Cyclists and walkers set to rule the road in £10m Sheffield travel revolution

Major roads in Sheffield city centre will be closed to traffic or made one-way under plans to spend £10m on the biggest shake-up of travel in a generation.

By Business Editor David Walsh
Friday, 27th November 2020, 4:45 pm

Pinstone Street and Leopold Street would be pedestrianised and Surrey Street would close to cars permanently.

Furnival Square would become a ‘pocket park,’ with traffic prevented from driving from Eyre Street on to Arundel Gate.

Arundel Gate would become one-way on one section and a lane turned into ‘meandering cycleways and footpaths and a diverse green landscape’.

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Impression of a pedestrianised Pinstone Street and both sides of Charles Street.

And bus gates in both directions on Furnival Gate, and one-way along Arundel Gate to Norfolk Street, would restrict cars and ‘allow buses priority into the centre’.

In a sign of the scale of the change, the city council has felt the need to state: ‘access will be maintained to key car parks’ and for deliveries.

The scheme is a huge boon for cyclists thanks to a network of new routes, as well as pedestrians and the increasing number of residents who would benefit from an improved environment.

But it will run into opposition from some businesses, bus users and drivers.

Furnival Square will be partly closed and become a 'pocket park' while a section of Arundel Gate will become one-way, with a lane replaced by bike lane.

Pinstone Street has been temporarily closed to traffic since June, sparking a wave of protests over lost trade and inconvenience to passengers, particularly the elderly, after bus stops were moved to Arundel Gate.

Elsewhere, there will be a new bus hub and pocket park on Rockingham Street, reflecting its central position in the under-construction Heart of the City 2 scheme.

And Charles Street, between Union Street and Pinstone Street, will be pedestrianised.

The ‘Connecting Sheffield’ scheme will also include significant planting and greenery like the ‘Grey to Green’ schemes, ‘enhancing the city centre spaces that people can enjoy’.

Pinstone Street was closed to traffic in June and 'temporary' asphalt laid to widen pavements.

The project is out for public consultation.

Coun Bob Johnson, cabinet member for transport and sustainability at Sheffield City Council, said: “We need to start planning for the future of travel, and to do this, changes need to be made.

“We have already seen some of the benefits of the proposed changes through emergency active travel measures earlier in the year, which include the closure of Pinstone Street so a lot of people have already had some experience of how the scheme could work.”

Dexter Johnstone of CycleSheffield said the safety provided by new bike lanes would increase the number of cyclists.

Pinstone Street outside the town hall would be planted.

He added: “The schemes are ambitious and of a high quality and we commend Sheffield Council for this…The addition of a city centre cycle hub is great to see, as many people raise concerns about the secure storage of their bikes.”

The plans include a new ‘cycle storage hub’ similar to the one at Sheffield Station.

Nigel Eggleton, managing director at bus company First South Yorkshire said he had a concern about the plan to permanently close Pinstone Street.

He added: “It is central to where people want to travel by bus to enjoy the cities amenities and attractions. I would welcome further discussions on this decision.”

Previously, Lib Dem councillor Ian Auckland said passengers ‘had not been addressed’ in the closure of Pinstone Street, which has several bus stops and used to see a constant stream of buses.

Healthy passenger numbers were vital to ending bailouts for bus companies post-Covid, yet their treatment was ‘poor’ and the new stops on Arundel Gate were ‘inadequate’.

Elaine Bird, of JC Bird Optician on Surrey Street, said the closure of Pinstone Street, which had made Surrey Street a dead-end, had damaged trade.

She said: “Footfall in front of the locally-owned and independent shops on Surrey Street is going to reduce massively. Will we get a massive rate reduction? Most of these shops have been there for well over 40 years. In the case of Taylor's barbers, 110 years!

“Sheffield Scene sells a great array of locally made goods. Lockwoods is one of only two florists in the city centre. F & G Thomas pen specialists has already gone. Lynne’s Pantry is a Sheffield institution. How will it survive now?

“Connecting Sheffield - will they connect the elderly, infirm and disabled with the city centre? I'll be interested to see how they propose to do that.”

On the new Connecting Sheffield website, scores of people have commented.

One said: “The bus stops along Furnival Gate are an absolute must, as currently the bus stops on Arundel Gate to access Pinstone Street are too far for most people to walk. Perhaps better pedestrian improvements could be sorted along Surrey Street and Norfolk Street by the Central Library.”

Another stated: “I don't currently feel safe cycling in the city centre and it is often difficult to know which routes are the safest, or most 'cycle-friendly'. I hope this scheme will create new, obvious, and separated (from traffic) routes, as has already been done in the latest Grey to Green scheme near Castlegate. This would make me switch to cycling as my main mode of travel into the city centre, with the proviso that plenty of secure bike storage facilities are also added.”

On David Walsh’s Linkedin page, David Wood, co-founder at PAVEMENT, said: “This is absolutely the right thing to do. More public space in the city centre, free of traffic, will bring more people into the centre for leisure, to shop and work.

“I had a work colleague visit from London over the summer who commented on how beautiful the town hall building was and the surrounding area. Imagine how vibrant it could be with the hotel, quality retail and leisure spilling out onto the square.”

Luke Barker FRICS, director at WT Partnership, said: “Vehicular access can be managed, but city centres will die if we don’t make interventions that are people and experience focused. We need to create vibrant places that encourage people to sit, enjoy and interact. Certainly post Covid, people will crave this more than ever. I think being honest most of us already are craving this!”

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