Cycling and walking charity, Sustrans has teamed up with the Ulster Farmer’s Union (UFU) to promote sharing road space safely in rural areas.
Agriculture is the largest sector of Northern Ireland’s economy and farmers depend on a good transport infrastructure to carry out their business. The increasing popularity of cycling, with the associated benefits it has for health and wellbeing and the tourism industry has led to a greater presence of cyclists on rural roads. Farmers driving agricultural vehicles come across both club cyclists out clocking up the miles for training, and leisure cyclists, out for a cycle to enjoy the countryside.
Slurry spreading has been underway since the beginning of February and with the evenings getting brighter there are more bikes and tractors on the road. Sustrans is working with the UFU to raise awareness of the joint responsibility of both cyclists and farmers to respect each other’s needs and safely share rural roads - which are often narrower and with variable road conditions compared to urban routes.
Gordon Clarke, Sustrans Northern Ireland Director said: “This is a welcome partnership which complements our work with Translink and the Freight Transport Association. We are working with both these organisations to improve safety for cyclists on the roads and help all of us share the road space. As cycling becomes a more popular leisure pursuit on rural roads and tourist cycling increases, it is important to ensure good relations between all road users.”
Bailie Thompson, Chairman of the UFU Legislation committee said: “We are very pleased to open up a working relationship with Sustrans to help ensure that the roads are a safe place for all involved. There needs to be mutual respect and responsibility among all road users and an understanding that others have the right to use the road as well. The last thing any of us wants to hear of is an accident resulting in an injury or worse, and the way to prevent that is by good dialogue and communication.”
Cycling Ulster, which promotes leisure and competitive cycling, is supporting the initiative. Secretary Marian Lamb said: “We have more and more young farmers getting involved in cycling as a leisure and sporting pursuit to get away from the farm and clear their heads for a bit. Farmers can be cyclists and cyclists farmers so we have a lot in common. We welcome this initiative as we all need to share the road and improve understanding of each other’s needs.”