The Sheffield City Region has published a plan to create a network of more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometres) of accessible walking and cycling routes across South Yorkshire to enable people to leave their cars at home.
Mayor Dan Jarvis and active travel commissioner Dame Sarah Storey’s Active Travel Implementation Plan sets out how, by 2040, South Yorkshire will have a fully connected network of walking and cycling routes.
The network will feature 800 safe crossings for people travelling on foot or by bike, and nearly 200 square miles of low traffic neighbourhoods, which see streets transformed into places where you can relax and play safely, with very little through traffic.
£166 million has already been secured from the Transforming Cities Fund, with half allocated for active travel, but more investment is required from the Government to make Mayor Jarvis and Dame Sarah’s plans a reality.
In South Yorkshire, around 40% of journeys to work that are 1km or less are currently driven in a car, with this figure rising to 64% when the distance at 5km. When it comes to commuting, just 2% of journeys to work are taken by bike and 10% on foot. More than 70% of people in South Yorkshire commute by car.
By enabling active travel, it is forecasted that walking and cycling could be increased by 21% and 350% respectively, by 2040. To do this, Mayor Jarvis and Dame Sarah are committed to providing high quality, safe infrastructure which is accessible to all users, including adapted bikes and wheelchairs, and will empower local communities to co-develop future plans for walking and cycling in their neighbourhood.
People have already begun to contribute by sharing their experiences of walking and cycling via the SCR’s Interactive Map. Launched in October 2019, more than 4,000 comments have been made on the map, the 2040 Network captures 88% of them.
Plans include: improving walking routes into Barnsley town centre, including links to the hospital; providing better active travel routes to rail stations and town centres in the Dearne Valley; a high-quality segregated cycle route along the A6178 to connect Rotherham, Meadowhall and Sheffield, and a bridge connecting Doncaster’s iPort with Rossington.
“Active travel has always been at the heart of my transport vision for South Yorkshire,” said Jarvis. “The benefits walking and cycling bring to all aspects of our lives are great and I am proud of how quickly we have developed this plan alongside our local authorities. Active travel is good for our health, good for the planet and good for the economy.
“We are in the midst of one the largest public health crisis in a generation and as we recover from coronavirus, we have an opportunity to change. No one wants to return to gridlocked roads and polluted town centres, and this landmark strategy sets out how we can build back better. The aim should not be to go back to the status quo, it should be to make this a moment of fundamental change for our region and our country.
“Active travel should be part of an even wider strategy – a green new deal to transform our economy, create millions of new jobs, and counter the economic damage the pandemic has caused. I am pleased that the Government is allocating emergency funds to enable us to make space for pedestrians and cyclists in the age of social distancing, but this money must be released promptly.
“In the short term, we need to take the pressure off a stretched public transport system which is running at a fraction of its normal capacity, and prevent the gridlock which will be caused by people turning to their car. In the long term, we need sustained funding for active travel to enable us to deliver a green new deal for South Yorkshire.”
Storey added: “During the first year of my appointment there has been an unwavering commitment to create this plan and I am delighted we can now publish it for all to see. Our local authorities have risen to the challenge to create an ambitious plan and are committed to redistributing road space and enabling active travel in a way that hasn’t been seen before. Our plan gives a clear goal – a network of routes linking up low traffic neighbourhoods.
“During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen an even greater demand for safe space for walking and cycling, as social distancing reduces public transport capacity and people look to maintain new exercise habits that were formed at the height of the lockdown.
“Creating space for active travel is creating space for everyone. It means that not having access to a car will no longer be a barrier to getting around. From safe streets for children to get to school, to pavements free from inconsiderately parked vehicles that block the way for people in wheelchairs and parents with pushchairs, walking and cycling provision ensures everyone can enjoy they place they live and travel safely and easily to the places they want to go.
“I was pleased to see the response from Government to the letter written by Mayor Jarvis and I about prioritising active travel in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic but we need this money now so we can begin to make our roads more pleasant places to be for those on foot or on bikes.”