With one month until active travel projects in Sheffield were due to be completed and no sign of work even beginning until November 2023, some campaigners are concerned projects are being delayed for political reasons, with one Labour Party source saying the council leader does not like cycling because he thinks it is "middle-class".
However, speaking to road.cc council leader Terry Fox rubbished the claim, saying he has "always thought cycling is for everyone" and pointed to his voting record as proof of his belief in active travel schemes.
Despite the funding already being in place, five major 'Connecting Sheffield' projects have now been delayed by years and will not begin construction until the autumn at the earliest, raising concerns and prompting the council to insist it "remains committed" to the scheme.
However, one Labour source told Now Then that the leader of the council, currently a coalition of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green representatives, Cllr Fox "doesn't like cycling because he thinks it is middle-class".
The council leader responded to the comment, telling road.cc being "accused by someone anonymous of something I cannot recall saying is upsetting" and "does sometimes get through this thick skin of mine".
"I have to say that I do have feelings and to be accused by someone anonymous of something I cant recall saying is upsetting and then to get all the correspondence of not very nice comments does sometimes get through this thick skin of mine," he said.
"As a miner for over 30 years who sometimes rode a bicycle to work and saw lots of my fellow comrades doing that with snap bag over one arm and towel under the other, riding to the pit for the start of their shift is a memory I will hold and cherish. My best mucker still rides avidly along with my son, they did a charity bike ride for the Lord Mayor's charity few years back.
"I also taught my children and grandchildren to ride and even bought their bikes, just last week buying my youngest grandchild his bike.
"I'm now disabled from my time in the mines, with my knees and respiratory condition but have always thought cycling is for everyone, as can be seen by my voting record on a number of schemes across the city."
The 'Connecting Sheffield' schemes will see active travel infrastructure built, including some temporary cycle lanes being made permanent and should have been completed by March 2023.
It had been feared the government could have withheld the funding, awarded to Sheffield City Council under its Transforming Cities Fund, due to the delay but the Department for Transport confirmed to Now Then that funding has been delivered and the deadline possibly abandoned due to nationwide supply shortages.
However, concerns about the promptness of the work remain, and nearby Leeds already started construction on similar projects, also to be funded by TCF money, back in August last year.
Sheffield received its funding at the same time as its Yorkshire counterparts but work will begin 15 months later at the earliest.
A spokesperson for CycleSheffield told road.cc: "We believe the planned schemes will be delivered, however, the long delays to these schemes during a period of high inflation means that what will be delivered will need to be scaled back or other cost-cutting measures applied. We will therefore not receive the same benefit and less active travel trips will be enabled as we would if the council had prioritised delivery of these schemes.
"We accept that Brexit, Covid and 12 years of austerity have reduced the council's ability to deliver large-scale infrastructure projects and increased costs, however, it is clear that Sheffield has been slower than other cities — for example Leeds — in delivering these kind of schemes. It is felt that this is due to a lack of enthusiasm for active travel amongst some senior politicians in Sheffield Council.
"I would also like to point out that about 50 per cent of the undelivered Transforming Cities Fund schemes are for public transport improvements and these delays are impacting upon bus and tram users as well as people who would like to walk and cycle."
Is cycling middle-class?
Commenting on the Labour source's comments about the council leader, Now Then highlighted 2021 statistics from the Department for Transport which showed more workers in routine and manual occupations travel by bike (2.7%) than those in managerial or professional positions (2%). Likewise, those in the middle income brackets, the results suggested, are also much more likely than those on lower incomes to travel by car.
In 2018, London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman said that the English capital needed to shed its white, male, middle-class cyclist image and encourage women and people from ethnic minorities onto bikes.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.