I was delighted to hear that Barnsley will host one of the stages of the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire for the second year running.
Last year’s Tour de Yorkshire put our town on the cycling map and showed Barnsley at its best. The town centre was buzzing on the day, with the bunting and street stalls creating a fantastic atmosphere.
It was really exciting to watch world-class cyclists setting out on the Second Stage of this internationally acclaimed cycling event – part of the legacy of the 2014 Tour de France’s visit to Yorkshire.
Yorkshire will be honoured to host world-class athletes next May, and I’m sure that many people will take to the streets to cheer on the riders.
But cycling is not just for professionals. Many of us can get on our bikes as a means of living a more active lifestyle.
Every July, Barnsley Road Club organise the Town Centre Races for cyclists of all ages and abilities, from elite professionals to families who can participate in the ‘Community Race’.
And it is important that we encourage people of all ages to consider getting on their bikes. Sustrans are an organisation who do fantastic work in promoting cycling and healthy living for children and people. Once you have learned to ride, it is a skill you have for life!
As Mayor of the Sheffield City Region (SCR) I have made promoting healthy lifestyles one of my top priorities. Recently I met with Chris Boardman – who is doing great work as Walking and Cycling Commissioner in Greater Manchester – to discuss how we can learn from our neighbours across the Pennines about getting more people active.
In that meeting, we discussed lots of ideas about how to promote the benefits of cycling. That is why I am working to improve our active travel connectivity and will put active living at the top of the agenda.
It is vital that we change unhealthy lifestyles. We have a national obesity crisis in the UK, with less than a quarter of adults exercising for more than 30 minutes each week.
Everyone can increase the amount of exercise they do just by taking small steps. That might be cycling to work, or going for a run. As a keen runner, and occasional hill walker, I am always looking for ways to promote active living.
Whilst it’s important for people to take the first step on the road to an active lifestyle, there is a vital role for local authorities and the city region to play.
It’s why, as Mayor, I have campaigned to protect and preserve our footpaths and rights of way networks – to ensure that communities are connected and people are able to walk and cycle to work if they so choose.
And it’s why we need to fix our failing public transport system.
The ongoing crisis on Northern Rail, which we have endured throughout the summer, is a demonstration of the failure to invest in this part of the world. Whilst it is welcome that from next year new stock will be introduced on our railways, it is simply unacceptable that the trains that currently run between Barnsley and Sheffield are over 30 years old.
If we can build reliable public transport, we can promote active travel. Why not get off the bus a couple of stops early and walk the rest of the way? Or walk to the train station and leave the car at home?
By taking small steps, we can all lead a more active lifestyle!
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 19 October 2018.