Saturday, 21 March 2020


The past few weeks have been strange, worrying and pretty hard to grasp with the Coronavirus spreading across the planet.

The situation has been quickly changing, although the UK's approach has made many people uneasy with the usual stupid gung-ho exceptionalism which make every problem an enemy to be defeated. But the recriminations are for another day.

At work, my firm has been exceptional and despite staff at all levels being very worried about what is happening (with the odd and understandable tempers flaring), a crisis management team was quickly developed and people have pulled together. On Tuesday, we were sent to work from home until further notice. 

One of the little views between the station and
my office in the City of London.

As I traveled back mid-morning on my empty Crossrail train with my laptop, keyboard and some odds and ends I had grabbed, it was frankly surreal to be wondering when I would be making the trip again. I have been used to getting up to go to work for almost 25 years and working from home was only ever occasional when it meant saving some travelling time to or from a site.

A very quiet Liverpool Street station on Tuesday.

When I got home, I set my laptop up, grabbed a cuppa and immediately dialed into an on-line meeting. Luckily, my firm operates a decentralised model and so I am quite used to the technology which supports it, but even so it was still strange; but the IT guys have did us proud and it was seamless. At the end of the working week, I packed up my kitchen-table based workstation for the weekend because I have already realised that there needs to be moments when you formally change what you are doing.

This has extended to the commute which has gone from my cycle-train-walk model to a circular commute by cycle which has greatly amused my youngest when I announce that I am leaving the office to go home each day. It's also odd for my new coworker, Mrs RH who has worked from home for many years.

My family and I are very fortunate that we have a safe place to be in and it's important to recognise that privilege. I'm going to work very hard to not to moan about the situation because there are people risking themselves every day to care for the sick and to feed us. Being an engineer who specialises in throwing kerbs and tarmac around is not very important in the grand scheme of things.

I want to be able to help in the only way I know how and that's with writing and talking about civil engineering. I know we have Twitter to chat (which is frankly a lifesaver from that point of view), but if you have a subject you are interested in and would like to know more about, perhaps you're trying to keep some learning going for your children or you're a student now distance learning, then please get in contact and I'll write it up as a blog post;

We're in uncharted history and we can only plan a few days ahead. So, let's try and keep each other connected and entertained. Get out for a socially distant walk or cycle. Oh and;



  1. As thge chair of a local cycle group, on issue which often comes up is the costs of different interventions. So is an idea for a post a virtual mile of cycle route which you oculd develop over time adding in different features with costs so we have an idea of some of the detail plus the overall project costs? I realise it would be a completely hypothetical project.

    1. Now that's an interesting idea - it could take in different types of street/ road and the kind of treatment needed.

    2. Here is one example of that. The City of Vaughan in Canada prepared cost estimates for its transportation master plan. See table K1 on page 4 at:

      What strikes me is how amazingly cheap bicycle infrastructure is. The Dutch are saving large amounts of money on construction costs by not building urban infrastructure for cars.

  2. "Being an engineer who specialises in throwing kerbs and tarmac around is not very important in the grand scheme of things."

    I strongly disagree. Throwing kerbs and tarmac around is essential to avert a crisis with the potential to wreak death and destruction on a scale that Covid-19 will never achieve: Global Warming.

    Just one example: Two-thirds of the country of Bangladesh, with its population of 165 million people, is under five metres above sea level. A mere 50 cm rise in sea level will render 15 million people in that country homeless. And that is just one country.

    Preventing this catastrophe by (among other things) progressively reducing and eliminating car driving will indeed involve lots of kerbs and tarmac and everything else in the engineer's toolkit.