Comment - Sheffield city centre traffic ban could be the start of a new experience

All eyes have been on Shalesmoor’s controversial ‘pop-up’ bike lane but elsewhere a very high profile traffic ban seems to be bedding in nicely.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 4:34 pm

And it gets a massive thumbs up from me.

The section of Pinstone Street opposite the Peace Gardens is now bikes and walkers only and the difference is incredible.

If you haven’t been into the city centre for a while, the quiet and the emptiness on this stretch is quite something, even taking lockdown into account.

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You can hear a pin drop on Pinstone Street after traffic was banned

Normally it’s a one-way race track for buses that are so frequent you can’t let your guard down.

Include the delivery vehicles, and bikes going both ways, and crossing the road to the Peace Gardens was stressful, perhaps without us even realising it.

For it is the traffic ban, and the calm and quiet that comes with it, that has made me realise what we were putting up with.

Surrey Street is blocked.

Buses cut pollution and congestion, but up close they are noisy, smelly and imposing.

For the first time I found myself admiring the setting and the architecture - the town hall is Grade I listed - and thinking of the whole space as one. A new, larger central square.

The Radisson Blu hotel planned for Palatine Chambers on PinstoneStreet will have a fabulous view on exit, perhaps one to rival the railway station for ‘wow’ factor.

And it’s not just Pinstone Street. Under the same measures, buses have been banned on Leopold Street, slashing traffic on one of Sheffield’s best roads.

Lovely Leopold Street is perfectly flat and broad and mostly traffic free.

Perfectly flat and broad. I’ve once or twice lingered in the middle looking at the town hall and thinking it would make a great setting for a public event - before diving for safety as a bus barrels into view. Surrey Street beside the town hall is also severely restricted.

The overall impact is to make the heart of the city centre much more friendly and ‘livable’, a place to linger.

Retail is going online, we know that. People want experiences instead, we’re told.

Post-pandemic Sheffield should be the capital of experiences. Cliffhanger, Fright Night, even the continental food market, they’re all reasons to go into the city centre which aren’t just about shopping.

There’s a huge ‘city living’ drive taking place and these new residents will want a nice environment as much as they want retail convenience.

Switch the focus to experiences - including more independent shopping and dining - and Sheffield might not be so desperate to hang on to John Lewis at any cost.

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