The Festival of Debate Democracy Hub day featured discussions on many topics that affect day-to-day life in Sheffield. One of these topics was Transport Poverty. The discussion was hosted by CycleSheffield and featured a great panel; Amy Palmer (Initiative manager from the Terminus Initiative in Lowedges), Ollie Hart (GP at the Sloan Medical Centre), and Pete Zanzottera (Sustainable Transport Consultant). Here we summarise the issues discussed by the panel and attendees and their suggested solutions.
Building neighbourhoods not roads
As Sheffield grows, the way people will access new developments is often overlooked. Lowedges residents have experienced this recently. A GP surgery moved, but bus routes didn’t, which meant that patients without cars struggled to get to the health centre. Although the new health centre had a bus stop nearby, many people required a bus into Sheffield and out again before they could reach the new location from their home.
This is symptomatic of zonal planning which is based on zones of usage and splits up communities. It creates roads as obstacles, divides neighbourhoods, and creates obesogenic environments.
How can we take control of this situation and influence change? Restrain the use of the car. Focus on concepts such as transit-oriented developments and 20-minute neighbourhoods that are human friendly and accessible by all (more commentary from PeteZ here). Of course, neighbourhoods that take this approach, inevitably see massive health benefits as well as being quieter and having more equitable transport.
“My bus pass saved my life”
Amy’s story showed the value of free public transport. Before she received a bus pass, she was isolated. Attempting to navigate the bus network unsuccessfully was an intimidating prospect, as it would cost money that wasn’t available. Free bus passes gave her the opportunity to try the bus without having to worry about this. It breaks down an extra barrier to accessing community and work.
We’ve got to be pragmatic when it comes to changing the minds of politicians
“Don’t rely on the council”. We need community critical mass. When we get this, things will happen. We are now in a position to make big change. The new Sheffield City Region Mayor has the opportunity to make things happen, but we need to tell him what we want.
Policy follows public opinion. “We get what we ask for but, I don’t believe people are motivated by health. People are focused on the here and now” (OllieH). Grand visions of utopian societies don’t get the buy in they need. However, if we ask questions like ‘where would you like your children to grow up?’, we get approval for the changes we are looking for. Cleaner, greener, safer, and friendlier places are what everyone wants.
How do we act quickly? Where are the quick wins?
In our neighbourhoods, at a local level. By working on a network or permeable neighbourhoods, we can create streets that function as play zones, quiet ways, and places for people to enjoy. Stopping rat running traffic will help this greatly.
The School Streets movement is a good example. However, it all relies on communities to make it happen. If it is owned by a community, it will succeed. There are also Play Streets in Leeds where residents put wheelie bins across side roads to stop cars and enable kids to play out safely. The bins can be moved if a resident in their car needs to drive in.
Public opinion seems to be changing after Extinction Rebellion. Do we get involved in local campaigning? Could you get out to stop traffic on ‘Clean Air Day’ (20th June)?
Leadership is a challenge
The Manchester tram system has expanded and reduced car use successfully. Nottingham has successfully embedded a workplace parking levy. How do we get civic leadership on initiatives like this in Sheffield? It was suggested that big decisions like this often need to be informed by even bigger business cases.
Sheffield focuses on business and not on people. For example, we only measure walking once a decade, but traffic is measured by the minute. A shift in transport economics to greater incorporate ‘non-motor’ travel, would give us different lenses to view decisions through.
Joined up thinking
There is a lack of joined up thinking across city when it comes to infrastructure. The decisions made on transport do not consider effects further down the line. For example, in parts of Sheffield there is red paint used on cycle lanes while ‘Danger – No entry’ is the same colour! You can see how that causes confusion. Bus use is encouraged, but for groups traveling together it’s cheaper to get a taxi.
The panel sympathised with the difficulty of this task. MoveMore have tried mapping out the networks needed to join up communication and work collaboratively, but it is a big task that is hard to comprehend.
So, what next?
The discussion around campaigning and local change is music to our ears. If it is something that motivates you too, you might be interested in speaking to us about how you cna get involved. Or just have a read about what we have done so far. Our website has all the info you need.
Beyond the panel discussion…
Outside of the panel discussion, we had some great chat with people attending a variety of different talks at the hub day. We asked the question “What would make Sheffield an easier place to get around?”. The following pictures were ideas from the attendees.
Picture 1. Post-it’s and Lego models capture some of the discussion at the CycleSheffield stall.
Picture 2. The map generated a lot of ideas for spots where walking and cycling could be made easier in Sheffield.
Throughout the day, we posed a few questions on social media. ‘What would you spend £1million on?’ was the most popular.
Picture 3. Twitter thread arising from the question: ‘What would you spend £1million on?’