We want our roads to be safe for all people to use them in Sheffield

Why are so many children killed or seriously injured on Sheffield’s roads? It’s a question on many parents’ minds after the government figures this month showing Sheffield was the worst major city outside London for children’s road safety.

By David Bocking
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 27th June 2022, 8:41 am
Families trying to walk to Hunters Bar School.
Families trying to walk to Hunters Bar School.

“We want our roads to be safe for all people to use them,” says David Bamford from Living Streets Hunters Bar, who campaign for safe streets and pavements around Hunter’s Bar, Sharrow Vale, Endcliffe and Nether Edge. “We want using our roads to be equitable.”

A few yards away on Sharrowvale Road a man parks his car while he gets a takeaway coffee on a double yellow line, across a dropped kerb, making it significantly more dangerous for a child, a wheelchair user or a slow moving walker, to cross the road safely.

“That’s pretty standard here, but it really is a minority of drivers who spoil it for everyone,” says David. “But you get what you design for in road layout, and what you enforce. And for years we have allowed a perceived traffic flow of motor vehicles to dominate over everything else.”

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Children squeezing by a skip left on the pavement.

Since 2017, twice as many children under 15 have been killed or seriously injured on Sheffield’s roads than an average large British city, with the most recent government figures showing over 200 Sheffield children were killed or seriously injured on our roads between 2018 and 2020.

David says best practice to reduce harm is to focus on the highest risk factor, which for children is being hit by a motor vehicle. “Collisions between pedestrians are rarely fatal. So we think reducing the number of car trips is the key factor in making our roads safer.”

To do that, he says, you need to provide good alternatives to enable people to travel in other ways.

Local schools are recognising this, and the Modeshift Stars organisation is now receiving lots of requests from schools to join the programme to help more pupils get to school without being driven up to the school gates.“I was surprised to see those figures about children’s road safety in Sheffield, and it makes me worried for children who live here,” said Rosie Frazer from Modeshift Stars, who also has 3 primary age children herself.

Rosie Frazer from Modeshift Stars near the Westways School Streets.

After a school has worked with Rosie and team on a range of measures to encourage walking, cycling and scooting (and reduce driving) local schools can ask the council for ‘School Streets’ where filters prevent non-residents driving near school gates at drop off or pick up time. Rosie says a couple of new School Streets are now being rolled out every term, with nine already in place.

“We often get contacts from schools after near misses or broken bones,” she says.This week she was working at Philimore School in Darnall, where stunt cyclist Danny Butler was celebrating the school’s success in increasing walking to ⅔ of journeys and reducing car trips to less than ¼. She also dropped in at Westways in Crookes, where a new School Street seemed very popular with parents and staff.“It appears to be having a really positive impact on our community,” said head Charles Hollamby. “Children are coming in and out of school to a calmer, less polluted environment, where they feel safer and happier.”

Staffing the new road filters is an issue, however, and more volunteers would be very welcome, Charles added. The possibility of cameras is also being floated, since drivers ignoring School Street signs are breaking the law, as well as reducing road safety.

“Making streets safer should not need to wait until a fatality for intervention, we need the Council and Amey to be more proactive about change,” says David Bamford.

Kids walking to Hunters Bar Junior School.

“And we don't want a like-for-like replacement of road design stuck in the 1970s, to make car journeys faster and easier. The impact of this approach is now abundantly clear: congestion, poor health related to sedentary lifestyles, high prevalence of childhood asthma, and fear amongst vulnerable road users.”More info:School Streets / Modeshift Stars: [email protected] Streets: https://www.livingstreetshb.org.uk

Stunt cyclist Danny Butler at Philmore School.