I had occasion to visit the city of Belfast recently. Despite living within the same landmass for about a dozen years out of the last 17, I had only gone through Belfast on the train and never stopped in it.

It’s a nice, compact city, with a thriving centre and rolling countryside a few minutes away in every direction. Some of the regenerated city centre areas are very swanky and everything seems simply a stone’s throw away.

The folk are very friendly, the food and drink is good and accommodation likewise – at least in my very limited experience.

Unfortunately, like a lot of city centres, the traffic is truly awful. I left – or tried to leave – the centre at about 5pm on a weekday. Admittedly this is the heart of the rush hour, but with the spur onto the motorway a few hundred metres from downtown, I was confident I could get away in a reasonable time.

How wrong I was. Belfast was Belslow. It took me 40 minutes to go 200 metres, the principal culprit being 2 complex junctions within 10 metres of each other which operated on the same traffic light rotation. The result: gridlock, with no-one able to advance everywhere. The pedestrians simply scooted between the cars, blissfully free of the large metallic impediments that I and my fellow drivers were saddled with.

So a great visit to the capital was somewhat soured by the appalling traffic, not helped by the fact that once I got onto the motorway I had another three and a half hours to go.

Once cities sort their private transport challenges out, then they’ll really be motoring.

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