Inner Ring Road scheme: consultation response

Click here for the council’s proposal.

Please use any or all of our response when responding to this consultation which closes on 1st November 2017 – email scheme.design@sheffield.gov.uk

Introduction

CycleSheffield oppose the proposed Inner Ring Road (IRR) scheme because it does not achieve the ‘needs’ identified by Sheffield Council. The evidence is that it will not reduce congestion in the medium or long term, it will not provide an economic benefit due to the increased costs of congestion, pollution and inactivity and it does not include safe and effective provision for those walking or cycling in that area.

The proposal

Sheffield City Council claim that the scheme “…will allow additional trips generated by the predicted future growth in the city centre and its economy to be accommodated.”

They stated their scheme needed to:

  • increase road capacity
  • reduce journey times for all traffic modes
  • reduce congestion which will improve air quality
  • provide better connectivity to and through the City Centre for all modes
  • unlock development sites.

The five aims of the scheme are addressed below followed by the major design flaws and lastly the other failings of this scheme.

Increase road capacity

“Building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity“ – Lewis Mumford, 1955.

Sheffield suffers from illegal levels of air pollution, rising obesity, dangerous climate change, and congestion. This scheme will exacerbate these issues by enabling yet more motor vehicles to be driven into and around the city, contrary to Sheffield Council’s aim of a modal shift away from private car use towards active travel and public transport. This scheme is one which condemns Sheffield to another generation of congestion, air pollution and health problems caused by inactivity.

It is now widely recognised by transport professionals that road widening and increasing capacity delivers only short term relief, and actually increases the number of motor vehicles, a phenomenon known as induced demand. This section of the Inner Ring Road is less than 10 years old and already it is being widened. Sheffield Council’s traffic modelling for this scheme shows that within 5 years the congestion in this area will return to the levels before the scheme was built. What then?

£3.4 million is an incredible amount of money to spend on ineffective short term changes to the road layout on a short stretch of the Inner Ring Road. This money could deliver significant improvements to other services, including enabling more active travel in Sheffield.

Reduce journey times for all traffic modes

The scheme totally fails to meet this ‘need’. The scheme will only reduce journey times for motor vehicles in the short term. The exceptionally poor quality provision for cycling and walking (addressed below) mean that journey times will increase for these modes. Due to the extra inconvenience and actual danger introduced by the designs it is likely many journeys will not be made these by modes at all. This scheme will further depress active travel in the city, which is contrary to Sheffield Council’s targets.

Reducing congestion which will improve air quality

There is little evidence to suggest that a reduction in congestion will also reduce air pollution. Road widening schemes should only be used when integrated with measure to promote better use of public transport, walking and cycling. This scheme does not address such measures.

Furthermore, it is now recognised that much air pollution comes from small particles emitted from vehicle tyres and braking systems.  Even if all the vehicles on the inner ring road were powered by electricity, there would still be very dangerous levels of particle pollution. An increase in vehicles travelling at higher speeds will therefore increase air pollution. Yet again the proposal will not achieve its stated aims.

As congestion levels are expected to return to their current levels within a few years there will be no medium or long term improvement in air quality as a result of this scheme.

If the council were serious about addressing the illegal levels of air pollution in our city they would be designing schemes to reduce motor vehicle use not encourage more of it.

Provide better connectivity to and through the City Centre for all modes

The scheme fails entirely to meet this ‘need’. The exceptionally poor quality provision for cycling and walking in the current design (addressed below) will make it harder and more dangerous to both travel north / south along the Inner Ring Road and to cross it east / west. It will make it more difficult to access the various developments in the area, such as Kelham Island or the upcoming West Bar Square, and sever these communities from the city centre and each other.

The scheme will act as a barrier to the area, particularly to the most vulnerable road users, and so put pressure on Sheffield’s already low cycling modal share in direct conflict with the Council’s stated aim of increasing cycling numbers.

The scheme will also only temporarily improve connectivity for motor vehicles before congestion returns to its previous levels in a few years time.

Unlock development sites

Building motorways through our city will not help its economic development. As previously stated they sever development sites, making it harder to travel between them, the city centre and residential areas. In the medium and long term this scheme will lead to more journeys being made by car, increasing air pollution, congestion and health problems related to inactivity.

