I rode the new Shalesmoor bike lane in Sheffield - this is what I thought of it
This must be how the Queen feels.
Sailing down an empty lane past stopped traffic - it was all I could do not to give the royal wave.
Except I’m just a lowly cyclist, the vehicles weren’t ‘stopped’ on my behalf and the queen is never at risk of being lynched.
Welcome to the new ‘pop-up’ bicycle route on Shalesmoor, one of Sheffield’s busiest streets. A full lane has been roped off for riders in both directions in a move that has been met with joy and anger.
Motorist Bev Dearne said: “It’s horrendous. It’s caused more havoc than ever. There are bike lanes there already. I wonder where their brains are?”
The ‘brains’ belong to Sheffield City Council which is using £500,000 from government to create segregated routes for riders - especially novices - who can’t get on buses due to social distancing measures.
Because of the urgency they were installed on Shalesmoor, Corporation Street, Netherthorpe roundabout and a bit of Penistone Road without warning or consultation on Saturday.
Another motorist said: “It’s absolutely diabolical. They just widened it (referring to Corporation Street) and it worked. Now they’ve narrowed it again and you’ve got a bike lane with no bikes.”
But behind him, van passenger Jason Naylor gave the measures the thumbs up.
“I think it’s a good idea. And if it takes a bit longer to drive, set off a bit earlier.”
Sheffield City Council said the relevant councillor, Bob Johnson, was unavailable for interview.
But The Star bumped into him on a wet Wednesday morning in Shalesmoor where he was surveying the traffic with senior officials including Tom Finnegan-Smith, head of strategic transport, sustainability and infrastructure and Ed Highfield, head of city growth.
Coun Johnson said he was disappointed at the low number of cyclists and acknowledged there had been an avalanche of negative comments due to the “reallocation of road space.”
He also said the measures were at their most “vicious” and hinted they could be eased.
In Reigate in Surrey a pop-up bike lane was removed after just three days due to criticism.
He added: “The aim is to encourage cyclists and pedestrians in this area. It doesn’t take much for the buses to be full these days.
“This experimental traffic order is fluid. We implement it first and scale it back if necessary, we’re trying to find the right balance.”
Mr Finnegan-Smith said there was a “clear push” from government to encourage cyclists, including first timers, with bike lanes separated from traffic.
In the city centre, Pinstone Street and parts of Division Street and Leopold Street are also closed to vehicles.
From Sunday July 12 temporary cycle lanes are being introduced on Attercliffe Road between Princess Street and Stevenson Road. Some side roads will also be made one-way.
And a ‘bells and whistles’ bike lane on Trippet Lane that cost £2.8m and took months to install has finally been finished.
Renee Long, boss of Dishi vegan restaurant on Shalesmoor, said four lanes of traffic used to grind past constantly. During the quiet of lockdown cars tore past at up to 60mph.
Now it was just one lane each way and already since Saturday she had noticed the outbound carriageway growing quieter as people presumably found alternative routes.
She added: “I’m happy. Even if this isn’t the right place, moves to make cars less visible are probably a good thing even if it is painful.”
Cyclists, so used to being second class citizens in Sheffield, think it is brilliant. The security - compared to just the illusion of it in a painted bike lane - cannot be overstated.
But perhaps more than that is the message. Such drastic measures shout it out: cyclists are the new royalty on Sheffield’s roads.