tram Uncategorized

Irresponsible and dangerous workmanship on Sheffield tram track replacement


A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the dangers posed to cycling from tram tracks. I quoted from a Sheffield Council investigation into the safety of cycling around tram tracks. The report mentions the need for good quality road surfaces around tram lines.

In most documents regarding on-street cycle lanes it is specifically recommended that maintenance of the surface should be of primary importance, as cyclists are particularly sensitive to the quality of a road surface. Whilst in practice this is rarely implemented due to financial constraints, throughout the tram route the road has been remade and the surface re-laid and so is generally in good condition and can be expected to remain so for a number of years to come.

The rails have recently been being replaced in on street sections, this is what the on road tram tracks look like today on West Street in Sheffield City Centre.

P1080553 (Large) P1080551 (Large) P1080555 (Large) P1080534 (Large) P1080545 (Large) P1080537 (Large) P1080532 (Large)

The tram tracks should look like this.P1080543 (Large)It is now extremely dangerous to cycle around these tram tracks. There are now huge grooves running in the direction of travel parallel to the tram tracks. When cyclists comes across these they will be in serious danger.

Who is responsible? All of the companies charged with maintaining our roads. Stagecoach Supertram, South Yorkshirie Passenger Transport Executive, South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority and Sheffield City Council. All the responsible authorities should be ashamed of themselves for taking this insane risk with the safety of anyone who cycles along this road.





Aldgate gyratory and a separated cycle track gone wrong

A few weeks ago I joined the London Cycling Campaign protest ride in London to call for dedicated space for cycling. The ride happened because a lady was killed while cycling along Whitechapel High Street.

London Cycling Campaign Space For Cycling Protest Ride
London Cycling Campaign Space For Cycling Protest Ride

On my way to the ride I encountered Aldgate gyratory for the very first time (I’d read about this junction and plans to improve it but had never paid much attention). My initial reaction to encountering the junction was to get off my bike and push around.

I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a more hostile looking piece of road.

Aldgate gyratory
Aldgate gyratory

I found it quite difficult even to walk around because the obvious crossing points were blocked by fencing.

Pushing not allowed?
Pushing not allowed?

Others had mastered the art of fence jumping and traffic dodging.

P1080298P1080297I encountered a segregated cycle track on one of the exits (Dukes Place).

Cycle track on Dukes Place
Cycle track on Dukes Place

I couldn’t believe what I saw though, the track ended just before a bus stop which lead to significant conflict when people rejoined the normal road from the bike track.


Is this a prime candidate for a bus stop bypass? Are there plans to improve the design of this track?

Castle Street

Formal warnings issued to Taxi drivers for parking on Sheffield cycle lane at Castle Street

I’ve written about Castle Street cycle lane repeatedly over the past year. It’s frequently used by taxi’s and the police as a place to park causing an obstruction to all vehicles on the road and especially anyone trying to use the contraflow bicycle 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

A story has appeared in today’s local paper the Sheffield Star on page 4 about the next Taxi Licensing Enforcement review which features Castle Street.

They reveal that 201 warning letters have been issued to drivers since September 2012 and that “Most warnings related to drivers waiting to pick up passengers on Castle Street, where 118 warning letters were sent out for ‘causing a hazard or obstruction’ to pedestrians, cyclists and buses.”

The council report states:

Taxi ReportThis area continues to be of concern for cyclists and a number of warning letters and formal warnings have been issued to drivers who have repeatedly transgressed in this particular area.

118 warning letters and 2 Defect notices have been issued to drivers in this period of enforcement activity, for causing a hazard or obstruction on this particular road.

5 Formal warnings have been issued, these are issued to drivers who have transgressed in this particular area before and are warned that further problems may lead to a Licensing Sub Committee referral for persistent contraventions.

I’ll plan to go to the meeting on Thursday (where this will be discussed) and ask them to step up proactive monitoring of this site so that I don’t need to report so many incidents. I plan to invite the department to join me for 30 minutes one day to observe the behavior of drivers on Castle Street.

Good progress I think.


Sheffield City Region LEP announce preliminary list of Major Transport Schemes


logo-960Today the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership has announced their preferred list of major transport schemes.

This has come about because the Sheffield City Region has secured devolved powers to develop and fund major transport schemes in the area from the Department for Transport. We (the Local Transport Body) now gets to choose the major transport schemes in it’s area with far less control from the Department for Transport.

The Local Transport Body (LTB) is the body responsible for making and overseeing key infrastructure investment decisions in the Sheffield City Region.