Jamming our streets and communities with motor vehicles makes our city a less attractive place to live, work, study and invest.

Serious design failures

Painted lanes and Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs)

Guidance in countries with high levels of cycling, as well as from UK organisations such as Highways England and Transport for London, state that motor traffic volumes have to be very low for cycling on carriageway to be acceptable even in low speed environments. The Inner Ring Road is clearly not suitable for cycling in its current form, yet there is no separate cycling infrastructure in the design and painted lanes and ASLs are proposed.

Sheffield City Council stated in March 2016 that:

“In light of the 2014 cycle inquiry, and the resulting target of achieving 10% of journeys by bike in the next 10 years (and 25% by 2050), we have concluded that installing infrastructure such as narrow cycle lanes or Advanced Stop Lines will not assist in achieving this modal share.”

Why then are these still be included in new transport schemes contrary to their own conclusions?

These painted lanes on the Inner Ring Road serve no purpose. They do nothing to enable more people to cycle and they do nothing to make it safer or more convenient for existing cyclists. If the council persist with these antiquated highway designs they will never achieve their cycling targets, as they have acknowledged. Protected cycleways along and across the Inner Ring Road need to be included to provide comfortable, inclusive Space for Cycling which would enable more people to cycle.

The measure of good cycle infrastructure is whether it is suitable for a child to use, the IRR design clearly fails.

The inclusion of painted lanes and ALS’s mean the design fails to meet the ‘need’ to ‘reduce journey times for all traffic modes’ and ‘provide better connectivity to and through the City Centre for all modes’.

Shared use footways

In order to widen the carriageway, space is being taken from footways, reducing the comfort and amenity of pedestrians. These narrowed footways will become shared use, increasing conflict with people cycling. Using shared use footways to get cycles out of the way of increased capacity for motor vehicles is at odds with the council’s aim of dramatically increasing cycling and of enabling active travel.

The consultation states that the scheme will “segregate cycles from other traffic by putting them on the footway where possible (segregating them from pedestrians where widths allow)”. We have asked for clarification on where exactly this will be done as the designs are unclear, however, the council were unable to provide any details.

Sharing this limited space will be uncomfortable and frustrating for all users, create unnecessary conflict and could be hazardous, especially for visually impaired people.

It is unclear from the designs how wide the shared used footways will be but they will need to be at least 3m to meet the UK guidance for a minimum shared use area and this is without any obstructions from signs, posts and other street furniture which they are currently littered with.

It is not clear from the designs but it is likely that the footways will give way at every side road which will make walking and cycling less convenient and more dangerous.

The inclusion of shared use footpaths mean the design fails to meet the ‘need’ to ‘reduce journey times for all traffic modes’ and ‘provide better connectivity to and through the City Centre for all modes’.

Cycle crossing from Alma Street to Bridge Street

This is described as “to be promoted as one of the main routes into and out of the city centre”. The plan does not give the impression of a main route. It involves awkward and dangerous road crossings at both ends, Alma Street and Bridge Street, and is accessed across a shared-use footway.

As the only element of cycle infrastructure in this scheme this crossing is a superficial tidying up of the very poor cycleway currently here. It is not suitable for or attractive enough to enable high volumes of cycle traffic as a “main route”.

This poorly designed crossing fails to meet the ‘need’ to ‘reduce journey times for all traffic modes’ and ‘provide better connectivity to and through the City Centre for all modes’.

The crossing could be improved by removing the general traffic turning off into Bridge Street. This would remove the need for a pedestrian crossing on Bridge Street and allow people using the cycle crossing to enter Bridge Street safely.

There is also conflict between the IRR design of the cycle movement from Alma Street into Bridge Street and planning application 16/02518/OUT which was approved on 16th February 2017 and included under condition 20a, the requirement to complete “amendments to the Bridge Street Junction with the Inner Relief Road to enable two way traffic”. This is incompatible with the designs in this scheme.

Rat running through Kelham Island

This scheme does not address the problem of motorists using Kelham Island as a rat run to bypass sections of the Inner Ring Road. This is likely to mean that whilst significant sums are wasted increasing capacity on the IRR, motorists will continue to bypass it – an ongoing issue that is affecting the attractiveness of Kelham Island as a community and destination for visitors and investment.

