Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Sheffield Cabinet Member Appointments – Trying to make sense of it all

Sheffield Council has a new cabinet! But is it clear who has responsibility for what?

  • Leader of the Council- Councillor Julie Dore
  • Finance and Resources- Councillor Ben Curran
  • Business Skills and Development- Councillor Leigh Bramall
  • Housing- Councillor Jayne Dunn
  • Neighbourhoods- Councillor Isobel Bowler
  • Environment and Transport- Councillor Terry Fox
  • Health, Care and Independent Living- Councillor Mary Lea
  • Public Health and Equality- Councillor Mazher Iqbal
  • Children, Young People and Families- Councillor Jackie Drayton

Cabinet Member Responsibilities, published 13th May 2015

Seems simple enough right? Not really!

The council press release is very ambiguous over who exactly is doing what, there seem to be shared roles, roles with titles that don’t actually include that responsibility and unfilled roles.

In Sheffield there is a “Leader’s Scheme of Delegation of Executive Functions” which explains how all of this works. This is what I’ve been able to cobble together.

Official Roles – Taken from The Leader’s Scheme of Delegation of Executive Functions Nov 2014 Name from Press Release Position from Press Release
Chair of Cabinet and Leader of the Council Councillor Julie Dore Leader of the Council
Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development (Portfolio includes planning and transport) Councillor Leigh Bramall Business Skills and Development
Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families Councillor Jackie Drayton Children, Young People and Families
Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Heath (Portfolio includes the Voluntary, Community and Faith sectors and libraries) Councillor Mazher Iqbal Public Health and Equality
Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure (Portfolio includes parks and positive activities for young people)
Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene (Portfolio includes climate change, waste management and the ‘Streets Ahead’ project) Councillor Terry Fox Environment and Transport
Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources (Portfolio includes performance) Councillor Ben Curran Finance and Resources
Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Independent Living (Portfolio includes adult services) Councillor Mary Lea Health, Care and Independent Living
Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods (Portfolio includes housing, safety and regeneration) Councillor Jayne DunnCouncillor Isobel Bowler HousingNeighbourhoods

Councillor Mazher Iqbal is down as “public health and equality”, the closest official post I can find is “Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Heath”. Where has communities gone? Equality isn’t mentioned in the official role responsibilities.

There is no Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure as best I can tell. Who’s going to do that job?

Councillor Terry Fox is down as “Environment and Transport” but the closest role I can find is “Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene (Portfolio includes climate change, waste management and the ‘Streets Ahead’ project)”. So where has recycling gone? And why is transport listed in the press release? It’s clear from Councillor Leigh Bramall’s role that he has responsibility for transport “Cabinet Member for Business, Skills and Development (Portfolio includes planning and transport)”.

And then Councillors Jayne Dunn and Isobel Bowler each have responsibility for Housing and Neighbourhoods respectively, however there only seems to be a single role available which is “Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods (Portfolio includes housing, safety and regeneration)”. Are they going to share that role?

I’m not aware that the Leader’s Scheme of Delegation has changed. There seems to be a lot of ambiguity here.

The detailed responsibilities for each role are Sheffield – Leaders Scheme of Delegation Nov 2014 – Cabinet Roles (taken from the Leader’s Scheme of Delegation)

 

Cycle lanes on the outside parked cars, a recipe for disaster

A couple of video’s of some new cycle lanes in Sheffield. These have been built in the past couple of weeks.

Let’s be honest, you’d have to be insane to think that this is even remotely safe.

This road has 6 lanes for driving, one for parking, 4 for driving along and one for turning. The people in charge have decided that the best place for people cycling is in-between parked cars, and traffic.

A much better place would be behind the parked cars, between the footpath and the parking bays. Why not do it like this?

Cycling in Utrecht

Cycling in Utrecht

We’re all taught to leave plenty of room when cycling past parked cars in case a door opens and you get knocked into the path of heavy traffic. But why are our roads even designed with this being a possibility? Swap the lanes around, put the cycle lane behind parked cars and this risk just goes away.

If a door opens you fall onto the pavement instead of in front of a truck. But it’s easier to avoid this and cycle further away because cycling away from car doors in this arrangement doesn’t mean cycling in the way of heavy traffic!

We need to start thinking differently, start making small changes and start to design our roads like this.

Cycling in Utrecht

Cycling in Utrecht

Cycling in Assen

Cycling in Assen

The latest on 20mph in Sheffield, Hackenthorpe, not outside Rainbow Forge Primary School where over 50% of traffic already breaks the 30mph speed limit

20mph Space for cyclingA 20mph area has been proposed for Hackenthorpe in Sheffield and the final decision on it was taken a couple of weeks ago. Local councillors, presumably responding to discussions with residents, asked for the speed limits of two main roads in the area to be included.

