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Jarvis and Storey want cycling and walking featured in PM’s national coronavirus recovery plan

Coronavirus: Sheffield City Region’s Mayor and Active Travel Commissioner write to Boris Johnson

Mark Moran
06 May 2020
Active Travel Commissioner Dame Sarah Storey and Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis
Active Travel Commissioner Dame Sarah Storey and Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis


The Government needs to put walking and cycling at the heart of plans to get the country moving again, say the Sheffield City Region’s Mayor Dan Jarvis and Active Travel Commissioner Dame Sarah Storey in a letter to the Prime Minister.

Mayor Jarvis and Dame Sarah have written to Boris Johnson outlining proposals designed to enable more people to walk and cycle safely, whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.

They have also asked for flexibility in funding in order to allow South Yorkshire to use the £166m allocated to the region through the Transforming Cities Fund to make space for walking and cycling quickly during the pandemic.

The Prime Minster has also been asked to: bring forward planned investment in walking and cycling as part of the country’s recovery plans; encourage councils to identify and safeguard space for walking and cycling so that the health and well-being benefits of increased walking and cycling during lockdown will continue; and to provide further investment in programmes that help people get on their bikes or walk more.

The joint letter says: “The current COVID-19 crisis has taught us many things. The importance of good social networks, the resilience of local communities but also how influential people’s travel choices are, in both helping to combat the spread of the virus while ensuring the best recovery for the country, both from an economic but also public health perspective.

“The impact of COVID-19 on transport has been profound. Commuting by public transport is down as much as 90% in some of our urban areas. In addition, combined with the reduction in private car use, we have seen air quality levels measurably improve, with more and more people enjoying the benefits of walking and cycling for allowable trips, especially for exercise. Research shows that cleaner air and increasing exercise will increase the resilience of the population to all infections.

“We welcome the Department for Transport’s support to keep our public transport network operating during this difficult period. Given patronage levels will be unlikely to recover in the short term due to the need to continue with social distancing measures post lockdown, this is likely to mean restricted use of our public transport modes for some time. The risk is that this will drive more people back into cars as the only viable alternative. That is not a risk that we want to take.”

The Mayor said that South Yorkshire work has begun on how people will travel as lockdown restrictions are lifted. People are being asked to identify areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain for those on foot or by bike. 

These can be marked on the SCR Interactive Map and will be fed back to local authorities.

Dame Sarah is hosting a number of active travel surgeries to speak to the public about the issues they are facing in their communities and what can be done to enable more people to walk and cycle.

In the summer, Mayor Jarvis and Dame Sarah will release their vision for improving walking and cycling in South Yorkshire over the next 20 years. The vision, which has been developed with input from both local authorities and the public during Dame Sarah’s first year as Active Travel Commissioner, will include plans for low traffic neighbourhoods and a comprehensive, connected network of routes across the region.

The letter can be read here

[The photo was taken in 2019, before social distancing guidelines were in place]

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