Northern Ireland

How can car dependency and levels of car use in Belfast be reduced?

Citizens' Jury on Car Dependency in Belfast
Institution:
Issue:
Location:
Partners:
Queen's University Belfast
Duration:
2 days

The Citizens' Jury on Car Dependency in Belfast was a collaboration between the QUB Centre for Public Health and Involve. It took place in October 2022 in Central Belfast. 

Background

In Northern Ireland, an average person does over 80% of their journeys by car. This is very high compared to other parts of the UK, where 63% of journeys are made by car, and in Ireland, where the figure is just over 50%. Belfast is also one of the most congested cities in the UK. Being too reliant on our cars to get around has many detrimental impacts. For example, we walk and cycle less, our air quality worsens, and the number of road traffic collisions increases.

"MORE AND MORE CITIES ARE LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS TO HELP REDUCE OUR RELIANCE ON CARS. HOWEVER, SOLUTIONS TO SUCH A PROBLEM ARE NOT SIMPLE AS THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT GROUPS INVOLVED IN OR AFFECTED BY THE TRANSPORT SYSTEM. IF WE ARE TO FIND POLICIES AND PROGRAMMES THAT HELP REDUCE CAR RELIANCE LONG TERM, THEN THESE GROUPS MUST WORK TOGETHER TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. THIS PROJECT AIMED TO INVOLVE THESE GROUPS TO DEVELOP TOGETHER SUSTAINABLE AND SCALABLE POLICIES AND PROGRAMMES THAT REDUCE THE RELIANCE ON CARS IN BELFAST."

More and more cities are looking for solutions to help reduce our reliance on cars. However, solutions to such a problem are not simple as there are many different groups involved in or affected by the transport system. If we are to find policies and programmes that help reduce car reliance long term, then these groups must work together to solve the problem. This project aimed to involve these groups to develop together sustainable and scalable policies and programmes that reduce the reliance on cars in Belfast.

Our Involvement

In October 2022, Involve and Queen's University Belfast brought together 19 residents of the Belfast metropolitan area to answer the important question:

How can car dependency and levels of car use in Belfast be reduced?

Belfast has some of the highest levels of car use in Europe and residents are particularly dependent on their cars. But why is this and what can be done about it? We know that high levels of car use can have a negative impact on population health and the environment. This project to give the public a chance to consider what can be done about this and how any changes might impact residents.

The citizens' jury was commissioned by Queen’s University Belfast and facilitated by Involve. It was held on the weekend of 8th and 9th October 2022 at the MAC in Belfast. It was made up of 19 members, recruited from those over 18 years old living in the Belfast Metropolitan Area. The jury was broadly representative of the Belfast population, and met for one weekend in October 2022 in central Belfast.

The Jury was convened by the Queens University Belfast Centre for Public Health as part of its research into car dependency. Involve designed and facilitated the Jury to enable members to confidently deliberate on the issue.

The Jury was divided into three key stages:

  1. Understanding the issue of car dependency
  2. Learning about and reflecting on possible solutions
  3. Developing and prioritising recommendations for what needs to happen to address the problem of car dependency

Over the course of the weekend, the Jury heard from 12 speakers, including academics and researchers, advocates, civil servants, and experts by experience. These speakers helped the Jury to understand the issue, why car dependency needs to be reduced, and some of the current thinking about how that might be achieved.

The Jury produced the following outputs:

  1. A set of principles and values that the Jury members felt should underpin any approach to reducing car dependency in Belfast
  2. A longlist of ideas for addressing the challenge of car dependency
  3. Six specific recommendations, each with a rationale and a set of actions

Read the full report on the citizens' jury below, with an introduction by the research team at the QUB School of Public Health and an afterword by Professor John Barry, Co-Chair of the Belfast Climate Commission