Sheffield Road and Beighton Road, one of two through routes that divide the area (the other being Birley Spa Lane) were originally omitted from the potential 20mph area. Local ward members felt that residents should be consulted on their inclusion. A further letter was delivered to all properties in the area explaining this additional proposal.

rainbow forgeRainbow Forge Primary School has their main entrance on Beighton Road, 71% of pupils walk to school. They say that there have been “numerous near misses or minor accidents” and that “the speed of drivers is usually the cause.” The school identified that the speeds of motor traffic outside their school causes parental anxiety, reduces safety and prevents more people from walking to school.

The primary school supported the 20mph limit outside their school.

As a school with a main entrance on to Beighton Road, we fully support the proposed 20mph speed limit. The road is a bus route and is very busy at peak hour times. Our parents park on the road as we have no parking area, so this adds to the congestion during school drop off and pick up. During this time there have been numerous near misses or minor accidents and the speed of drivers is usually the cause.

Not only are parents trying to safely help their children in and out of the parked cars, we also have a number of families and older children who walk along the road, or who need to cross the road on their journey home. Our most recent ‘travel to school survey’ (January 2012) showed that the vast majority of our pupils (71%) walk to school. A lower speed limit, both on Beighton Road and in the wider Hackenthorpe area, would make this journey safer for our children and families, reducing anxiety for parents and help to ensure that no one is injured. We hope that this will help encourage more pupils and parents to walk to school in future.

Head Teacher, Rainbow Forge Primary School

southyorkshire police crestHowever, South Yorkshire Police didn’t support the proposals. They said that “[vehicle] speeds on Beighton Road and Sheffield Road do not fall within the DFT recommended guidelines of 24mph. In fact all three sets old data show that well over 50% of vehicles exceed the current 30mph speed limit on this road with the 85th %ile travelling 37mph/38mph.” The officer writing the response said that when he visited the site “The speed of the vehicle in front going uphill from Moss Way was in the region of 32 to 35mph. However, vehicles travelling down the bottom section towards Moss Way were in excess of 50mph.”

South Yorkshire Police submitted a formal objection to a 20mph speed limit on the two main roads included in the plans (included because residents and local councillors asked for them).

[Available speed data] shows that the speeds on Beighton Road and Sheffield Road do not fall within the DFT recommended guidelines of 24mph. In fact all three sets old data show that well over 50% of vehicles exceed the current 30mph speed limit on this road with the 85th %ile travelling 37mph/38mph.

There is obviously a long term issue with speed on this road. I also noticed that there is a vehicle activated sign on Beighton Road, which would confirm this. Within the guidance for setting local speed limits, it does state that where there is poor compliance with an existing speed limit on a road, or stretch of road, the reason for the non-compliance should be examined before a solution sought.

I visited the site last week and followed vehicles travelling up and down the road. The speed of the vehicle in front going uphill from Moss Way was in the region of 32 to 35mph. However, vehicles travelling down the bottom section towards Moss Way were in excess of 50mph. I would say, that the road layout on this bottom section of Beighton Road did not make this speed feel uncomfortable at that time.

As this proposed extension to the 20mph zone is unlikely to be self-enforcing without some major engineering works, and does not fall anywhere near the DFT recommended guidelines of 24mph, and that to achieve compliance there should be no expectation on the police to provide additional enforcement beyond their routine activity. I feel that we must formally object to this section of Sheffield Road and Beighton Road being included within the 20mph zone.

South Yorkshire Police

The council say that “people contacting the council to express a view regarding the proposals for Sheffield Road and Beighton Road have generally been supportive” of the ideas. However they say that “[council] officers share the concerns of the police and objectors regarding its inclusion within the 20mph speed limit area”.

Whilst acknowledging that people contacting the council to express a view regarding the proposals for Sheffield Road and Beighton Road have generally been supportive, officers share the concerns of the police and objectors regarding its inclusion within the 20mph speed limit area.

Sheffield City Council

There’s a lot of discussion in the report about why the officers are concerned, these include DfT guidance, talking to other local authorities, and the need for speed limits to be realistic, for speed to be reduced to an acceptable level, ‘complementary traffic calming measures’ would be needed, and there is no funding for this.

In the absence of funding for complementary traffic calming measures a 20mph limit would be artificially low and likely to result in excessive abuse and bring 20mph limits in general into disrepute the existing speeds.

