I opted to leave most of the comment on the Belfast On The Move project (i.e. the new bus lanes) to Wesley Johnston, who universally talks sense on transport issues.
My instincts were always identical to his, and indeed I tweeted on one occasion in early September: “We want our public sector to take risks; then, when they do, we condemn them for it“. In fact, I was able to tweet it because trains now offer free WiFi (a real triumph). Few were prepared to give either of those points much space at the time, though…
I think two months on, we can now call it – it’s worked reasonably. Is Nolan covering the fact it’s worked out ok? Will the Belfast Telegraph give front-page billing to the point Belfast is moving pretty much as well as it was beforehand? Are we likely to see columns full of people praising civil servants? I doubt it – but you know, sometimes we need to give credit where it’s due.
Is it perfect? Of course not. I accept on some routes commute times have increased – but then, there was no denying they would for car users. My own main quibble would be simply that the lanes themselves are not adequately enforced; to be precise, stopping restrictions all over Belfast are not adequately enforced (only yesterday I was forced to veer clear of a van on a double yellow line outside the University of Ulster). Where before the consequent loss of a lane because of some eejit with hazard lights forced you from an easy four lanes to a still manageable three, now it forces you from a tight two lanes to an impossible one.
I would add that the communications of the whole thing were poor. Timing is tricky in NI, and sometimes you wonder if people follow the news at all, but too many people were caught completely unawares. What baffled me most of all was that the evident purpose of all these bus lanes – to make space for the Rapid Transit System – was never stated.
However, the fact is our officials took a reasonable gamble with our traffic system, and on balance it worked. We like complaining, so no one else will bother declaring this success after two months the way they revelled in declaring failure after two days. So I thought I’d better risk doing so…!