Despite the colder, darker nights, the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive team are shining a light on why the region’s workforces should switch from four wheels to two. Sasha Mossman found out why the benefits of cycling ‘override any seasonal disadvantages’
As the weather gets colder and the nights get darker, Travel South Yorkshire’s Active and Sustainable Travel team can see why switching to cycling initially appear off-putting.
But the team’s region-wide programme of support for potential and existing cyclists proves there’s no better time to make the leap – and switch from four wheels to two.
The Active and Sustainable Travel team have begun providing bicycle training sessions available to everyone – from the novice rider through to the more confident cyclist who wants to become more advanced – on offer across South Yorkshire, with bikes provided at many of these sessions.
Marketing Manager Richard Pilgrim said: “There’s a lot of support for getting on to a bicycle – whether it’s for leisure or commuting – and a lot of these services can be accessed for free, thanks to support provided through the Department for Transport’s Sustainable Travel Access Fund (STAF).”
A key player in the drive to get the city cycling is Sheffield CycleBoost – a partnership between Sheffield City Council, Recycle Bikes and Pedal Ready – a bike loan and cycle training programme designed to promote active travel to businesses in the region.
The work done by the team isn’t just limited to Sheffield either – Barnsley has a designated Active Travel HUB located at Barnsley Interchange, providing services such as regular and electric bike loans, cycle repairs and parking and a regular walking group.
Similarly, Rotherham also has a mobile cycling HUB labelled Journey Matters, which is responsible for loans, repairs and parking as well as public and business events designed to provide advice for budding cyclists.
The scheme in Doncaster, in aims to give potential cyclists a ‘push’ into making the first step, has opened a 1km long, 6m wide cycle track at the Dome.
Richard said: “Beginning your journey into cycling in winter might sound ridiculous – darker nights and increased congestion are never appealing on a commute. However, the facilities offered in South Yorkshire for would-be cyclists far override any seasonal disadvantages.
“For women especially, cycling at night has never been easier – with ongoing support from the scheme, including the opportunity to use lights and high-viz.”
Earlier this year, Travel South Yorkshire undertook an ‘active travel’ survey in order to scope out the region’s attitudes to walking, cycling and public transport. Almost 1,000 members of the public took part, and the results showed that 49 per cent of people would consider cycling instead of doing short journeys – less than two miles – by car.
Additionally, 53 per cent of people surveyed felt confident in their cycling ability, and 35 per cent said they would cycle more if they could borrow or hire a suitable bike.
Getting into gear
Here some of the scheme’s beneficiaries tell us why it’s better by bike.
Rebecca Mews, Marketing and Digital Officer, SYPTE, Sheffield
Becca first developed a taste for cycling in February 2018 after attending a cycle training session with training providers Pedal Ready, where she learned skills to reduce hazards and improve safety.
Following a summer trip to France filled with cycling, the opportunity arose to loan an electric bike through Sheffield CycleBoost. After this, she switched her usual commute – using Park and Ride and Tram services – and instantly caught the cycling bug!
“My 2.6 mile commute to the office has now been cut down by over half the time. I’ve started to feel refreshed and alert arriving to work, plus I’ve gained lots of additional time in the mornings and after work”.
“I’m a strong advocate of cycling as a way of commuting and genuinely can’t see myself traveling in any other way.”
Louise Treloar, Communications Coordinator, Grimm & Co Apothecary, Rotherham
Louise was tired of the drive and frustrated by traffic particularly on the way home. Although not an inexperienced cyclist, she eventually decided to take up an e-bike loan through Journey Matters, using their cycling ‘buddy scheme’ on her first trip home and subsequently seeking their assistance with maintenance on the bike. She’s now averaging 80 bike miles a week and commutes by bike every day she can. As winter approached, Louise spoke to the Cycle Hub who provided her with some extra lights for her e-bike and she has also used the Journey Matters Mobile HUB to repair a slow puncture.
“The change has impacted positively in lots of ways – the quality of my journey is so much better.”
“Anyone considering making a change should take the plunge.”
Nicole Nation, Pedal Ready learner
At the start of this year, Nicole had never learned to cycle. Six months later and she’s taken part in three cycling events and is training for her biggest challenge yet. Whilst at university, Nicole saw free cycling classes advertised and decided to give it a go. Nicole is now so confident in her abilities that she regularly rides once a week with Pedal Ready and has taken part in three British Cycling events by herself.
For Nicole, there was a defining moment when she felt she had finally conquered her fear. “Riding for the first time through the city of Sheffield. It may seem trivial to some, however, as a student I was so used to walking the route to town. When I realised that I was actually doing it and cycling my way into town it was definitely a lightbulb moment for me.”
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