Sheffield City Council

However, an alternative option is considered, and that is to provide an advisory, part time, 20mph speed limit. An advisory speed limit!

school 20mphWhilst officers cannot recommend the introduction of a 20mph speed limit along the full length of Sheffield Road and Beighton Road, improving the safety of school children remains one of the key objectives of the Sheffield 20mph Speed Limit Strategy. The Strategy expressly provides for the introduction of a localised, part-time speed limit around the entrance to a school that is located on a road that is otherwise unsuitable for a 20mph speed limit. This is the approach that officers recommend – the introduction of a part time, advisory 20mph speed limit centred around the entrance to Rainbow Forge Primary School as shown in Appendix C

Sheffield City Council

It’s clear to me that there are problems with our approach to traffic safety on main roads.

Local residents know that something is wrong and want change. We have funding to provide 20mph speed limits, but these will only be placed where average speeds are less than 24mph. We will provide advisory speed limit signs where speeds are too high, but it’s not clear to me what benefit an advisory speed limit will provide if people can ignore it.

For main roads we need to provide physical traffic calming measures, but the funding isn’t there for these. And we have key destinations (schools, shops, workplaces) positioned along these main roads that people have to get to, and won’t be moved in a hurry.

It’s a chicken and egg scenario. The trouble of living somewhere where more cars leads to more fear, which leads to more cars. And not being able to do anything about it.

The report I’ve been quoting from is here.

Crossing the road in Tilburg

Last week I was in Tilburg in The Netherlands. There is a pedestrian crossing which has all the good features every crossing should have and I thought I’d share a few photos and a video of it. Streetview link.

I was immediately struck by the width of the crossing, as well as the long crossing phases and the short time people had to wait before being able to cross.

wpid-p1130861.jpg

 

wpid-p1130881.jpg

wpid-p1130855.jpg

In summary, it is direct, convenient and responsive.

  • The crossing has a very short cycle and almost 50% of the time is given to the crossing phase.
  • The crossing is very wide, it has a huge capacity and suits all pedestrian desire lines.
  • The crossing is direct, people can cross in one go without having to cross to an intermediate island.
  • The crossing has countdown timers for the wait and crossing phases.
  • Bicycles can cross the crossing as well as pedestrians. There are cycle tracks on each side of the road behind the crossing meaning that bikes never have to wait at a red signal.

YouTube video link

This is the sort of crossing that I think we should be attempting to imitate as part of the Sheffield University Masterplan across Western Bank.

Sheffield University Masterplan - Convenient well placed crossings on desire lines.

Sheffield University Masterplan – Convenient well placed crossings on desire lines.

As an aside, it seemed to me that there was far too much motor traffic using this road in the centre of town, it’d be a much more pleasant place if there was less of it.

Institution of Civil Engineers – State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014 – Active Travel

BnLJfhP3Today the Institution of Civil Engineers has released their State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014 report and it calls on the UK government to embrace cycling as a mainstream travel choice. It is well worth reading the section on Local Transport Networks, it makes rather depressing reading.

Well done ICE for highlighting and supporting these issues.

Both walking and cycling have an important role in shorter trips for joining up public transport journeys, alongside associated health and well-being benefits. Traditionally most of the benefits of transport infrastructure projects have been associated with reductions in travel time; however, studies suggest that active travel should be considered as a positive aspect in infrastructure appraisals.

Walking is often neglected in transport debates yet still accounts for around one-quarter of trips and is the second most common mode of commuting. Environments that are attractive to pedestrians are often also attractive places to live, work, shop and socialise. ICE would like to see walking promoted through better streetscape management, including wider, better-lit and better-maintained pavements and public realm. There should also be a reduction in unnecessary street furniture, traffic-calming and other measures to make existing environments more pedestrian-friendly.

The UK ranks 24th in the EU for the percentage of its population cycling daily, yet cycling could make a much greater contribution to our travel. It reduces pressure on road space and the need for parking, and improves public health; but despite a relatively high public profile and encouraging words from Government, there has been much less meaningful action. ICE recommends that transport policy should embrace cycling as a mainstream travel choice and address the barriers to achieving this by:
Committing to clear national objectives and targets
Increasing funding to ensure development of high quality networks in major urban areas
Taking action to improve cycle safety and perceptions of safety

Government bans use of CCTV ‘spy cars’ for on-street parking

Use of closed circuit television spy cars on their own to enforce on-street parking made illegal.
In a victory for drivers and shoppers, the government will make it illegal to use closed circuit television (CCTV) ‘spy cars’ alone to enforce on-street parking ending the plague of parking tickets by post, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced today (21 June 2014).

gov.uk press release

We’ve been campaigning for tougher enforcement of parking offenses for a long time. Banning the use of CCTV, discounts for appeals and freezing penalty notice fees reduces our ability to protect infrastructure designed to enable people to use a bike.

