, we have worked closely with the council on similar projects in Enniskillen and Omagh. This has seen a very positive result.
Creating forums such as this is one of my main focus in recent years. It is important that disabled people have a real voice at the heart of local and national politics. Without this voice, many projects do not meet the needs of the disabled people who will be using it and therefore create extra financial pressures to make adaptions later.
This is the perfect time for the Northern Ireland Executive to create a working disability forum at Stormont, with representatives from all the disability councils across the country. We are going to rebuild the country, let’s rebuild it together for everyone.