Round at Bill's Mother's - October 23
Welcome to our slowly rolling news service for full members. Today: Wet up there, dry(er) down here. Archer Lane changes. No to Kelham llamas. Plus a full What's On Out There service.
Hello subscribers and welcome to the 23 Oct update of our rolling news update for October. Thanks to reader Howard Bayley for the brilliant Red Deer photo above, taken at Froggatt Edge a few years ago. It’s a good time to watch our local deer just now, as reported in What To Look For In October.
After almost a year of permanent publishing I’m taking a few days break, but after the no longer extraordinary, most recent, extreme weather event, and various opinions and discussions in other media about it, I’ve opened up a piece for all readers that I originally published several years ago, thanks to the help and expertise of local landscape experts Professor Ian Rotherham and Dr Paul Ardron.
(If you’re not yet a full subscriber the ‘help local journalism survive’ subscribe button to support this publication is below. Your £4 / month contribution to my bills gives full access to over 100 archive stories, and the full Round at Bill’s Mother’s post, as well as a warm glow inside).
In essence agencies like Moors for the Future, the National Trust, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, and The Eastern Moors Partnership have been working on natural flood management techniques for some years. Keeping the highlands west and north of the city wet will help Sheffield stay drier when floods threaten.
Some plants have evolved to make the most of wet weather over hundreds of thousands of years, and we should be learning how to use that botanical expertise to our advantage, goes the thinking. (And not burning it for the sake of intensive moorland game farming, you might observe).
One of those plants is sphagnum moss, as my archive piece explains. I updated the story a couple of years ago when the council was thinking of elaborate and expensive engineering solutions to address increasing flood risk, which are still on the agenda, I believe. Councillor Bob Johnson was in charge at the time, which inspired a headline that may make sense to readers of a certain age. Here’s the piece: ‘What About The Sponge, Bob?’
Archer Lane Filter Has Gone: Transport chair councillor Ben Miskell tells me why pedestrian safety measures on Archer Lane might take a while, even though 3,000 cars per day will now be heading up and down the once quiet and family-friendly hill. And I explain how we all might better understand what’s really been going on with motor traffic in Nether Edge over the last 18 months.
I’ve opened the new Archer Lane piece in this post up to everyone, so feel free to share.
Kelham Island Llamas : Did you know there were plans for a herd of long necked South American camels to join the other hip young dandies living in one of the UK’s most desirable coffee sipping neighbourhoods? Not any more, and I’ll tell you why below.
And we still have some of the earlier stuff, including an update on the Moors on Fire piece. Note the What’s On Out There listings service will also change and grow by the day, yet another reason to sign up as a full subscriber if you’ve been checking our listings of the city’s outdoor events for a few weeks now.
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Archer Lane has today (Thursday) changed back to being a cut through for motor traffic after 18 months of being open just to walkers, families, cyclists, runners and kids on their way to school.
I’d heard that changes for pedestrians could be set up now the filter has disappeared, like widening pavements, fixing the flared junction so people could cross more safely, or traffic calming to reinforce the 20mph limit. So I asked councillor Ben Miskell, chair of the council’s transport committee, for his thoughts on these ideas.
“There's an established procedure for implementing new road safety measures, primarily influenced by road traffic collisions,” he said. “This process is guided by necessity and driven by actual collision data. It's crucial that we adhere to this procedure, especially because disadvantaged communities often encounter greater road safety issues.”
It's worth noting, he added, that such communities don’t always get chance to raise their concerns compared to people in more affluent parts of the city.
What this means, I think, is this: there’s not much money to go around, so if you want to walk safely to somewhere, maybe with your kids, you have to wait until a few people get injured on the same route before it can be made safer for you. And we’ll check if there are even more injuries somewhere else first.
This is not how decisions on infrastructure are considered for other methods of travel and I believe many in the council see the folly in this “established procedure” without really doing anything about it. But I’ve also been told by veteran transport analysts that councils can always choose to change their budget choices, such as scrapping a road widening scheme in order to quadruple the safe walking budget, for example.
Councillor Miskell went on to say that the case for safety measures has already been made by local MP Paul Blomfield and his Nether Edge party colleagues councillor Ullah and councillor Basharat.
“We will investigate what additional improvements may be needed in Nether Edge and how these can be prioritised, according to need,” Ben Miskell added.
I’ve heard there are questions from all sides about the data used in the officer’s report supporting the Archer Lane filter. (It’s here if you want to check it yourself.)
In a nutshell, it seems the filter did its intended job of reducing through traffic and increasing walking and cycling. But the changes in traffic around the scheme were complex and open to interpretation, as were the consultations, with letters and conversations from complainants apparently carrying more weight in some councillors’ minds than the more impartial surveys.
And then there’s the issue of traffic evaporation. Which many on both sides of this debate seem to have ignored, or think is so mad it can’t be true. But the incredible-sounding phenomenon is real and documented and well understood by the professionals who wrote the rejected report.
For more information on this have a look here and here. And apologies to those who’ve read my earlier posts about traffic evaporation here and in the Sheffield Tribune, but judging from the ongoing furore, it’s clearly worth repeating:
Traffic Is Not Water In A Pipe
If you block a water pipe, exactly the same amount of water will try and get out somewhere else. Most people think motor traffic is just like water in a pipe. But it isn’t. It’s people, making decisions about how to get somewhere.
So if there’s a filter (like Archer Lane) blocking your motor vehicle access, you’ll probably drive the same route, realise your mistake, then carry on driving a different route, at least to start with. But then you’ll have a think.
Maybe it’d be quicker to walk or bike to work now the road is safer. Maybe you’ll do your shopping trip later when it’s not so busy. Maybe you’ll drive a different route that’s two minutes longer. Or maybe you don’t need to drive the kids to Mercia school every day now, because they want to walk there with their mates instead.
Traffic experts call these choices the four Rs: Remode, Retime, Reroute or Reduce. The result is that some of that original motor traffic disappears. Up to 50% in some studies. The converse is true as well, of course. Opening a new road to traffic (or reopening a once closed road) will usually increase motor traffic, and not just on the road in question.
Kate Rose, who lives not far from Archer Lane, called to say she’d written a poem about how she felt about this decision. Here it is:
Sunlight glinting through clean leaves,
Animals scamper in the road
And birds and squirrels enjoy the trees.
And so do I, and many others,
Here for the sheer delight of this green lung in our city.
Always up or down,
A walker or cyclist,
Often with a smile.
And every school day,
Hundreds of children, breathing the clean air
As they chat, play, lark around
In complete safety-