Illegal parking on Asline Road cycle track

Coaches blocking Asline Road cycle track in Sheffield

South Yorkshire Police directed these coaches to park here

Illegal parking on Clarkhouse Road cycle lane

Illegal parking on Castle Street cycle lane.

Blocked - The taxi drivers use the cycle lane as an extension of the taxi rank

Blocked – The taxi drivers use the cycle lane as an extension of the taxi rank

Leigh Bramall’s Standard Reply to Cycling Contacts

I’m just posting this here for the record!

In Sheffield, including the implementation of new 20mph areas, we are spending over £1m in the coming year making improvements to our cycle infrastructure.

We have set out a policy that will ultimately see all suitable residential areas have a 20 mph speed limit, and the Streets Ahead programme to bring all our pavements and roads up to a good standard will make the cycle offer easier, as well as offering the opportunity for further improvements to our cycling infrastructure.  In addition, we are developing plans for a network of Green Routes that will provide off road cycling routes using our green spaces and parks to provide safe cycling paths along key corridors for commuting and leisure uses.

We have also recently facilitated a Scrutiny Committee investigation into how cycling can be improved in the city.   From this, we aim to identify a single strategic cycle network using both on-street  and off-road routes that will work together to offer safe cycling conditions for all types of cyclist.  Links to the report are below.  The Cabinet of Sheffield City Council has received the report and will be considering the recommendations prior to commenting on the report in July this year.  The Labour Council is committed to continuing to look at this and other ways of improving the city to make cycling an attractive option.

“The [bikeability] course is not aimed at encouraging children to cycle to school alone”

Freedom for families

Freedom for families – Postcard courtesy of Cycle Embassy of Great Britain

Bikeability training is due to start later this month at Dobcroft Junior School in Sheffield. A letter was sent to parents of children taking part which includes advice on allowing children to cycle to school alone.

Please note that the course is not aimed at encouraging children to cycle to school alone. Because of the heavy traffic conditions and parking problems surrounding our school, we expect parents to accompany their children who may wish to cycle to school in future.

It is the responsibility of our MPs and Local Councillors to change these conditions so that children can cycle to school alone safely. Sheffield Council’s current programs for improving conditions for cycling are woefully inadequate and this letter shows how far we still have to go. By investing in training children to how to cycle, but failing to provide the infrastructure necessary to support them we are simply wasting our time.

We need to transform Sheffield into a place where people of all ages are free to walk or ride a bike without being fearful. We can do this by changing the way we think about designing our roads, by prioritising the needs of people rather than allowing the car to become the only realistic choice.

Thanks to Edale Skyline on Twitter for sharing this.

Letter to parents from Dobcroft Junior School in Sheffield, Please note that the course is not aimed at encouraging children to cycle to school alone. Because of the heavy traffic conditions and parking problems surrounding our school, we expect parents to accompany their children who may wish to cycle to school in future.

Letter to parents from Dobcroft Junior School in Sheffield, Please note that the course is not aimed at encouraging children to cycle to school alone. Because of the heavy traffic conditions and parking problems surrounding our school, we expect parents to accompany their children who may wish to cycle to school in future. Courtesy of Edale Skyline

Labe (Guinea) to Mamou (Guinea)

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, I survived the Guinea mountains and have now descended back to sea level and am in Sierra Leone.

I left Labe back on 7th January and headed for a town called Pita. I really liked Labe, the place I stayed was nice and quiet, with good food, cold beers and little tweeting birds in the trees, but it was a little bit expensive, especially for Guinea. But they did have hot running water! Each room had a hot water tank fed by a home made boiler, copper piping inside an old oil drum filled with water, and heated by a big charcoal fire underneath.

I went to the post office to post a letter to Emma (just to see what it was like and how long it would take). It was a big tumbledown colonial building with a huge counter with a lady behind. It took her about 5 minutes to look up how many stamps she needed to sell me, she kept them in her handbag! She didnt have any change for my money so had to nip to the shop over the road before she could give me my change (a very frequent occurance here).

While I was writing the letter at the counter a couple of people who ran a stationary business in the corner invited me to eat lunch with them. This kept happening in Guinea! We sat around a big bowl of very nice rice and groundnut soup in the corner of the post office, eating lunch! I’ve had lunch in a post office, in a remote village, and in the back of a petrol station, all spontaneously invited!

