Queen’s tackles its travel troubles 

Belfast has become all too well known for its queues of traffic and the congestion caused by the growing numbers of cars, lorries and buses on its road network.   Commuters face this burden every day; now, more and more people are asking themselves - why sit in traffic like this when you could be moving much faster by foot, by bike, by rail or by bus? As a recent Translink billboard put it, “You’re not IN traffic. You ARE traffic”

In the city centre a new 20 mph zone has been created, a strategy which aims to reduce the volume of traffic in the city centre zone. However, large flows of traffic still remain within the city and surrounding areas. Travelling and daily commuting has a huge impact on the environment.  At present, the DOE reports that transport contributes 18% of Northern Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

As one of Belfast’s largest organisations, Queen’s University is making a significant contribution to tackling these transport challenges. Its University Travel Plan commits students and staff to favour more environmentally friendly transport alternatives for daily journeys.  

The initiative has shown very promising results over its first two years, from 2013 to 2015. John McCann, the Sustainability co-ordinator at Queen’s, says, “From our Travel to Work Survey, we’ve recorded  a fall of 4% of people choosing not to travel by car, a  4% growth in those choosing to use bus networks to the university and a 1% rise in cycling and using the train. We continually aim to promote sustainable travel throughout the university”.

Rail tickets are now available in the Students’ Union, helping to boost sales. Cycling has been supported though a collaboration with the East Belfast Mission, where a bike sale encouraged 131 students to purchase a fully refurbished bike; the university has also provided parking for 580 cycles. 

Queen’s has also developed other sustainable travel options by working  closely with Translink and Travelwise Northern Ireland. The university promotes its Travel Plan through initiatives such as interest-free loans for staff to buy Annual Travel Commuter Cards, Car Free Fridays and the Cycle to Work scheme, known as Cycle+. 

These sustainable travel plans have led to the university’s award as, ‘Best Employer for Cycling’ in the annual FRED awards. 

Overall, the successful implementation of sustainable travel will have a beneficial impact on the environment by reducing congestion around the university area and helping to improve air quality. It also promotes health and wellbeing, helping to build physical activity into daily journeys. What’s not to like?

Deborah Madden