The Local Transport Body gives a worrying vision for transport by showing an image of an M1 junction at the very top of their webpage. I hope they can see past the big trunk road schemes and put large investment into local and sustainable transport (rather than just focusing on the needs of hauliers, distributors and big business).

The schemes put forward today as priorities are a mixed bag for the people of Sheffield and improving transport.

Image from the top of the Sheffield City Region LTB Webpage -
Image from the top of the Sheffield City Region LTB Webpage –

Of the 19 schemes given priority, 4 are within the Sheffield Local Authority area.

#3, Sheffield City Centre

Infrastructure works to support delivery of New Retail Quarter, Central Business District, Riverside Business District and university development. Investment includes bringing forward a number of key city centre sites, refurbishment, development and consolidation of university campus buildings, train station access improvements, walking and cycling enhancements, public realm, housing, Hillsborough – Penistone Rd key bus route.

If done well, this could be a good scheme. The recent draft Sheffield City Centre Masterplan was lacking on encouraging cycling and instead focused on pedestrianisation of the City Centre (with the exclusion of cyclists), we’ll see how this evolves.

Penistone Road
Penistone Road

Onto Penistone Road, National Cycle Network Route 627 runs along this road and provides a safe (even if it could do with improving) alternative to the less busy but dangerous (because of tram tracks) Langsett Road.

Sheffield City Council have been awarded £3million from the DfT Pinch Points fund to develop the Penistone Road highway but have so far been uncooperative in releasing information about exactly what this scheme involves. Just like before, we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out.

#9 Upper Don Valley

Infrastructure and facilities to open up for inward investment Claywheels Lane Industrial Estate and Parkwood Springs Business Park. Includes a series of junction improvements and site access roads.

5 Signals for the bicycles and pedestrians, 1 for the cars Clay Wheels Lane Junction Redesign
5 Signals for the bicycles and pedestrians, 1 for the cars
Clay Wheels Lane Junction Redesign

This scheme worries me. Sheffield City Council have already shown that they have no appetite for considering walking and cycling in this area viable by approving schemes like the Clay Wheels Lane widening and junction redevelopment designed and funded by Sainsburys. Clay Wheels Lane is part of the Sheffield National Cycle Network route 627 however there are plans to develop a business/industrial park along this road. The plans for cycling on Clay Wheels Lane so far have been abysmal, I don’t hold out much hope but would be very happy to be proved wrong. This scheme links into #3 above, both Claywheels Lane and Parkwood Springs are off of Penistone Road.

#11 Lower Don Valley (Waverly)

Highway, community and green infrastructures and utility services to accelerate the delivery of a mixed use site. Highway investment includes Waverley Link Road, Widening of the A630 to dual 3-lane between the M1 Junction 33 and the Catcliffe Interchange, Bridge maintenance scheme at critical location on A630 Sheffield Parkway.

 This seems like a typical road congestion alleviation scheme – I know very little about this area of Sheffield.

#15 Lower Don Valley (Sheffield)

Enabling works / infrastructure for two 20Ha sites. Development of over 1000 homes and retail and commercial centre, Bus Rapid Transport South.

BRTSouthLargeMapThis is an interesting sounding scheme that I know very little about. I believe it involves the widening and introduction of a bus lane along The Parkway in Sheffield – a road where cycling and walking is not permitted. More information is here.


Sheffield fails to bid for Cycle City Ambition Grant money

P1050814.resizedIn January 2013 Norman Baker launched the Cycle City Ambition Grants, £30 million (later upped to £77 million, later upped by £114 million more) of funding for cities that showed the ambition to “make cycling easier and safer for people throughout England”

Sheffield was the only large city that failed to submit a bid.

What does this mean? Are Sheffield City Council and our Regional Transport ITA just not interested in cycling? Are we not ambitious enough? Do we already have enough money? Or are we just incompetent?

Back in April the Cycling Safety Junction Improvement funds were awarded, Sheffield did not submit a bid for this either – as noted by fellow local blogger Stan Fichele and even with Brookhill Roundabout highlighted by The Times as a dangerous junction for cycling.

Stan notes that Sheffield City Council were intending to submit a bid for the Cycle City Ambition Grant.

However, you may be interested to know that it is our intention to make a bid for the Cycle City Ambitions Grant, the requirements for which are not quite so onerous.  I cannot, of course, guarantee success.

This never happened and I’ve been trying to find out why.