After Labe I stayed at a place in Pita called Chez Sister, a few km out of town. It was run by a Guinean lady and her Welsh husband, Captain Dave as he likes to be called! A retired Royal Navy captain with endless stories to tell about smuggling, people trafficking, drugs, weapons and even the eventual arrest of Charles Taylor! He’d been part of the British fleet patrolling the West African coast during the Sierra Leone civil war.

In Guinea they have good coffee everywhere. Normally made over a charcoal fire in a french stovetop coffee pot to make really strong espresso. Its kept hot in big thermos flasks and costs about 4p per cup! But as with all hot drinks in West Africa, they drink it with an unhealthy amount of sugar! I could stop at any roadside shack or cafe and find good coffee! I much prefer it to the sweetenned condensed milk variety in Guinea Bissau or the really spicy cafe touba I had in Senegal.

From Pita I cycled to Dalaba. It was a tough days riding, hilly, hot, but spectacular scenery through the mountains. I felt really ill after arriving and was sick all night, I felt better the next afternoon but still not 100%. I assumed that I’d got heat exhaustion, hadnt been drinking enough, or that I’d eaten or drunk something bad. I had a stomache ache and headache but pushed onto Mamou a few days later. Again great cycling through good scenery, one huge hill to get out of town but after that it was fairly easy going, more rolling hills than big mountain passes.

I stayed at a forestry school just outside of town. After speaking to Emma about still not feeling very well, I went into town to try and find somewhere to get tested for malaria…

I asked at a pharmacy who recomended a small clinic in town. I had a very strange consultaion where they weighed me, made me lie down on a very short bed (it was the size and height of a table!), took my blood pressure and my temperature using an armpit thermometer! They took a short history but I’m not really sure they recorded much of it.

They sent me over the road to a dodgy looking apartment/office block to have a blood test. No electricity here, no running water, but clean sterile needles and a microscope was on the desk. I gave some blood which was mixed with a few different chemicals. About an hour later after some microscope viewing we went back to the clinic over the road.

They brought out the record book for my appointment and said “these are the drugs you need to take” and pointed to a list of 4 words! Eventually it transpired that they’d diagnosed me with malaria, typhoid, lack of appetite and a headache, and had prescribed drugs for all, including a big bottle of appetite stimulant and paracetamol for the headache!

They’d only written down the brandnames of the drugs on the form which meant I had no idea what I was being prescribed! I asked to see the drugs and they brought out medicine that I was familiar with and could double check! A quick internet search later, I had some well recomended malaria treatment and some antibiotics for the typhoid. I don’t think they were planning on explaining how to take the treatment until I pushed them, even then they didnt really seem to know any of the details, just expecting me to read the leaflet with the drugs!

I really would have serious concerns going to a place like this for any sort of illness that required more treatment than common off the shelf drugs. They must prescribe these drugs relatively frequently but they didnt even seem to have much knowledge of them.

So I bought the drugs and started taking them. The next day I felt remarkedy better, completely healed! I stayed in Mamou for a few days until I had finished the malaria treatment.

After reading up about typhoid, I dont think I actually had it. The test they conducted involves checking for typhoid antibiodies in the blood, and given that I had a typhoid vaccination just a couple of months ago, I think they misdiagnosed me. They didnt ask me if I’d had a vaccination, didnt tell me they were testing me for typhoid, and I only realised afterwards that the test might have been invalid. But I’ve nearly finished the course of antibiotics, I figured that it probably wouldnt do any harm.

At the forestry school in Mamou I met three peace corps volunteers who’d come back from a training event in Conakary (the capital of Guinea). We went out for dinner together and to a small bar
afterwards. They were all fairly new to the peace corps, only a few months in. They each lived in a different village in Guinea on their own, working with the local community in teaching, or farming, completely immersed in local life and fairly isolated. I think they said that they each have a 2 year placement, its quite a commitment! With the introduction of mobile phones here, they were able to keep in touch with each other and meet up every few weeks in one of the bigger towns.

I left Mamou a while ago now and crossed the border into Sierra Leone, but that will have to wait for another blog post.

I really loved Guinea, the people were very friendly, the scenery was stunning, the roads mostly good and they had some basic facilities which are rare in this part of the world, a few hours of electricity each night, running water and solar street lights. These seem to be unheard of luxuaries in Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, the two neighboring countries I’ve seen. I’d like to go back to Guinea and explore a bit more.