Ahead of her highly anticipated appearance at our National Walking Summit in Manchester, Paralympian and Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region, Dame Sarah Storey, outlines why embedding walking in transport planning benefits us all - and how her team is planning to do it.

Dame Sarah Storey
Pledge event

Since my appointment as Active Travel Commissioner of the Sheffield City Region, I have been more aware than ever of the lack of priority given to pedestrians in the vast majority of places.

Just this morning, exiting the station to head for the office, I found that the most direct route required a run across four lanes of traffic. I either had to double back a significant distance to the only crossing for a long stretch, or climb the hill to the pedestrian bridge and walk out of my way in another direction before doubling back.

Along the stretch of road there were opportunities for pedestrian crossings to be included in the vehicle junctions, but no push button option to stop the traffic because I assume this would have negatively affected traffic flow, which is the ultimate priority of most places.

The value of the time and energy of people walking is completely overlooked in terms of transport planning, but we should be able to calculate the importance of getting a train load of commuters safely across a four-lane road and into the city centre. Pedestrians rarely take up space, except when they are waiting in large groups to cross a road.

For disabled people, the picture is even worse. They are often forced in to using a vehicle to travel because the pavements are blocked by parked cars or crossings are dangerous to navigate if you’re using a wheelchair or visually impaired.

If we value the short journeys being done on foot or by bike, then we will ease the demand for space on our roads as people can choose to leave their cars

Dame Sarah Storey

National Walking Summit

You can hear more from Dame Sarah and other active travel commissioners from around the UK at our National Walking Summit on 6 March.

More about our Summit

When Mayor Dan Jarvis appointed me as Active Travel Commissioner of the Sheffield City Region there was a blank slate from which to start shaping the future of walking and cycling. 

Since then, we have been building our vision for what South Yorkshire’s 2040 Active Travel Network will look like. Our network will prioritise people over cars, will be convenient, connected, safe, and suitable for all.

To help us build our vision for the 2040 Network, we launched the SCR Active Travel Interactive Map. The map gives the public an opportunity share their experiences of walking and cycling in the places they live, work and spend their leisure time.

Whether it is a poorly designed crossing point, a dangerous road with speeding traffic, an unnecessary narrowing of the pavement, or a place where parked cars are causing danger, every comment is valuable in helping to shape the future of the walking and cycling in South Yorkshire.

We also want to hear about places with good infrastructure and if there is an example of where something has been designed well.

To build our network, we need a sustained and consistent funding stream that prioritises walking and cycling. There needs to be an acceptance that planning for the roads means planning for all users - regardless of the purpose of the journey.

Have your say

Screengrab of the Sheffield map tool

Share you experiences on the SCR Active Travel Interactive Map and find out more about the Sheffield City Region’s Active Travel plans at sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/cyclewalkscr or by following @CycleWalkSCR on Twitter.

Across the country millions of journeys of less than 1km are completed each day.

Each of these could be easily done within 15 minutes on foot or by bike. If we value these short journeys, then we will ease the demand for space on our roads as people can choose to leave their cars.

For too long the needs of people on foot or on bikes have been overlooked in favour of creating quicker journey times for private cars. We must stop seeing pedestrians as an inconvenience and car must no longer be king.

By planning for people, not cars, our roads will become less polluted, our population will become healthier and our streets will become much more pleasant places to be.

What you can do