Posted by: wesleyjohnston | April 11, 2013

Belfast’s Bus Lanes – What’s Happening?

Phase 1 of Belfast’s Sustainable Transport Enabling Measures (STEM) project saw bus lanes introduced westbound behind City Hall and southbound on Oxford Street between July and September, causing major traffic problems for a number of weeks, but which seem now to have mostly bedded in. The map below shows the overall STEM objectives:

STEM proposals as of January 2013

Work on phase 2 of the new bus lanes has been ongoing since the end of January, but to date most of this work has been preparatory (eg kerbs, traffic signals etc) and has been carried out at off-peak times and has not had much impact on rush hour traffic. This will change over the next two to three months as the second tranche of new bus lanes come online. The second tranche includes bus lanes on the College Avenue – Fisherwick Place – Great Victoria Street artery, and also on the eastbound Wellington Place – Donegall Square North – Chichester Street route in front of City Hall. These bus lanes are going to go live in batches, starting on Friday 12 April 2013 and being finished by June.

Don’t forget also that the DRD have a web page dedicated to giving information about the STEM project, which is kept impressively up-to-date (ie, almost every day) and is worth checking regularly if you are affected by the works.

Friday 12 April 2013: College Avenue Bus Lane

College Avenue and College Square East will be getting a southbound bus lane from 12th April, as far as Wellington Place. This bus lane is actually being introduced without taking away any capacity for general traffic. In other words, the road was two lanes southbound before, and it will still have two lanes southbound afterwards. Much of the works that have been ongoing here for the past few months have been involved in re-jigging the alignment of the road to allow the construction of the bus lane. Much of the extra space has been found by removing the right-turn filter lane that allowed vehicles to turn right into King Street from College Avenue (see here), so only a small amount of true road “widening” has been needed. The map below shows the area in question, highlighting the red southbound bus lane (note that the one-way arrow and lanes shown on College Square East are incorrect as this element of the plan has changed since this map was published). Fun fact: In the future this red bus lane might end up becoming the route of the western arm of Belfast Rapid Transit, which will serve the Falls Road area.

College Avenue Bus Lane

Monday 22 April 2013: Grosvenor Road Cycle Lane

As I understand the DRD press release, from Monday 22nd, April, there will be a capacity reduction eastbound on Grosvenor Road, between Durham Street and Fisherwick Place (Great Victoria Street). Currently there are two general traffic lanes going eastbound from the Westlink junction, two lanes through the Durham Street traffic lights, and then two lanes turning left onto Fisherwick Place/College Square East. From 22 April there will still be two lanes going eastbound from the Westlink junction. However, at the Durham Street junction the right hand lane will be a right turn only lane for turning right onto Boyne Bridge towards Sandy Row. Only ONE general traffic lane, the left lane, will continue east to Fisherwick Place, and only ONE general traffic lane will be available for turning left onto Fisherwick Place/College Square East. On this last stretch, the second lane is being sacrificed to create a dedicated eastbound cycle lane. This change WILL create traffic problems, so Roads Service are urging people to switch to two alternative routes which have already been prepared to take this extra traffic:

Alternative Routes


Future: Bus lane in front of City Hall

The most disruptive element of the whole project will be the introduction of the eastbound bus lane on the Wellington Place – Donegall Square North – Chichester Street route in front of City Hall. This is likely to be the most disruptive change of the whole STEM project, perhaps even more so than the bus lane behind City Hall, since it involves a reduction in capacity from 3 general traffic lanes to just 1 general traffic lane along at least half of this stretch. Roads Service do not yet have a date for the introduction if this bus lane, but work to make this change will begin in late April and be completed by June, so it will happen at some point in May or June. We can expect widespread disruption at this time, although its introduction will be immediately followed by the July fortnight, so this will take a lot of the pressure off. Nevertheless, as I commented in a blog last year, the experience of last summer suggests that we should all:

  1. Give it time to bed in before coming to a conclusion. Allow at least 2 months.
  2. Bear in mind that the congestion generally relates to the rush hour, and people driving in to the city to shop at other times are largely unaffected.
  3. At least try the bus or commuting on a bicycle. It might not work out. But at the same time, it might be better than you think!



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