A CYCLING boom which has seen record-breaking numbers of people opt for two-wheeled transportation during prolonged spells of lockdown will be capitalised on with improved paths and trails, local leaders have revealed.
New projects including a six-kilometre corridor from Barnsley town centre to Royston - via Smithies - have been announced as well as links between Stairfoot, Ardsley and Goldthorpe, and work on the Trans Pennine Trail in Elsecar totalling £4.63m
Work in Royston will include quiet streets, new crossings, short sections of cycle path and a longer section along a disused railway line.
Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis, who is also the MP for Barnsley Central, said: “This investment will help us get people moving around South Yorkshire better on foot and by bike, whether that be to work, school or the shops.
“Building safe routes for walking and cycling, as well as creating active neighbourhoods, will create a greener Barnsley where people can travel across the region efficiently and sustainably.
“These schemes will help make our ambitious plans for active travel routes a reality.
“An additional £2.24m will be invested in routes across South Yorkshire, taking the total amount of money invested in active travel between 2020 and 2023 to more than £87m.
“During the pandemic lots of people have discovered the joys of cycling, with families taking to routes like the Trans Pennine Trail.
“Our ambitious plans include building more than 1000km of safe walking and cycling routes away from traffic across South Yorkshire.
“We will also create safer, more pleasant and less polluted places to live for our communities by stopping motor vehicles from rat-running through neighbourhoods.
“Along with a renewal of our buses and other public transport, this is how we will create a place where people can travel efficiently, affordably and sustainably.”
Lockdown periods - which began on March 23 last year - have seen scores of people using popular walking and cycling routes such as the Trans Pennine Trail, which snakes its way across the borough.
Active travel commissioner Dame Sarah Storey added: “Over the past year our health has been in the spotlight like never before and when lockdowns have been imposed the opportunity to get out for daily exercise has been a lifeline of normality for almost everyone.
“It has been heartening to see people enjoy riding their bikes, which has further raised the need for more accessible and safe places to be delivered.
“This investment comes at exactly the right time and will enable us to build safe active travel routes that get people to the places they need to be without the need for a car, and not just for daily exercise but for all their short, every day journeys, too.
“Travelling by non-motorised means has far-reaching health benefits, reduces harmful emissions and makes our streets feel safer.
“We can build physical activity back into people’s lives, breathe life back into local communities and support the recovery from one of the most testing years anyone has faced.”
As plans to improve cycling routes across the borough were revealed, residents have been encouraged to swap four wheels for two to continue the town’s cycling craze.
Cycling became a form of exercise that remained relatively untouched as gyms and swimming pools were forced to close their doors to prevent the spread of the virus.
Paul Heggie, chairman of cycling club Birdwell Wheelers, said the lack of traffic on the roads during lockdown periods may have encouraged residents to try cycling as a new form of exercise.
“Especially in the first lockdown I noticed a huge drop in traffic on the roads because most people were working from home,” he said. “I don’t know whether it was because there were less cars, or because I am a cyclist myself, but I noticed a lot more cyclists on the roads in this time.
“Riding a bike was one of those forms of exercise that was still allowed throughout the lockdowns and I think people took to it as a way of getting them out of the house and getting some exercise.
“It’s nice to see people getting back into cycling again.”
Mat Hanley is one resident who discovered his love for cycling after he began working from home during the first lockdown.
He has now cycled almost 900km this year alone and has no plans to slow down as restrictions further ease in the coming weeks.
“I got a bike a few years ago, thinking it would be a great way to keep healthy, but I was always too busy to make time for a ride,” said Mat, 24, previously from the town centre.
“When I started working from home I discovered my love for cycling.
“I would go out almost every day, and get away from my laptop - in a funny way cycling makes me feel free which is why I love doing it.
“I now use my bike as my main form of transport and I upgraded my bike as part of a bike-to-work scheme.
“I cycled 900km last year, and I have almost matched that from January to April.”