GPs launch petition to save active travel schemes set up by Sheffield Council

Doctors launched a petition urging Sheffield Council to keep active travel measures introduced during Covid-19.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 12:00 pm

They said the council needs to take the health implications of reversing them into account.

The petition, which has gathered more than 868 signatures, was presented at a recent special meeting of the co-operative executive.

It was launched after doctors saw how active travel schemes across the country had floundered and infrastructure put in place was removed.

Pinstone Street was closed to traffic.

Dr Jo Maher, GP partner Wincobank Medical Centre who started the petition, said: “I worry Sheffield is in a similar position, potentially losing millions of pounds future investment which could help generations of Sheffielders improve their health by experiencing better air quality across the city, not just in the city centre.”

They added: “Active travel is important for health and is prevention in practice, if we do not pay attention to clean air now our children and grandchildren have the most to lose.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year attributed to long-term exposure.

“There is strong evidence that air pollution causes the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer and exacerbates asthma.

“This disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in our society and those living in poverty. When we look around the city centre we have to remember all those people who are not able to be there, as well as those who are.

“Other cities around the world have found ways to make pedestrianised areas accessible for all, no matter what their mobility needs. I am not a town planner, this is not my concern.

“Sheffield has a higher than average percentage of people with coronary heart and respiratory disease overall. In some areas of the city it is more than twice the national average. Again this does not account for all those with ill health not counted, rates of heart and lung disease are probably underestimated especially in a disadvantaged community.”

Temporary active travel schemes implemented in Sheffield since Covid-19 started include a ‘pop-up’ cycle lane in Shalesmoor which was removed due to congestion and a low traffic neighbourhood in Kelham Island.

The council also pedestrianised Pinstone Street and Division Street in the city centre and widened pavements to make more room for social distancing but also to encourage walking and cycling.

Dr Claire Cruishanks, consultant anaesthetist, who signed the petition, said: “Every day I see patients who are not physically active enough. We need to redesign our cities in to support wellness, connection and activity. Please provide Sheffielders with the city they deserve, one that allows them to thrive.”

Dr Alison Hobbs, GP partner at Forge Medical Group in Pitsmoor, said: “We desperately need to promote activity not make it harder.”

Dr Ollie Hart, GP partner Sloan Medical Centre Heeley, said: “Active travel and priority for people to live safely is crucial for the health and economy of our city.”