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Dame Sarah Storey named Active Travel Commissioner for South Yorkshire

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Dame Sarah Storey, Britain's most successful female Paralympian, has been named Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region.

The World Champion cyclist and swimmer was officially revealed as the new Commissioner at Sheffield Hallam University today (Monday 1 April).

Her role will involve championing active travel and working alongside Mayor Dan Jarvis to create a region in which more people travel on foot, by bike or by public transport.

She said: "I'm proud and excited to be the first Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region. I believe active travel is a less stressful way of moving about, and helps to create the foundation of a happier workforce and a happier population. 

"As someone who's passionate about active travel, and through my policy work with British Cycling, I've been so interested in what Chris Boardman is doing with Andy Burnham over the Pennines. It's brilliant to have the opportunity to work closely with Mayor Jarvis and his team to do something similar here.

"For me, this is about having another string to my bow, and utilising that profile of elite sport to benefit the wider population. Not everyone is going to be an elite athlete, but we can all enjoy being more active. I'm looking forward to seeing how, together, we can make real changes to the way people travel in the Sheffield City Region."

Sheffield Hallam University was commissioned by SCR Mayor Dan Jarvis to carry out an evidence review and mapping exercise for active travel to establish the current provision in the region.

The consultation, led by Professor of Sports Engineering Steve Haake, found that between 25 and 30 per cent of people across the region are classed as 'inactive' - meaning they do less than 30 minutes of activity per week.

The Chief Medical Officer's guidance is 150 minutes per week - just over 20 minutes per day.  

In South Yorkshire 26 per cent of journeys that are around half a kilometre, which is roughly a ten minute walk, are taken by car. That jumps to 39 per cent when the journey is a kilometre, or around a 20 minute walk, and it goes up again to 47 per cent if the distance is increased to two kilometres.  

Professor Haake said: “We are delighted to be involved in the Active Travel project and to welcome Dame Sarah as our new Commissioner. She is a sporting icon, a Paralympic legend and a truly inspirational woman.

“Active travel is an important issue for the Sheffield City Region and having someone such as Dame Sarah Storey support our cause will help to inspire more people to become involved and active in our city and our region.

"We need to look at infrastructure and public transport but also change the behaviour of the population to improve quality of their life, which is what this is all about.

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“The University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre,  which will open later this year, will be the most advanced research and development centre for health and physical activity in the world, dedicated to 'improving the health of the nation'.

“One of our key aims is to encourage people to be more active and adopt healthier lifestyles through multi-disciplinary research and innovations that help people to move more; the Active Travel initiative will be one of the key components of that.”

Dame Sarah was a swimmer at four Paralympic Games before switching to cycling in 2005. During her career she trained and competed at Ponds Forge in Sheffield. Since making the career move to cycling, she added to her five swimming gold medals with a further nine cycling golds at the Paralympics of 2008, 2012 and 2016.

She has also competed against able-bodied athletes riding for England at the Commonwealth Games and won medals at UCI Track Cycling World Cup meetings with the able-bodied squad.

In her new role with the Sheffield City Region, Dame Sarah will now work closely with Mayor Jarvis to make his ambitious transport vision a reality. 

Mayor Dan Jarvis said: "I'm delighted to name Sarah as our Active Travel Commissioner. To have such an exceptional, inspirational and passionate individual leading our active travel agenda is something very special indeed. 

"Sarah joins us at an exciting time and will play a crucial role in helping us to make sure that active travel remains an absolute priority as we make our region's transport network fit for the 21st century.

"By prioritising active travel, we can improve people’s health, cut carbon emissions and reduce congestion. But you don’t have to be a professional cyclist - or indeed a gold medal winning cyclist - to travel in a more active way. By making little changes to the way that we travel, we can all do our part to create a healthier and more active society."

In her new role, Dame Sarah will work with organisations such as local authorities, the Passenger Transport Executive, community groups and public health professionals, as well as with national Government.