I asked at the Sheffield Cycle Forum. The council seem to put the blame squarely with the South Yorkshire ITA and washed their hands of it. I believe that if Sheffield were truly ambitious they would have submitted a bid independently of the ITA as Newcastle have done. The full statement from the Cycle Forum on 21st May can be found here. Cycle Forum Minutes 21May2013

In summary, the response said

  1. The Sheffield City Region have no cycle schemes to bid for
  2. We did apply for National Parks Bid money for the same scheme
  3. All the cycle schemes have already been funded through LSTF and National Lottery/Sustrans Connect
  4. We’ll have some schemes ready for funding applications in TWO YEARS

Sheffield have used up all the cycle schemes as part of LSTF back in 2010 and will have new ones ready in two years. This means that Sheffield will not have planned any significant new cycle schemes for 5 years. This situation is ludicrous! The statement describes these schemes as very recent, but we’re already three years on from the LSTF bids.

Sheffield City Council will have a hard fight on their hands if they think they can get away with failing to bid for funding opportunities for cycling (as with Ambition Grants and Safer Junctions) for the next 2 years. We must not let them be idle.
Sheffield have proven that they can apply for funding when they’re really keen, as is the case with the Pinch Points fund where £3m was awarded in May for a scheme to increase capacity on Penistone Road. A very similar bidding process was used.

The council try to say that all is OK because funding has been sought from the National Parks Bid. This is irrelevant, no application was made for the Cycle City Ambition Grant.

It speaks volumes that the schemes could be so easily transferred to the National Parks bid – a funding source with tourism and recreation at it’s heart instead of door to door transport.

I visited the South Yorkshire ITA to ask a similar question. Nothing about the South Yorkshire ITAs decision not to bid had been discussed in a public meeting, I thought it was important to get it on the agenda – you can watch a recording of this meeting here. It is well worth a watch and there is a very interesting discussion about applying for this sort of funding as viewed by Local Authorities.

Key points from their response

Tom Finnegan-Smith – Local officer

  1. It was a difficult to reach a decision to not submit a bid
  2. Schemes intended for a bid didn’t meet the criteria from the DfT and no coherent package across the region
  3. Cycle in the National Park bid was submitted
  4. Submitting a weak bid would harm relationship with DfT
  5. Don’t have all the funding to deliver all of the South Yorkshire Cycle Action Plan from 2011
  6. There will be a review of coordination between authorities in the City Region

Leigh Bramall

  1. Disappointing to not put in a bid
  2. You’ve already asked these questions – (I think hinting that I was wasting their time)
  3. Local Authorities facing financial cuts and capacity is stretched. Difficult to come up with complex bids in such short timescales
  4. Need a higher permanent level of funding
  5. No previous short term funding so we’ve not planned to have bids like this ready

Ian Auckland

  1. Nothing new about short term funding
  2. Issue was about no schemes that fitted the bill ready, not the lack of time preventing a bid

Alan Jones

  1. Officers must have had some preemptive warning of this grant (other said that this is how it happened!)

Graham Kyte

  1. Doing well in Barnsley – good relationship with cycling organisations
  2. Thanks to Matt for coming along and taking advantage of the democratic process! More people should come along( I completely agree! Thanks for having me!)

Ben Still

  1. Difficult to preempt the nuances of funding before officially announced
  2. Need to look at problem of no bid submitted when looking at next round of budget cuts (perhaps hinting that we need people to develop these schemes)

So, I think I’ve come to the end of this story. I’ll keep monitoring for National Funding on my page here and will do my best to support and urge Sheffield in applying for these opportunities in the future.

I think that some of the responsibility must fall on local people/organisations to come up with good cycling schemes and to push the council to fund and implement them. Local campaigners need to step up to the mark and start being bolder and ask for more.


Some notes:

 List of applications:

  • Large cities – Wave 1 City Deal Cities
  • Birmingham –
  • Bristol –
  • Leeds –
  • Liverpool –
  • Manchester –
  • Newcastle –
  • Nottingham –
  • Sheffield – NONE

Statement from Sheffield City Council:

It was explained that the Sheffield City Region (SCR) had not made a bid for any funding as there were no schemes ready that met the necessary bidding criteria for the City Regions.  However, running in parallel with the City Regions grants there were also National Park grants with different criteria.  Exactly the same Sheffield and Barnsley elements (of the not progressed SCR bid) were included in the Peak Park grant submission.  

The press had reported words to the effect that Sheffield had ‘yet again failed to bid for funding’.  Clearly, the local press had got the situation wrong or were being economical with the truth.  All the Council had done was to ‘change horse’ when it became clear that the SCR would not bid.  A situation which the various authorities involved in the Peak Park bid had prepared for.

Further, many Sheffield Council cycle schemes, that had been ‘ready to go’ and would have met the necessary bidding criteria for the City Region grants, had already been funded through the successful Local Sustainable Transport bids (e.g. Beeley Woods, Hanover Way, Five Weirs Walk between Sheffield and Rotherham, FWW link to Exchange Place, etc) and the successful Halfway to Killamarsh Connect 2 bid and scheme.  These very recent schemes add up to many millions of pounds of successful bids, matched by LTP funding.   