This could be solved by a modal filter between Green Lane and Alma Street, to allow cycling through but preventing through motor traffic. This would stop rat-running and make Kelham Island safer, quieter, more attractive, suitable for a non-segregated cycle route or cycle street.

No Economic Benefit

There is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates the fallacy that building new roads will provide economic benefit.

Excessive dependence on motorised road transport imposes significant economic costs on society. These include: congestion; road casualties; physical inactivity and the ill health caused by it, such as obesity, and air pollution. More walking and cycling could substantially reduce these risks, while strengthening the city centre economy by supporting local businesses and property values; boosting the economic productivity of a healthy and satisfied workforce; and enabling disadvantaged groups to gain skills and access employment opportunities.  

Department for Transport research has demonstrated that cycling schemes have significantly higher economic benefit than old fashioned road widening schemes such as the current proposal. Cycling scheme have a benefit to cost ratio in the the range of 5:1 to 19:1 – with some as high as 35.5:1.

Investment in infrastructure to enable more people to cycle would have a far greater benefit compared to a road widening scheme that will only reduce congestion for a few years.

Summary

Continuing a pattern

This scheme continues Sheffield Council’s trend of major redevelopment / transport schemes failing to include useful, accessible cycle infrastructure. Other examples are Penistone Road, Chesterfield Road, Grey to Green phase 1 and the Knowledge Gateway scheme.

Sheffield Council cannot pretend to be serious about improving access for all or achieving its cycling targets whilst these failures continue.

Cycle Audit

As usual a cycle audit was carried out at the very end of the process when it is likely too late to address the major flaws in this scheme. Cycling and walking audits should be carried out at the very beginning to ensure that all new transport schemes in Sheffield deliver improvements for active travel.

Poor quality consultation and information

The design provided by the consultation is of poor quality and lacking in detail. More information about the scheme, such as the brief, the traffic modelling etc, would mean that people could see and understand the costs and benefits of the scheme and could provide more useful feedback.

Sheffield Council spent £160,000 just on the feasibility study for this scheme. Is a poor quality plan and a few lines of text the best they could come up for the public consultation (which was not included on the council’s consultation portal)?

Recommendations

  • The proposed scheme is not progressed.
  • Sheffield City Council urgently reviews its transport strategy to include substantial investment in walking and cycling infrastructure.
  • Sheffield City Council works with the Sheffield City Region to ensure that walking and cycling is given higher priority than private car use and this is reflected in the design of all transport schemes.
  • The council adopts minimum cycle design standards to ensure that all new transport / redevelopment schemes include useful cycle infrastructure.

9 thoughts on “Inner Ring Road scheme: consultation response

  1. Sorting out traffic light sequences would help. Sat at traffic lights with the engine running, wasting diesel is very frustrating.

    1. I agree – however, I’ve taken to switching off my engine much more often when stationary – I can’t see any reason not to. Some vehicles now do so automatically.

  2. This is another transport infrastructure project in Sheffield which has disregarded both environmental and alternative transport issues. It is bizarre that a plan such as this could even be put forward. Cyclesheffield make a good case for it to be reworked.

  3. This proposal won’t help cyclists nor pedestrians. Catering for more cars will not improve Sheffield’s air quality.

  4. Given that Sheffield is marketing itself as The Outdoor City, it’s really disappointing that cycling and walking are not being made a priority in this planning. What a wasted opportunity.

  5. I would love to cycle around town but I daren’t because the traffic is so scary and those cycle lanes are far too narrow! We are streets behind other cities in terms of transport policy. Main issue is to STOP people having to use cars. Extend the tram line to the south west. Make walking and cycling a priority and join up our public transport.

  6. Dreadfully disappointing. More evidence that the council talk a good game when formulating ‘macro’ policy on environmental issues, but that they simply don’t get it when it’s time to translate intentions into actions.

  7. The target of 10% of journeys to be made by bike within 10 years is extremely ambitious. If the council is serious about this target they need to be spending large amounts of money on infrastructure (safe, comprehensive, dedicated bike lanes, bike parking facilities etc). The publication of this scheme demonstrates that this is a wish, not a target, there is no serious will to achieve it and it will consequently never happen. Please stop repeating these empty phrases.

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