ON SUNDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER HUNDREDS OF CYCLISTS TOOK TO THE STREETS OF BELFAST CITY CENTRE FOR THE ANNUAL CICLOVIA EVENT.
My family joined the mix of people of all ages, cycling abilities and from different communities across the city and beyond for a great day of traffic-free cycling. Departing from Botanic Gardens at 10am, with the Lord Mayor, Nuala McAllister, leading the way, we made our way down through Donegal Square towards the City Hall.
There were road racers, people like me on rusty old classic bikes, bmx-riders, kids in pull-along trailers, kids with stabilizers, baskets with dogs in them and everything in-between. It was a colourful sight to behold and the array of different bikes and personalities on display really added to the carnival atmosphere of the day.
Enroute there was plenty of entertainment, ranging from circus performers, a ‘bling your bike’ stall, musicians, choirs and the fantastic guys at ThunderAction Sports put on an outstanding display of BMX stunts which truly wowed the crowd.
It was a lot of fun to cycle by the performers and enjoy their talent all the while getting to see the city from a whole new perspective. There’s something about being out on a bike that enables you to notice the magnificent architecture on display in Belfast and soak of the city buzz. There’s so much we miss when we whizz by in a car or on the bus. The camaraderie was great, people stopping to chat, bumping into old friends unexpectedly or meeting up with fellow cycling enthusiasts for a morning of stress-free biking around the city centre.
My 3 boys loved the freedom of being able to cycle safely on the roads and it was great watching them put into action the cycling skills they have been taught by Sustrans NI through their school. My middle son thought that as well as having great fun it was also a great way of reducing pollution in the world!
Thankfully, the morning stayed mostly dry, with only a little bit of drizzle on our journey into town. After the initial cycle to the City Hall, we took ourselves off for a breakfast treat at St. George’s market and a wander around the stalls. Then, we rejoined the ranks of cyclists and spent a few hours going back and forth between the Botanical Gardens and the City Hall. What I did notice was how many bikes were parked up outside local cafes. Events like this are a tremendous boost for businesses in the town and it would be great to see Ciclovia become a more frequent occurrence.
There’s no doubt that cycling in Belfast has become easier over recent years with cycle network development. Certainly the Eastside of city has benefitted massively from the fantastic work on the Connswater Community Greenway. Developments like this enable families to get out and about more together in a safe fashion and therefore improves the overall health and wellbeing of communities. Friendships and working relationships can grow and flourish when money is directed into projects like the greenway and this can only be a good thing. Certainly, Belfast still has some way to go when it comes to being a cycling city, but great things are happening and events like Ciclovia raise the profile of cycling and also show that there is demand for further development of accessible cycling networks for all.
A huge well done to the organisers of Ciclovia 2017, for making it a fun, safe and inclusive event. We as a family thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to future events.