For the future, Sheffield is in the process of preparing further cycle infrastructure schemes.  These should be far enough advanced in another two years to be able to bid for similar City Region grant funding and will amount to around £10 – 20m worth of cycling infrastructure.  Currently the council would be expected to find around 30 – 50% of this sum in match funding – not easy given the considerable recent cut-backs suffered by most councils (with more to come).

tram Uncategorized

Cycling and the Sheffield Tram Network – A match made in hell!

Update: Have you crashed on the tram lines? You can now report it online, here, at Report your bicycle crashes on tram lines here Report your bicycle crashes on tram lines here

We have a tram network in Sheffield known as the Supertram, it opened in 1994 and has 35km of track with about 50% of this on normal streets shared with normal vehicles.

If there’s one thing to know about riding a bike on tram lines, it’s that you must NEVER get your wheel stuck in the tram line, you are very very likely to be thrown off.

It has been estimated that there are a minimum of 33 accidents per annum where cyclists have difficulties with tram tracks, and over 50% are serious in nature (An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998). These figures were calculated using data from 1994 to 1998, the numbers of people cycling has more than doubled since then so the number of accidents may have increased.

The tram network is about 50% on road in Sheffield
The tram network is about 50% on road in Sheffield

The on street sections are difficult for use by cyclists, a typical tram track on a street has a 1.1m gap between the kerb and the left most rail. A Sheffield City Council report from 1998 states that

A width of 1.1m is within DETR guidelines for advisory cycle lanes and similar widths have been used successfully in the past. It is acceptable then as a reasonable width for cyclists to have to use.

It goes on to say that

It is well known that this area on a carriageway nearest to the kerb,is less than ideal as the preferred position for riding a bicycle. Cyclists are required to navigate through litter, everyday road detritus, uneven surfaces due to badly levelled or positioned gullies, badly applied zig-zag and yellow lines and potholes, whilst also avoiding the hazards of left turning and parking vehicles and car doors opening from vehicles already parked.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

What wasn’t stated though is it’s important for cyclists to be able to take a primary position where the road narrows or there isn’t space to do this. To do this you must cross the tram line at a narrow angle, and this can be very dangerous.

Not much space for bicycles
Not much space for bicycles

Tram stops are a nasty periodic danger, they are built out into the road so there is no gap when people board a tram. This buildout narrows the available space to the left of the track to about 35cm.

A typical section of on carriageway with a footway and platform
A typical section of on carriageway with a footway and platform

On a bike you need to either move out into the middle of the tracks or risk crashing into them by going up the inside, like the guy in this photo does.

This is an often quoted problem that cyclists face on the tram network, that at regular intervals along a route they are forced to move out in front of other traffic whilst negotiating crossing the tram tracks.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

A braver man than me!
A braver man than me!

Trams cannot pass people on bicycles, there is not enough room as the trams and tracks are designed to sweep within 38cm of the kerbline, known at gutter running.

The tram is unable to move out and the cyclist is unable to move in. Advice from Stagecoach who run the trams to cyclists is “get off the road”.

Supertram publicity leaflets suggest in their advice to cyclists, “when a tram is approaching move clear of the tramway”, and Supertram spokesmen have publicly supported this opinion.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

No space for a bicycle
No space for a bicycle

This has lead to problems with bullying when trams come up behind cyclists.

Some cyclists however, have experienced problems when they have found themselves ahead of a tram. Reports suggest that some cyclists have been bullied by Supertram drivers who have expected the cyclist to pull over, stop and allow the tram to pass.

Supertram drivers have been accused of intimidating cyclists in this manner by sounding the warning bell, driving very close behind and attempting to pass without sufficient room. These actions have forced”cyclists to stop for fear of serious injury.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

The report makes it clear that trams have no priority over bicycles as we would expect.

 It should be reiterated that the tram has no right to this supposed priority and that, assuming no vehicles are prohibited by Traffic Regulation Order, all vehicles have an equal right to use the carriageway.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

The tram lines have been in place for almost 20 years and no good solutions have been found. There is a cycle track along about 150m of tramway, but this is the only example. There are plans afoot to extend then tram network further into the City Centre along designated bicycle routes. There are also plans to replace the rails which those of a different design – this impact on cyclists is not clear.

So, when in Sheffield on a bike and you come across a tram line, find an alternative route.

