MAJOR work which will see almost £500,000 spent on providing safer routes for kids who want to cycle to school is set to commence after government funding was approved.

Two schemes - in Athersley and Bolton-upon-Dearne - were put forward following a council-led scheme which looked at places in which so-called ‘active travel’ corridors could be introduced.

Following bids put forward by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA), approval was granted this week which will see £162,000 spent in Athersley and £250,000 in Bolton-upon-Dearne.

South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “Getting people moving more and moving differently is key to my ambitions for improving wellbeing and happiness.

“Last year we applied for funding but got much less than we hoped for but that was a fair reflection of where we were on our journey.

“We have now been given more to make improvements to walking, wheeling and cycling.

“That is recognition of how far we’ve come, but also a signal of support for our huge ambition not just to give everyone freedom and choice about how they travel and move, but to make the area the healthiest region in the country.

“If we are going to give people the freedom and choice to move more and move differently, we need the funding to improve not just infrastructure but offer the training, skills and support for people who want to make that change for themselves.

“This is a huge signal that we are now making real progress and important partners like Active Travel England are beginning to see that too.

“The scheme in Barnsley will enable the council to develop plans to improve the walking, wheeling and cycling facilities in the Athersley and Bolton-upon-Dearne areas with a focus on active travel routes to schools.”

As well as this, the borough will receive its share of another £250,000 pot which will be distributed to introduce an e-bike loan scheme.

Barnsley-born ex-cyclist Ed Clancy, who won three Olympic golds, is now the county’s active travel commissioner and he praised the forthcoming work.

He added: “It’s my priority to make sure that everyone who wants to walk, wheel and cycle feels confident and safe enough to do so.

“A huge part of that is making sure we have high-quality cycle routes that separate bikes from cars on the roads as much as possible, making walking safer by building new paths and better crossings, and working closely with local people to help them have better choices when it comes to walking, wheeling and cycling.( “E-bikes are a potential game-changer for those who are not currently physically active.

“This funding will help us build on the transformative plans we are already taking forward to create a revised strategic vision for walking, wheeling and cycling with real people at the heart of our new network plan.”

Coun James Higginbottom, cabinet spokesperson for environment and highways, said the schemes will have knock-on impacts on both health and participation levels.

“We’re continuing to invest in active travel so that it is at the heart of our communities, allowing people to walk and cycle on our fantastic network of off-road routes more frequently and to help support our ambition of a cleaner, greener and more sustainable Barnsley.”