“It’s working,” said Nether Edge and Sharrow Councillor Maroof Raouf, who’s been monitoring the almost nightly vandalism since an emergency traffic order four weeks ago placed a ‘modal filter’ under the bridge. “We’ve seen plenty of walkers and cyclists this morning, but not much car traffic. People are using it, going to work.”
Coun Raouf doesn’t like the concrete blocks and has invited local artists to make them more attractive, but after planters were overturned, bollards uprooted and barriers thrown in the river, he says they look like the only answer to vandals opposed to the city’s active travel initiatives who he says are costing the rest of us time and money.
“This is damage to public property, and the public are paying for it,” he says. “It’s criminal activity.”
He’s now asking council officers if they can retime the start date of the 6 month trial of the Sheaf Valley active travel route, since the vandalism has stopped the route working properly. After drivers get used to the change, he also wants the ‘Road Closed’ signs replaced with more friendly (and accurate) ‘Road Open to Children, Walkers, Cyclists and Wheelchair Users’ signs.
Hesther passed by with her kids. “It’s much quieter now,” she said. “It was tricky to get through before, because there’s only a very narrow pavement under the bridge.”
The filter under the bridge is a key part of the scheme, explained Sheffield Council’s Transport Planning and Infrastructure Manager, Matthew Reynolds, for safety reasons mainly, since until last month, motor traffic and pedestrians, including children, were having to hope for the best under a dark narrow bridge with poor sight lines and no viable pavements.
“We’ve had numerous calls to close it off in the past, so we’re responding to people’s needs,” said Matthew. “In reality much of the traffic under the bridge was actually bypassing the area, and didn’t need to be there. So in balance we decided the most appropriate thing to do was to close that part to motor traffic, and repurpose the highway either side for active travellers using the route.”
From next Monday (8th August), further concrete blocks will arrive on Rydal Road to complete the filter, so through motor traffic will also be excluded from the Lakes estate alongside Abbeydale Road. All properties and businesses either side of the filters will still be accessible by car and van, but drivers may have to change their routes.
Critics and concerned locals say this will just shift drivers onto Abbeydale Road instead.
Stephen was walking to his sister’s house under the bridge instead of taking a detour by car. He said not everyone may feel able to take a half hour walk like him, (the cut through from Heeley previously took him 7 minutes by car, he says) and believes the change will just add to the congestion on Abbeydale Road.
But Matthew Reynolds says evidence shows that driver behaviour is not so simple, with most similar schemes around the UK showing no noticeable increase of traffic on nearby roads after a few weeks of adjustment. Drivers often change routes, combine trips so driven journeys don’t happen, or switch to walking or cycling, he says.
Ellie Cook bought a bike once she learned the scheme was going in. “It’s better now. It feels safer to cycle, and I’ve stopped using my car as much.”
Coun Raouf says the trial allows people time to see how it all works and think about their own travel methods.
He added: “If you don’t let the trial take place how can anyone know if the scheme work?”
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