Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis says he’s been inspired by Chris Boardman’s work in Greater Manchester and wants to get more people in the region walking and cycling Jarvis said he will appointing an Active Travel Commissioner, a role similar to Boardman’s role as Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling commissioner
Writing in today’s Yorkshire Post the Labour MP said active travel had a "host of benefits".
He stressed that walking and cycling "leads to cleaner air and improved physical and mental health," adding that "the Mental Health Foundation has found that physical activity can be as effective as medication and counselling. It has also been proven to reduce obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which is the highest cause of death in the UK."
He continued: "As people increasingly find it difficult to fit exercise into their daily routine, small changes in the way we travel will make a real impact on our health. What’s more, it can help you save money, it can help businesses reduce days lost to employee ill-health and it can reduce the pressures on public services – not least our NHS.
"In fact, the Department for Transport’s own figures show that active travel schemes can generate a return on investment many times higher than a lot of road building schemes."
This is a reference to the DfT’s findings that cycling schemes have off-the-scale benefit-to-cost ratios.
"But if we want to help more people get active, then we need to make sure walking and cycling are safe, easy and enjoyable options," pressed Jarvis.
"It means having a proper network of routes that people want to use, whether that is as part of their daily commute or simply to get outdoors and enjoy our amazing local environment. The time to act is now."
He said he would be working with the "best people in the field", including Professor Steve Haake, from Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellness Research Centre. He will charged to review active travel strategies from around the world and identify examples of best practice.
"We can then use these examples to inform our own decision-making here in the Sheffield City Region," said Jarvis.
He has promised to stage a summit to discuss plans and gather views from academics, policy experts, sustainable transport groups, local residents and other stakeholders.
"And I will ensure that any devolved Transforming Cities Fund resources include a focus on the promotion of active travel," said Jarvis. He also announced that he would be appointing an Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region.
The commissioner will be charged with emulating the "fantastic work being done by Olympic gold medal cyclist Chris Boardman in Greater Manchester," said Jarvis.
"Last week I met Mayor Andy Burnham to learn more about [Greater Manchester’s] planned “Beelines” network of safe walking and cycle routes, and will be using this example to inform changes we could make here in South Yorkshire."
The Metro Mayor added: "I want employers to get involved by providing secure cycle parking for their staff, changing and shower facilities, and to look at incentives for those employees who travel on foot or by bike."
And he will lead by example: "This week I was pleased to collect my own Mayoral bike, on loan from a local independent bike company."
"And it’s also important that local authorities across our region prioritise active travel, ensuring that cycle routes, safe crossings and pedestrian spaces are designed into future developments," said Jarvis.
He concluded that he wants to create a region where "active travel becomes embedded in our culture."