How we helped South Yorkshire develop a coordinated cycling strategy

women with bikes

The four South Yorkshire local authorities of Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley wanted to align their priorities and place themselves in the best possible position to successfully enable and encourage active travel as part of the newly-created Sheffield City Region.

On the edge of the spectacular Peak District National Park, Sheffield City Region is an obvious candidate to be a cycling centre for the North. It was part of the 2014 Tour de France and is a natural home for many outdoor sports enthusiasts. The area's topography, multi-centric urban nature and a significant rural economy present various challenges when it comes to developing active travel opportunities. However, with a significantly self-contained labour and housing market, enhanced cycling connectivity could have a big impact.

How we helped 

We worked with the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (PTE), Sheffield City Region and District Officers as a neutral specialist co-ordinator. Our role was to bring their ambitions together and support the development of a clear strategy and action plan that was consistent across the whole area. This helped to place the authorities in the best possible position to link to wider plans, move cycling developments forward and bid for future funding opportunities.

We were ideally placed to fulfil this role and the South Yorkshire Cycling Action Plan was developed over a period of 18 months. This plan set out clear, fact-based arguments for how cycling can help achieve the region’s objectives on transport, creating a healthier workforce, reducing congestion and bringing inward investors to attractive locations with a high quality of life.

The vision for the project

The plan was endorsed by the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee with recognition of the role that cycling can play in achieving their shared objectives. A more attractive cycling environment will help deliver the Strategic Economic Plan by supporting the transport needs of those trying to enter employment, creating a healthier workforce, reducing congestion and attracting inward investors to locations with strong environmental credentials and a high quality of life.

A joint vision was agreed for 2025: South Yorkshire will have a thriving cycling culture. It will be a place where cycling is a natural travel choice for everyday short journeys and become a premier destination for cycle sport, leisure and tourism.

Outlining the benefits of cycling to the South Yorkshire economy, health and the environment, and examining the potential for change, funding and value for money, the vision sets out the region's strategy for cycling in order to achieve four high level objectives:

  • Realising the economic potential of cycling.
  • Improving health and reducing health inequalities by introducing cycling into everyday life.
  • Improving cyclists’ safety and feeling of safety.
  • Providing leadership and partnership.

This was to be achieved through investment in high quality cycling infrastructure, training, publicity, customised behaviour change projects and mass participation events. It also sets out a proposed network of strategic cycle routes to help prioritise investment and demonstrate that South Yorkshire is a great place to cycle.

Our team created a tube-style map to illustrate this, made up of suggested cycle routes linking areas of population with the main employment and service centres, public transport interchanges and popular cycling destinations, and showed the potential for neighbouring urban centres and long distance cycle routes.

The research linked other strategic plans covering South Yorkshire, including:

  • Sheffield City Region Strategic Economic Plan
  • Sheffield City Region Transport Strategy
  • Cycle Yorkshire – realising the legacy of the Tour de France.
  • Move More (and other local public health strategies)
  • Sheffield Outdoor Capital City of the UK
  • Peak District National Park Cycling Strategy and Action Plan

Concept studies of potential routes in districts

To help narrow down the priority cycle routes for the region our team of engineers held a series of district officer consultations. They brought together cycling officers, transport planners, professionals, as well as local Sustrans officers to find out about existing plans, local knowledge and aspirations for routes.

Once they had a list of routes and plans, engineers carried out desk studies to sense check the routes and used the Sustrans RATE tool to help assess their feasibility. The team looked at how the routes linked to local growth areas, funded through the Local Growth Fund, and how they complemented the Local Transport Plans. They worked with our mapping and modelling experts to develop a series of seven outline studies for suggested major cycle routes in the region.

Mark Robinson, Head of Engineering, Sustrans in the North of England said:

“We looked at the routes identified within the Cycling Action Plan and were able to undertake concept design, identify barriers to deliverability, undertake costs and show how the route would fit with other strategies like the Growth Zones and housing. This meant the strategy had some robust information behind it.”


  • South Yorkshire Cycling Action Plan
  • 7 concept studies for routes across South Yorkshire

Sheffield City Region now has a clear plan to develop cycling in South Yorkshire as part of its overall strategy that demonstrates its strategic importance to funders, not just for transport but for economic, health and environmental reasons. The concept studies support each district to develop the case for cycling and enable phased approach when funding becomes available.

“Having a coordinated cycle strategy and action plan across the whole of South Yorkshire is great,” says the areas Cycling and Active Travel Co-ordinator. “We have a high level objective that we agree to work together to achieve. The development of a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan and an evidence-based approach to develop our priorities will help us to go forward.”