Sheffield’s shocking spate of road deaths – how officials hope to make city’s roads safer

Sheffield has seen a tragic few weeks on its roads.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 12:11 pm

When Rita Magni died after being struck by a car on Phillimore Road, near Phillimore Community Primary School, Darnall, on Monday, it was the latest in a series of tragedies.

The previous morning, 23-year-old Junaid Latif died after a crash on Moore Street, close to the inner ring road.

Less than two weeks earlier, a pedestrian died after a collision on Prospect Road, Lowfield.

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The scene on Moore Street after a car crash killed a man

And another pedestrian died on September 21 after a collision on Regent Street near the city centre.

The man in charge of transport at Sheffield City Council is aware of the recent string of tragedies – and says there is work being done to make Sheffield’s roads safer. But it is not all about crossings and engineering, and new powers for council enforcement officers could be on their way.

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Coun Douglas Johnson described the recent deaths as really shocking.

The scene on Phillimore Road, where flowers have been left in tribute to Rita Magni

He said: “I think road safety is an issue where people die in far too high numbers and the problem is, it’s almost accepted by some as inevitable. Yet it is so important to bring those numbers down. And numbers have been coming down. There has been lots of good work on road safety over the years.

“One of the issues is that it is very difficult to get public support for road safety measures. You would have thought everyone would support safer roads. In practice when it comes to road safety engineers coming up with solutions to make roads safer, there is often widespread public opposition to them. It’s not always an easy fix.”

Mr Johnson was shocked at the death of Mrs Magni, close to a school.

But he says there are schemes being run to make roads outside schools safer.

Pinstone Street in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

One has been trialled outside several primary schools in the city.

Roads closed under School Streets scheme

The School Streets project has seen roads leading up to a number of schools cut off to cars at the start and the end of the school day, when children are being dropped off or picked up.

Mr Johnson said: “You close off the bit of street that leads to the school to cars, so it is a safe zone for children and parents to walk along. At that time, you have issues with congestion, with cars mixing with lots of small children. It’s a recipe for disaster, it's dangerous and means a concentration of air pollution around the school.

Rita Magni

“The schemes have been led by the schools. An officer at the council will convene the projects, and we’ve been running trials. Carfield School in Meersbrook, and Greystones Primary have both been involved.

“It has to be a solution for each individual school as it depends on the road layout, and it requires buy-in from the school. It depends on volunteers to close the road with temporary barriers and staff it for an hour.

“But there are a few angry drivers who don’t care about children’s safety and can be angry and abusive, who try to force their way through or speed off. That sort of behaviour does go on. It is quite shocking when you see that.”

There were four schools in the trial, with the measures permanent from September.

There are plans to extend it, but it depends on schools being willing and able to find volunteers, and on the road layout around the school.

Coun Johnson believes it would be difficult at Lowfield for instance, as it is bounded by London Road and Queens Road, which would be difficult to close.

Douglas Johnson says work is being done to make Sheffield's roads safer

New powers for council to fine for moving traffic offences

There are also hopes that taking tougher enforcement action could help with road safety – and council officials hope to take up new powers for their enforcement officers, which would allow them to issue fines that previously only the police have been allowed to dish out.

It would allow fines for drivers who cause a danger, giving council officers the power to fine motorists for parking on zig-zag lines outside schools and other offences described as moving traffic offences, under part six of the road traffic act.

He said he would be keen for Sheffield to take up those powers and it was important that things like parking on zig-zag lines were enforced.

"We will have to see if we can develop a scheme for that to take place,” he said.

He also believes current work to make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists would also improve safety.

Sheffield Council is spending millions of money from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund on a proposed scheme called Connecting Sheffield scheme.

The proposed first phase is creating walking and cycling routes in the city centre, and out to Kelham Island, Nether Edge, Tinsley and Darnall. But they have caused controversy through the closure of Pinstone Street to traffic, with some concerned that buses no longer stop there.

More cycle lanes and pedestrian routes

Coun Johnson said: “It’s about enabling an environment where it’s safer to walk and cycle. We’re getting millions of pounds from the Government so we can do those schemes. They’re about transforming cities. There are more people who would like to walk and cycle, but who don’t because they don’t feel safe.”

The idea would be for a safer place for people to walk and cycle. There will also be the Sheaf Valley route from Woodseats to Castlegate.

“These are massive road safety schemes,” he said. “It would represent a cycling infrastructure that the city has not had before.”

Coun Johnson believes it is not always about expensive schemes.

A petition was brought to the council on Wednesday asking for improvements at the junction of Hoober Road and Ecclesall Road. It was not among the worst blackspots in the city, but had sparked concerns and was a key route to a primary school.

He said it was hoped it may be fixed with changes like double yellow lines.

“It is always worth looking for an improvement,” he said.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription or buy a paper. Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor