Stupid cars ruin everything. Why we need to go back to the past and make our towns more people friendly…

You may have seen the photo above on social media. It shows the old entrance to Queen’s University before it was removed to make the entrance suitable for cars.

Throughout the world, there are very few places that have been improved by building massive roads through them. Here are some old photos of Donegal Street, Carlisle Circus and Clifton St before somebody had the bright idea to run the Westlink through them. When you look at some of the terrible planning decision over the years it is hard not to think of some urban planners as a form of cultural and societal terrorists.

I drive so I know we need good roads, but I also walk and cycle a lot so I see the issue from all perspectives. The bottom line is areas that are walkable are more attractive to visitors and are economically more successful. Belfast City Centre is getting the economic sh*t kicked out of it due to Covid-19 but I think it just accerated existing issues. Belfast City Centre is not a nice place to visit especially with kids. There is too much traffic, and the environment is generally quite harsh and unwelcoming. We need more trees, pedestrian areas, cycle lanes, playparks, outdoor dining etc. There are some bright spots on the horizon, the new playpark next to St Anne’s looks cool.

We need to remember things can change. Now is the time to be thinking ahead and work out how we can make our towns and cities more people-friendly. Derry is a town that could easily be pedestrianised in the city centre and it would transform its attractiveness. The councils that are able to improve the quality of life for its residents will be the ones that weather the coming economic storm and come out the other side better. Not to mention the health benefits of getting people out of their cars and walking and cycling more.