Councillor Bob Johnson, Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability gives an update on the the implementation of active travel measures in Sheffield
I understand the frustration that some motorists have experienced since we introduced the temporary cycle lane at Shalesmoor and this has caused some inconvenience and disruption to drivers as we trial new infrastructure to encourage more people to walk and cycle where possible.
I think it’s important that I give a really clear explanation of how and why we have done this work, and what we hope to achieve for the long-term future of our city.
The scheme was implemented after the government announced on 9 May that they were providing emergency funding for some local authorities to use temporary active travel measures, such as pop-up cycle lanes, to encourage more people to walk and cycle, leaving the roads and public transport freed up for those who really need them. Sheffield is one of many cities that has since introduced these measures.
The Shalesmoor route was identified in order to link the north of the city with the centre and upgrade the existing cycle lane to a safer, segregated option. The route connects into the existing Penistone Road National Cycle Network (route 627) and joins the recently completed Grey to Green project, to enable, for the first time, a direct route from the city centre northwards.
The Kelham and Neepsend community was also made into a low-traffic neighbourhood as part of this scheme.
Cycling is proven to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing, which has never been more important. Bike sales soared during lockdown and schemes such as this support people’s choice to travel actively, a habit we hope will continue long after the pandemic is over.
These measures were put in place under emergency conditions and done as quickly as possible. This is not how we would have implemented such a significant change to a busy road under normal circumstances, but done as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to provide scope for new methods of travel as lockdown started to ease.
Ideally, we would have liked to consult widely, as we regularly do for these types of schemes in the city. We would have spoken to businesses, residents, cyclists and motorists before we developed and implemented the scheme. Unfortunately in this circumstance this wasn’t possible and as a result we have only been able to understand the full impact having implemented it.
We seized the opportunity to put this scheme into place using a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO). TTROs are used to place temporary restrictions such as road closures to allow road works or respond to special events and circumstances. The Council has used this mechanism to repurpose highway space while traffic levels were lower as a result of Covid-19.
Ideally, we would have implemented the scheme earlier on during lockdown but we had to take the necessary steps to ensure the scheme was safe and warranted.
We are now listening really closely to the feedback – both positive and negative – and will use this to consider the way forward. This feedback has already been useful and the scheme has changed as a result. Signal timings have been altered, roads have been reopened and changes to the barriers have been made to ease the flow of traffic. The scheme will remain dynamic to change throughout its implementation.
We have not received any complaints from the Ambulance Service or South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, and we have consulted with them on future plans that may be put in place.
Traffic is currently around 80% of its usual level across the city. We are monitoring the impact of the scheme extremely closely, examining traffic levels, congestion and uptake of the cycle lane. This is especially important as Covid restrictions ease and traffic levels increase.
The first few days of new road infrastructure are always the hardest, as everyone gets used to the new layout. However, we have already seen a drop in traffic in that area of 9%. We are now monitoring alternative routes in the locality to ensure congestion isn’t building elsewhere.
We never thought the Shalesmoor cycle lane would be a permanent solution and we have always stated that it was a temporary measure. Our plan is to continue to monitor the scheme over the next four weeks so we can use data from this period to inform future active travel plans in the city. If congestion passes the level that we have identified as critical, we will consider removing it early.
Our next step in this emergency active travel plan is to introduce temporary cycle lanes on Attercliffe Road between Princess Street and Stevenson Road to create a continued route for the Five Weirs Walk while repair works are being undertaken. The six-mile Five Weirs Walk, an excellent and easy route for both walking and cycling, follows the River Don from the city centre up to Meadowhall and we would encourage everyone to explore it. The date may be subject to change but we are planning to implement this scheme on the weekend of 25-26 July.
We have a bold vision for the future of active travel in Sheffield, and as a Council we are committed to improving the air quality of our city and becoming carbon-neutral by 2030. In order to achieve these ambitious goals we will have to make changes to our road network and infrastructure, and the lockdown has given us the opportunity to trial some of these initiatives.
We know that providing the right type of infrastructure to encourage people who wouldn’t normally choose to cycle to get on a bike will require us to provide additional space so that it is safe, efficient and attractive to use. This will inevitably mean that we will need to change parts of our road network and how some of our streets work. Please be reassured that before we implement permanent measures to encourage active travel in the city, we will consult with our residents and business to ensure we find the right balance.
For more information on active travel measures in Sheffield, please click here.