Sheffield is an ‘outdoor city’, the City Council insisted in a recent report. But in the past, walking, cycling and kids ‘playing out’ was much more the way of life. Transport planning is focussed on keeping motor vehicles moving, yet many households have no car. UK air quality already breaks EU limits, but the government […]

Sheffield is an ‘outdoor city’, the City Council insisted in a recent report. But in the past, walking, cycling and kids ‘playing out’ was much more the way of life. Transport planning is focussed on keeping motor vehicles moving, yet many households have no car. UK air quality already breaks EU limits, but the government wants to relax pollution limits, and in England we spend only £6 per head annually on cycle initiatives. Their talk about sustainability sounds like hot air.

In Sheffield cycling is growing, but from a very low level. It’s not hard to see why it’s regarded as dangerous. Every year there’s a new rash of cyclists killed or injured. Tram tracks pose one danger, regardless of cycling ability and experience. CycleSheffield urges people to report incidents at tramcrash.co.uk, so the campaign group can pressure for adequate cycleways alongside trams. More recent planning disasters include cycleways on the outside of parked cars (for example, on Mowbray Street), and Clarkehouse Road cycle lane, where cars can park after 9.30am. When Sainsburys opened in Hillsborough last year, getting there by bike was described by CycleSheffield’s Matt Turner as “almost comical”. Now the tram train is arriving, linking Sheffield and Rotherham from early 2017, but with no cycle carrying facility. Trams could partly replace existing trains, actually reducing options for travel with bikes.

But it’s not all bad news. Since last year we’ve gained many 20mph speed limits, a cycle parking hub at the station, the Sheffield ByCycle hire scheme at University sites (available to all from £1 per hour, sheffieldbycycle.co.uk), and a new online guide, SheffieldCycleRoutes.org. The Council’s web page on cycling is very good, which shows they are listening and trying to improve, and last year’s all-party Cycling Inquiry was unique among the big UK cities.

New quality cycle routes from Portobello Street to Leopold Street and from Victoria Quays to Paternoster Row are under consideration in 2016. This is a sad contrast to the City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, which plans to spend £670,000 in 2016-17 on a Meadowhall car park extension as almost 19% of its ‘Sustainable Transport Exemplar Programme’. Sheffield also has a Cycle Forum, although attendance seems deliberately restricted to stop it being flooded by special interest groups – cyclists, for instance.

So it’s a mixed picture, but with more infrastructure like cycle lanes separated safely from motor traffic, more elderly, young and less agile people will take to their bikes, and it will be healthier to be out and about on our streets. Evidence shows that ‘liveable’ streets are those with lower levels of motor traffic, where people feel a sense of community, make friends and chat with neighbours. If you’ve seen what a heavenly contrast it is to walk or cycle in Holland, or UK cities like Bristol, you’ll know Sheffield has a long way to go, but it’s moving on up.

Changes in Council attitudes can be attributed in part to the dedicated campaigning of CycleSheffield, which urges planners to see the city centre as a destination, not a through route. Chair Matt Turner says, “We must show that the people of Sheffield want to see a city where everyone has the freedom to ride a bike, where our streets are safe, attractive places to be, and that this is the popular view, not that of a small minority.” Let’s hope that 2016 will be the year that we all start to breathe more easily.

cyclesheffield.org.uk
sheffield.gov.uk/SCC-Home/roads/travel/cycling

SHEFEST 2016
7-13 March  |  Various venues
Join Sheffield’s celebrations of International Women’s Day. The main event is on Saturday 12 March, 12-5pm, at the HUBS on Paternoster Row. Fringe activities and workshops to smash the patriarchy and challenge everyday sexism include a bike ride, fashion show, ‘Market Hall’ of female entrepreneurs, live performances, art, stalls, food and drink, and much more.
facebook.com/SheFestSheffield

ECCLESALL WOODS CRAFT COURSES
J G Graves Woodland Discovery Centre
Learn the amazing secrets of crafts from the pre-industrial ages in the beautiful setting of Ecclesall Woods. Courses run all year, ranging from cider making to woodwork skills, coracle making to bronze smelting and casting. They aren’t free, but they are run by genuine experts in their field.
ecclesallwoodscraftcourses.co.uk

Hosted by Alt-Sheff