‘We may not all be elite athletes but we can all keep active daily’, says Dame Sarah Storey
I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed by Mayor Dan Jarvis as the Sheffield City Region’s first Active Travel Commissioner
Although I bring a wealth of experience as a gold-winning Paralympian in both swimming and cycling, I want to use the role to show that active travel is not just for elite athletes.
Across the North, there are important discussions taking place about how we improve transport infrastructure, so that residents and communities are better connected to opportunities.
I have been impressed by Mayor Jarvis’ strategic leadership in shaping those discussions – and I agree with him that connecting people with the places that they want to go should be the principle that underpins our urban renewal.
And whether it is walking, cycling or running, active travel should be at the heart of that renewal, because it has benefits for both the environment and the population more broadly.
Aside from the obvious benefits of less emissions and less congestion that fewer cars on the roads has, studies have shown that more people taking up active travel as a means of getting around leads to a happier workforce and a healthier population.
As a mum of two who walks to school with my five-year-old every day, I know all too well the benefits of active travel. As custodians of our children’s future we have a duty to normalise walking and cycling for the shorter, everyday journeys – not least because it is a less stressful way of moving about.
In the Sheffield City Region, I want to use my profile in elite sport to engage with communities and stakeholders to see how we can bring about real transformative change in the way that we move about our towns and cities.
I also want to use the role to understand how we make active travel a safer and more appealing mode of transport for people of all ages.
Because telling residents about the benefits of active travel cannot alone convince them to make the changes that will lead to healthier, happier lifestyles.
We must ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place in an environment that enables it, so that people can make those journeys in the knowledge that active travel is both safe and effective – and I will work alongside the Mayor to make a strong case to Government for the funding that we need to deliver against our aspirations.
The easy thing to do would be to use my role as Active Travel Commissioner simply to support and promote active travel in schools and among the general population. But the real challenge will be looking at how we best help and enable people to take up walking, cycling or running by ensuring that we make the right interventions in the right places.
Not everyone is an elite athlete, but we can all make small changes and enjoy being more active as we go about our daily lives – and I am looking forward to working with stakeholders across the Sheffield City Region to inspire those changes so that we can lead healthier, more sustainable lives.