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"Huge step backwards for road safety": Reopening rat-run will put cyclists and pedestrians in danger, critics say

One councillor said he wants the closure reversed despite being a former cyclist who got knocked off his bike twice by drivers who were not looking where they were going

A council's decision to reopen a road closure to through traffic will have a detrimental effect on road safety and active travel, seeing the "quiet, safe and liveable" street reversed to "rat-running and speeding cars" again, critics have said.

Sheffield City Council announced the decision last week, with some low-traffic neighbourhood schemes made permanent but the one in question, Archer Lane in Nether Edge, to be reopened.

Its reversal was approved by the council, which is made up of a coalition of Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green Party councillors, however the Sheffield Green Party, which holds just 17 per cent of the local government coalition, has criticised the move, arguing "there is no way that this can be regarded as progress".

Cllr Christine Gillian Kubo, Deputy Chair of the Transport, Regeneration and Climate Policy Committee said: "The community in Nether Edge has been let down by the council today. The changes were a step in the right direction towards safe, quiet and liveable streets. Now they will have rat-running and speeding cars again. There is no way that this can be regarded as progress."

Her colleague, a member of the same committee, Cllr Ruth Mersereau added: "The vast majority of people from Nether Edge who contacted me, were in support of the Active Travel Neighbourhood. They have been ignored by those Lib Dem and Labour councillors who voted to re-open these roads to motor vehicles today.

> Cycling UK takes council to court over "unlawful" decision to keep rat-run open

"This decision does nothing to improve Sheffield's appalling statistics on road safety. This is a huge step backwards for walking, cycling, for public health, for road safety and for better, more liveable neighbourhoods."

Another Green Party councillor, Maroof Raouf, accused his fellow councillors of going "against the data" and "failing to prioritise the well-being of constituents". Last year, Raouf called for tougher measures after LTN planters in Nether Edge and Crookes were vandalised.

The city council's communication of the decision said the Nether Edge scheme is to be modified "to reflect the views of residents", Cllr Mersereau suggesting that in fact 84 per cent of residents who contacted her to express their views on the matter had supported keeping the modal filter.

One councillor who did support its reopening, Cllr David Barker of Labour, caught the attention of many with his speech at the committee last Wednesday, in which he admitted he lived nowhere near the scheme and is not affected by it, recalled how until learning to drive at the age of 40 cycling was his mode of transport, said he had been twice knocked off his bike by drivers who were not looking where they were going, but concluded the active travel scheme should be ripped out.

"I don't live anywhere near this scheme. I don't work anywhere near this scheme. I very rarely travel anywhere near this scheme. I represent people in the east of Sheffield for whom not one person has mentioned this scheme," his speech began.

"My inbox, certainly over the last couple of weeks, has been absolutely full of messages from people who have taken the time to express their views on this. The difficulty is these are very differing views, it's very easy if you have a consultation and everyone says 'we want it' or 'we don't want it' but you can imagine there are very very different views.

Following some anecdotes about solely travelling by bike until the age of 40, riding to work, football and cricket matches, Cllr Baker admitted: "I'd have killed for safe active travel schemes, or less likely to have been killed. Thankfully, over all that time cycling I was only ever hit by motorists twice and wasn't seriously injured on either occasion. Both times they didn't see me, they weren't thinking.

"So, anything we can do to protect that is brilliant but over time I've changed. I lost my job in Sheffield and work in Harrogate, cycling not an option. Sadly, my wife has a rare neurological condition which results in increasing levels of muscle weakness.

"Driving is the only option to visit a lot of places, it's all we can do to get there. If we want to get out and visit places we have to drive and, while I think these schemes are great, the benefits that have been pointed out by people who live in the area are wonderful, I don't think as a nation and as a society we've reached a stage where we can universally do all this."

The speech attracted criticism when it was shared on social media, one reply paraphrasing it to: "Something, something, personal anecdotes, cars are best, you are wrong."

Another said: "Cllr David Barker, who lives nowhere near the scheme and isn't affected by the scheme, used to ride a bike everywhere but now he prefers to drive, thinks we're not ready to try and reduce car dependency."

However, Cllr Ben Miskell, Labour's deputy leader in Sheffield, said the decision had been made with the aim of making "streets safer for all, including the most vulnerable".

The consultation report included 317 responses, of which the vast majority were emails, received up to 31 December 2022, and was based on 'number of mentions' of particular issues, meaning the totals can be higher than the number of consultation replies. From the email responses, 380 negative mentions of congestion were noted, alongside 222 negative mentions and 167 negative mentions of perceived risk.

Nether Edge consultation

However, the vast majority of mentions from respondents said the Nether Edge scheme had improved surroundings. There were also more than 100 positive mentions in regards the scheme helping cycling, walking, perceived risk and congestion.

Specifically relating to the Archer Lane modal filter, which is to be removed, the official consultation responses suggested that respondents believed the modal filter improved surroundings and had a positive impact on promoting cycling and walking, while also reducing speeding, but many complained about the impact on congestion.

Archer Lane consultation

The schemes were first introduced in May 2022 using an Experimental Traffic Order, allowing the council to undertake a trial period ahead of making a decision on whether it should be made permanent.

Last week's decision saw many indeed made permanent, but Archer Lane's reopening has caused disappointment, one resident saying the decision had been made using the views of "some residents", while another said it was "the views of some vocal car drivers to the detriment of pedestrians and cyclists".

Dr Amy Barnes commented: "Real shame the Archer Lane closure is not permanent — it made a big difference for Carter Knowle and Nether Edge primary children on their way to and from school by stopping the rat run."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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3 comments

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eburtthebike | 9 months ago
3 likes

"They have been ignored by those Lib Dem and Labour councillors who voted to re-open these roads to motor vehicles today."

So they've heard about the tories being the party of the driver, and both Lib-Dem and Labour are frantically back-pedalling; metaphorically, not literally of course.  Such a pity they aren't pedalling.

The comments of Cllr David Barker are literally incomprehensible, to put it politely.

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brooksby replied to eburtthebike | 9 months ago
3 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

The comments of Cllr David Barker are literally incomprehensible, to put it politely.

I read it a bit like Braverman or Patel - "I cycled when I was young etc etc but I don't want to encourage anyone else to" is analogous to "My family arrived here from foreign lands when I was a child, but I don't want anyone else coming here".

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HarrogateSpa | 9 months ago
6 likes

The Green Councillors are right, these modal filter schemes should be made permanent.

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