Eco warrior Mayor Dan Jarvis call for commuters to ditch the car and children to plant trees

SOUTH Yorkshire’s new mayor has launched a double attack on pollution — by urging people to ditch the car and calling on children to plant trees.

Dan Jarvis wants to get more people walking, running or cycling on short journeys.

The Sheffield City Region Mayor pledged in his election manifesto to put transport top of the agenda.

He said he had spoken to Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham about his "Beelines" project with Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, to gain inspiration from good examples close to home and asked Prof Steve Haake, from Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellness Research Centre (AWRC), to look at the best examples of active travel plans from around the world.

Mr Jarvis said: “We are a region with a proud track record of providing the country with medal-winning Olympians, the backbone of the England football team and thousands of walkers, climbers, mountain bikers and runners.

“But we are also a region where too many people are living with health conditions that could be helped by living healthier lives.

“To make sure our plans for active travel are the best they can be, we need to see what is working elsewhere, not just from towns and cities in the UK but those around the world.”

Mr Jarvis pledged to hold an active travel summit for academics, policy experts, sustainable transport groups, cyclists and runners, recruiting an active travel commissioner and ensure that any devolved Transforming Cities Fund resources include a focus on promoting active travel.

He is also leading by example and has taken his first trips on a Mayoral bike, on loan from Russell’s Bike Shed at Sheffield railway station.

Research has shown that there is considerable scope for more active travel in the region.

In South Yorkshire, there are 300,000 commuter journeys for distances shorter than 10 kilometres taking place every day, and parts of the region have some of the lowest cycling to work statistics in the country.

And, according to Public Health England, if everyone in a town of 150,000 people walked just ten minutes more a day, 31 lives a year would be saved.

The Mayor is lending his backing to Love to Ride, a South Yorkshire’s scheme that aims to get more people cycling, more often. 

The free scheme has more than 200 local companies signed up, including Sheffield City Region and all four South Yorkshire local authorities, as well as the region’s universities and hospitals.

He will also be leading South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive’s “Little Big Changes” campaign, which demonstrates how making small changes to daily travel patterns can have a big impact.

Travel South Yorkshire is behind the campaign, which aims to encourage people across the region to choose to go by bus, train, tram, bike or on foot when travelling this summer.

“By just making a little change to their usual journey, people can make a big difference to their own lives as well as the environment, whether that’s getting fit, saving money or burning fewer fossil fuels,” said Tim Taylor, director of customer service at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE).

“Leaving the car at home, even if it is just one day a week, and getting on board public transport, or cycling or walking, can make so much difference, and we are encouraging everyone to make a little change which could have big benefits.

“Now the summer holidays have arrived, we want to encourage families to try something different this year and make a little change when they are out and about. 

“Instead of jumping in their car, it would be great to see families creating their own little adventures by exploring more on foot, on bikes or by hopping on a bus, tram or train. 

Meanwhile, Mr Jarvis wants to combine caring for the enviroment with commemorating the First World War with a tree-planting drive.

The former soldier is writing to every school in the city region, inviting them to plant trees to mark the centenary of the end of the 1914-1918 conflict as part of a scheme led by the Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust provides the saplings as well as advice and support, meaning there is no cost to those schools that  choose to get involved.

Mr Jarvis said: “Linking this Woodland Trust tree planting initiative with the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War will be a powerful symbol of reflection and remembrance, as well as providing a fantastic opportunity to inspire our young people about the environment and the role that woodlands and forests play.

“By investing in our forests and woodlands we invest in a healthier, happier and more productive future, bestowing a legacy we can proud of.”

This Armistice Day tree planting is part of a wider effort to create a Northern Forest across the industrial North of England.

To sign up for the tree-planting project, visit the Woodland Trust website.