South Yorkshire Climate Alliance

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Transforming Urban Transport

Notes on debate and How to get involved

On 15 May, SYCA held a “Transforming Urban Transport” debate at Hallam University, as part of the Festival of Debate. We had speakers with a range of perspectives but all dedicated to seeking a better, healthier and more sustainable transport system.

Greg Marsden, an academic at Leeds University started by explaining that in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to meet our climate targets, car mileage will have to drastically reduce. In a world where a switch to electric cars and other ULEVs is so often claimed to be the answer, largely on its own, this was perhaps the most significant point raised on the night. Greg went on to describe the “Infuze” initiative. Its aim is to start with asking what a city would look like in which people did not need their own private car -as opposed to “can they live without one now?”. The five year project will go through stages of examining evidence, planning and undertaking localised trials of a range of potential partial solutions and assessing how much potential each would have on a national scale. It is accepted that the whole answer has not yet been found for providing adequate mobility by means which society is ready for.

Leigh Bramall, outlined the work of his consultancy, Counter Context, which has supported many local authorities to consult on sustainable transport schemes. This includes Sheffield, where there is a target to increase cycling by 300% and prioritise active travel and public transport modes. He stressed the importance of consulting and listening to local communities to help develop schemes.

Rizwana Lala of Medact described how the considerable health impacts of air pollution are worse in poorer areas, often with larger ethnic minorities. Encouraging people from childhood onwards to walk and cycle leads to health benefits through the physical activity too. Providing safe, high quality cycling infrastructure particularly benefits women.

Graham Jones of Burngreave Clean Air Campaign described how life expectancy there is ten years less than some more prosperous areas in Sheffield. It is home to many schools and the Northern General Hospital. It has both high air pollution and low car ownership. He feels it is a “sacrifice zone”, for example suffering higher levels of traffic now non-compliant cars avoid the city centre clean air zone.

Emily of Cycle Sheffield said cycling is a fun, liberating and healthy way to travel. But many people also consider it too dangerous to cycle. More high quality cycle lanes, physically separated from motor vehicle lanes, are needed to bring about a large increase in cycle journeys. Sheffield has had grants for cycle infrastructure but many schemes have not been completed.

Fran Postlethwaite of Better Buses South Yorkshire (BBSY) explained that decent public transport is essential for a sustainable transport system and improves equality by giving those without access to a private car the opportunity to get about. Yet South Yorkshire’s bus services are unreliable and under-funded. BBSY is campaigning to take buses under public control, with a franchising system being the first step. The group was set up in 2020 and has run a hugely popular campaign, with many rallies outside the regional mayor’s offices being effective in moving these aims along.

Getting Involved : If you would like to get involved in supporting sustainable transport, all the above campaign organisations have either websites or Facebook groups. Alternatively, e-mail . We can initiate lobbying at local, regional and occasionally, national levels. We expect to be participating in a nationwide campaign calling on MPs to ensure national policy is reset such that transport policies match climate ambitions, in the near future. We can also become more involved around the difficult decisions which need to be addressed locally, communicating the reasoning behind local initiatives and listening to people’s concerns, as our capacity allows. Please get in touch if you would like to know more !