Could car-free trial in Sheffield city centre be start of something bigger?

A busy street in Sheffield is set to go car free for the weekend as part of a trial which could change the city forever.

Thursday, 10th October 2019, 12:11 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th October 2019, 4:19 pm

Division Street will be closed to motor vehicles next Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20, from 10am to 4pm each day, in a move organisers claim will make it more ‘people friendly’.

Should the trial prove a success, it will strengthen campaigners’ calls for the popular shopping parade to be permanently pedestrianised.

The traffic-free experiment, being run by Cycle Sheffield with permission from Sheffield Council, comes after an image showing how the street could look without cars went viral earlier this year when it was shared online by one of the cycling group’s members, Sam Wakeling.

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How a pedestrianised Division Street in Sheffield city centre could look (pic: Sam Wakeling/Cycle Sheffield)

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Dexter Johnstone, of Cycle Sheffield, insists there’s no reason the restrictions should not be made permanent, and believes there is potential for many more of the city’s streets to be pedestrianised.

“It’s one of those things nobody’s really sure why it hasn’t been done already. It doesn’t make any sense for it to be a rat run from the city centre out of town,” he said.

“The majority of businesses on the street are supportive, the ward councillors and cabinet members for transport and for environment are supportive, and so are council officers.

Division Street, Sheffield, as it looks now (pic: Chris Etchells)

“Unless it causes 'traffic chaos' or a dramatic downturn for the businesses affected – both of which I doubt very much – we hope and expect this trial to be made permanent. This could be done very cheaply in the short term using things like planters.

“It will be a much more enjoyable place to visit without cars, and the bars and cafes will hopefully be able to have some outdoor seating, which would be great in the summer.

“I think there are other streets in Sheffield, and not just in the city centre, which could benefit from being pedestrianised.”

There are no specific activities planned to celebrate the closure next weekend but Cycle Sheffield says it hopes the bars, cafes and restaurants will be able to use the outside space for tables and chairs, and it says there will be some extra cycle parking spaces provided by Russell's Bike Shed.

Cycle Sheffield says the charity Disability Sheffield supports the proposed pedestrianisation, which it believes would make the city centre more accessible for people with disabilities.

And it claims that removing cars would boost trade for businesses there by dramatically increasing footfall.

Councillor Bob Johnson, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for transport and development, said: “We work closely with Cycle Sheffield and other transport groups and are pleased that we will have a chance to see how a temporary closure of Division Street might work.

“This won’t be enough to make a complete decision on a closure of Division Street on a more permanent basis but it will help develop our thinking along with other changes to the city centre.”