A gruelling 18-mile round trip for cyclists in north Armagh could be cut to just three miles with the introduction of a bridge at the picturesque Bannfoot, on the edge of Lough Neagh.
The organiser of the popular Lap the Lough event says the traffic-free bridge could eliminate the need to travel through Portadown town centre, as well as link rural communities in the area.
Maghery and Bannfoot lie just three miles apart along the line of the Columbkille Road, however, to get from A to B requires a round trip of 18 miles by bicycle, or 16 miles by car using the motorway.
Stephen McNally pointed to the success of the Maghery Bridge.
“It would be a much safer, quicker, quieter and picturesque crossing than navigating through Portadown town centre,” said Mr McNally.
“There are over 20 cycle clubs within 20 miles of the Bannfoot area and probably a further 50 clubs within regular striking distance, but none venture this way because crossing isn’t an option; cyclists like a loop.
“Potentially that’s 5,000-plus regular cyclists of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, including youth and families who could be crossing at the Bannfoot producing no emissions, no noise and no impact to the roads or the local community.
“I understand there may be concerns from local residents but they can look toward the bridge at Maghery, operating now for 10 years. It’s been transformative for the area with walkers, cyclists and anglers crossing daily and no negative impact whatsoever.
“A footbridge at Bannfoot would make the Loughshore Trail a much better proposition for tourists too – like many local cyclists they’ve had to deal with the incredulity of cycling to the Bannfoot expecting a bridge – there’s permanent proof with one sorry fellow on Google Maps shown turning back in dismay.”
NI Greenways have pleaded with the authorities to look into this option but at present the Department for Infrastructure’s Greenway Network Plan only includes the main Coalisland – Dungannon – Portadown – Lurgan route.
For more, check out the NI Greenways website here.
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