Sheffield’s city centre traffic management systems are making bumpkins of us all and making the city almost impossible to drive through - especially for visitors.
“IF I were you I wouldn’t start from here.”
Once a whimsical and surreal punchline from the tale of the motorist asking a country rustic for directions.
But now it seems the joke is on us.
Prompted by a survey that said Sheffield is the 56th least car-friendly place of 65 English towns and cities, The Star put the city centre traffic system - and a hapless sat nav - to the test.
There are many blind alleys and just-out-of-reach spots for drivers, we tried to find just two.
A visitor to the city staying at the Premier Inn on Angel Street might come into the city up Commercial Street, following signs to the city centre from the Parkway and stop outside Pond’s Forge to ask directions to the hotel.
The Premier Inn is probably 300 yards and three minutes walk away from Ponds Forge - but in a car it means an A to Z tour around the city.
We stopped a few people and asked for directions.
Edmund Opertowski had just been to Ponds Forge, but wasn’t even sure how to get home, let alone navigate the mesmerising matrix to Angel Street.
“I have no idea how to get round the city,” said newly-retired Edmund, who had parked in Ponds Forge car park.
“I’m from Sheffield originally but I’ve just moved back here from Liverpool, I’ve retired back to Sheffield and I live in Crookes now - but I’ve no idea how to get back home from here!
“I’m afraid Sheffield’s a bit of a nightmare if you don’t know the place and the one way system.”
Tell us about it.
We couldn’t find anyone else who knew the way so we set off, mid-afternoon, with the sat nav guiding us up Commercial Street and along Arundel Gate - and away from the hotel.
We were told by the nice sat nav lady - no Tom Tom, Dick Dick or Harry Harry for us - that we had to go around the island at Furnival Gate and back along Arundel Gate.
We did and as we got back to High Street and almost back where we started the lady said: ‘You have reached your destination’. No we hadn’t. It was still way over the other side of the Commercial Street chasm and down a bus route.
We started again.
This time we trusted our knowledge of the city went back to the Furnival Gate roundabout, past Debenhams to Charter Square, up Rockingham Street, crossing Division Street and West Street and down to Broad Lane where the hotel was signposted. It took us down to West Bar, up Snig Hill and finally to the hotel.
On foot: 300 yards and three minutes.
By car: 2.1 miles, 8mins 35 secs.
Chances of a stranger to the city being able to fined it? Zero.
The NCP car park at Hartshead to the Mercure hotel behind the Town Hall, a trip a visiting lawyer or construction worker might need to make with his or her bags for an overnight stay.
We ask directions from a couple of passers-by neither of whom had a clue apart from; “It’s a lot quicker to walk.”
Thanks, that’s very helpful.
With sat nav lady seducing our ears we went along Hartshead and Campo Lane, up Townhead Street, along Trippet Lane, left onto West Street, right down Carver Street, across Division Street to Charter Square where sat nav lady said take first left at the island and carry on. We did the first but couldn’t do the second. The Beirut-style red and white road blocks across the junction of Furnival Street and Pinstone Street mean that traffic can’t go down Furnival Street.
We tried for an alternative but sat nav says no, over and over again. We stopped to ask. One chap thought long and hard but couldn’t think of a way. Two other lads were more able. Mike Breeze, who will shortly be opening an Italian restaurant called Brezza, on Wellington Street, gave us good directions to the Mercure and said: “Sheffield’s a nightmare.
“You can see somewhere and you can walk there in five minutes but it takes you 20 minutes to drive there. I’ve been to Manchester and Leeds quite a lot and they’re both easier to get around.”
Maybe, but not much use today.
We switched to lad nav and even then it was a trek down Moore Street to St Mary’s Gate, down the ring road to Eyre Street, along Arundel Gate left on to Norfolk Street, past the Crucible and to the Mercure. Which doesn’t have a car park anyway.
On foot: 250 yards and two or three minutes.
By car: 2.5 miles, 14.47 minutes.
Chances of a stranger to the city being able to find it? Less than zero.
Motorists are paying taxi drivers to show them the way
MOTORISTS visiting Sheffield are paying taxi drivers to lead them through the streets.
Such is the difficulty strangers have finding their destinations that they pester taxi drivers for directions - then end up paying them to lead them where they want to go. “If people are from out of town, it’s very difficult,” said taxi driver Mohammed Nadeen.
“If you are from out of town, it’s very difficult. It’s the one way system that gets people. It’s been like it for the last four or five years and it’s been very difficult.
“People are always getting lost trying to find the Mercure Hotel but then again, people are always lost everywhere in Sheffield. We get more people stop us and say ‘We’ve been lost for an hour, can you please help?’
“People will offer to pay us to drive round to where they want to go and they follow us in their cars because they don’t want to risk trying to find it on their own.”
Now even traffic wardens find it a nightmare giving directions
GIVING directions to drivers in Sheffield is a nightmare - even for traffic wardens.
Andy Booth has been a warden in the city for 12 years and it doesn’t get easier.
“We have a real job telling people where to go when they ask for help,” said Andy.
“We get lots asking us and when I give directions I send people via the roundabouts and the ring road.
“It’s almost impossible to direct people through the city centre.
“It can take that long to explain that no-one can really remember the instructions. You just see their eyes glaze over when you tell them.
“If they see a traffic warden they naturally think you know the way around and we do our best but things change that much. It’s very tricky.
“It’s just too complicated a system. It’s too much for people to remember. You can be a few yards from something and be able to see it but, you have to drive all round the city to get to it.
“By the time you are telling people to take their third and fourth left you can tell it’s just not going in.”