Cyclists need access to high amenity areas in a similar way that pedestrians do. The Supertram route often passes along the main road through these areas and thus alternative, useful routes are difficult to locate. Encouraging cyclists to use alternative routes is likely to take them away from the areas they wish to access and may therefore be of limited safety benefit.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

 The report I’ve been quoting from is available here.


Rotherham Pool Green Roundabout Redesign – Cycle lanes

Just a quick post, Rotherham Council has just been awarded £3.4million from the Pinch Points Fund to convert Pool Green Roundabout into a signalised crossing.

The road is a standard crossroads, it has 6 lanes in the north south direction and 3 lanes in the east west direction. Cycle facilities consist of in carriageway lanes and advance stop lines.

Is this really the best we can do for cycling?

(I’ve highlighted the on carriageway lanes in red below, the original is here)

With Cycle Lanes 2

The cycle lane design reminds me of another road in Sheffield, the new Inner Ring Road which seems to encourage drivers to cut up people in the cycle path to access the slip road.

Ring Road Cycle Lane

Surely within carriageway cycle lanes like these can’t be recommended in high traffic urban dual carriageways? Can they?

I much prefer this design from The Netherlands (borrowed from A View From The Cycle Path) which provides separation (I have flipped the photograph).



Abuse on the road – an open letter from a young woman

An open letter from my girlfriend.

To the two fully grown men who thought it was OK to shout abuse at a young woman….

I am so sorry to have delayed your obviously urgent journey by 30 precious seconds by choosing to ride into town on my bike on a brilliantly sunny bank holiday. You don’t want me to be on the road? That’s fine, well neither do I. The reason I was waiting at the lights with you is that is the only way to get onto the cycle path, where I would much rather be! There is no other place I could have been – what did you expect me to do?!

That aside, I hope you feel proud of yourselves. I’m sure you wouldn’t go up to a young woman in a bar, or in a shop, or even in the street and start shouting at her. But for some reason, safe behind the wheel of your car speeding past, you suddenly feel it’s acceptable to bully someone who has no way of answering back.

Shame on you.

P1010218 (Medium)


council lstf

#NotDriving – Sheffield’s latest promotion for sustainable travel

Not-Driving_Logo_Green_500There is a new sustainable travel campaign in Sheffield. #NotDriving. The aim is to raise awareness and encourage wider use of sustainable travel whether that’s public transport, walking, cycling or even smarter driving. In essence, it’s all about inspiring people to travel in Sheffield in a healthier way.

So, how is this accomplished? We give away prizes in return for you ditching your car on journeys to
work, nights out or anywhere for that matter. Pledge the number of miles you would have driven right here on our site for a chance to be entered into the monthly prize draws.

This scheme is running for 3 years and has a budget of £30,000 for it’s lifetime. Would this money be better spent elsewhere? Is this the sort of project envisiged at the inception of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund?

The establishment of the LSTF reflects the importance the Government attach to helping build locally a strong economy and addressing at a local level the urgent challenge of climate change and the commitment made in the coalition agreement to promoting sustainable travel initiatives.

Norman Baker,  Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Regional and Local Transport) – 13th December 2010



A letter to my local councillor

Dear Bob Johnson,

I’m writing to you because I’m concerned about the lack of progress I see in encouraging people to use bicycles to travel in Sheffield.

At yesterday’s Council Cycle Forum we heard from Dick Skelton, a highways planning officer, that all the council’s cycling schemes had been used up with the Local Sustainable Transport Bid. It was explained that the council are working on a Green Routes project and that this will provide more schemes to begin work on but these won’t be designed fully until next year (let alone built). The LSTF schemes in progress do not include any projects to improve the roads in Sheffield for cycling, they only include off road paths, river routes and railway line conversions.

I find it staggering that there seems to be this lack of ambition to encourage people to use bicycles. We need our major roads in Sheffield to be made safer and more inviting to those who choose to cycle, and so that others are encouraged to cycle.

My understanding of the Green Routes project is that it aims to open up the city’s green spaces and parks for walking and cycling. I think that this is skirting around the problem, there is no problem cycling in the park, people enjoy it and it feels safe. However to get to the park, or green spaces I need to use roads, the majority of main roads in Sheffield do not have facilities for bicycle traffic. In addition, my workplace isn’t in a park, neither is my local school or the shops I visit, all the amenities of Sheffield are on roads, not in parks or green spaces!

I’m not aware of a single scheme aiming to improve or encourage bicycle travel on the roads in Sheffield.

I’m writing this email to you in the hope that you’ll ask Sheffield Council on my behalf what they are doing to improve conditions on our roads in Sheffield to support and encourage cycling.

Yours sincerely,

Matt Turner