Space for Cycling Sheffield: Cyclists reveal demands for change as hundreds join mass bike ride through city

Cyclists spoke out about the changes needed in Sheffield as they joined a mass bike ride through the city.

By Robert Cumber
Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 5:49 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th April 2022, 7:57 pm

Hundreds of riders of all ages took part in the Space for Cycling ride, organised by campaign group CycleSheffield, on Saturday, April 23.

The event was staged to highlight the need to improve cycle routes and other infrastructure across the city to make it safer for cyclists and get more people on their bikes.

The trill of bells marked the riders’ departure from Devonshire Green at 11.30am, as they headed out on all manner of bikes, including one pulling its own sound system and another lofty contraption with its seat some six feet off the ground.

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Elizabeth Larminie with her children at the Space for Cycling big bike ride through Sheffield

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Before they headed out, we caught up with some of those taking part to find out what’s top of their wishlist to make Sheffield a more bike-friendly city.

Dexter Johnstone, of CycleSheffield, said the event had been organised ahead of the local elections and the vote for the next South Yorkshire mayor, to impress upon candidates the need for improvements to help more people cycle and walk across the city safely.

"You have the Connecting Sheffield schemes in planning and there will inevitably be some kind of backlash to some of those schemes, because there always is,” he said.

Hugo Pullen and his specially elevated bike at the Space for Cycling big ride through Sheffield

“We want candidates and councillors to be strong because in the long-term, for many reasons, including climate change, air pollution, congestion and public health, we need to offer people better alternatives to just driving everywhere.”

He added: “We’ve started to see some good schemes being built in the city centre, like Grey to Green 2 along Castlegate, but we need high quality cycle routes into the city centre.

"We also need safe routes to Sheffield’s hospitals and better secure storage for bikes, especially in the city centre, because for a lot of people theft is a problem.”

The Connecting Sheffield project aims to help people get around more easily on foot, by bike and via public transport, and includes plans for ‘active neighbourhoods’ in Crookes and Nether Edge, as well as improvements to routes between Darnall, Neepsend, Nether Edge and the city centre.

Lindsay Snow with her child, Adrian, nine, at the Space for Cycling big bike ride through Sheffield

One of the more controversial measures has been the proposed creation of 12-hour bus lanes along Abbeydale Road and Ecclesall Road, consultation on which closed earlier this year.

Tim and Keriana Fish, from Sharrow, joined Saturday’s big ride with their daughters, Georgina, aged nine, and Maryanne, five.

“We end up driving more than we would like because it doesn’t feel safe to ride in many places,” they said.

"We need better cycle lanes that link up because at the moment they’re very disjointed, and ideally we want segregated cycle lanes that aren’t part of the road.

Dexter Johnstone, of CycleSheffield, at the Space for Cycling big ride through Sheffield

"How do we show our children that cycling’s safe, accessible and not more time-consuming than it needs to be unless we improve the infrastructure?”

Lindsay Snow, from Walkley, who was there with her child, Adrian, nine, told how one thing which didn’t help was the ‘them and us mentality’ in the UK which too often leaves cyclists exposed to unwarranted abuse from other road users.

She said recent changes to the Highway Code, introducing a heirarchy of road users, with greater protection for pedestrians and cyclists, had helped, but she would like to see more traffic calming measures on certain streets, including South Road, to slow cars down and make cyclists feel safer.

Hugo Pullen, from Meersbrook, caught the eye on his elevated bike, with the saddle some six feet off the ground.

He said: “We definitely need more protected bike lanes. I think Sheffield is middling when it comes to bike infrastructure in the UK. One of the problems is the inconsistency. You’ll have a couple of hundred metres of nice, protected cycle lane and all of a sudden you’re thrown back into the main stream of traffic.

"Not having protected cycle lanes is a real barrier to access. I really want to get my girlfriend into cycling and she’s all for it apart from the bit where you’re on the road among the traffic.”

Tim and Keriana Fish with their children, Georgina, nine, and Maryanne, five, at the Space for Cycling big ride through Sheffield

Elizabeth Larminie, from Broomhill, joined the ride with her husband Kevin Tarbutt and their children Josh, Emily and Oliver.

Asked what changes she would like to see, she said: “We need clear routes between all the major parts of the city. There are lots of bits which are quite good but they're not linked up and it can be so confusing.

"I really want to travel by bike more but it’s often mind-boggling and quite stressful trying to work out how to get from A to B safely.”

She described, as an example of what easily be achieved, how just a few simple changes could open up a safer route between Sheffield city centre and Broomhill. Those changes, she said, included unlocking a gate within the grounds of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and improving a tricky junction near Sheffield Girls’ School.

She also voiced her frustration that a large stretch of the Five Weirs Walk along the River Don remains closed some two and a half years after the route was badly damaged in the 2019 floods.

More than 400 people joined the big cycle ride, which is understood to be a record for the event.

The day was not just about campaigning for better cycling infrastructure, with a great atmosphere at the big get-together as cyclists chatted to one another while pedalling through the city centre and enjoyed music along the route.