Saturday, 28 March 2020

Slowing Down.

Things have ramped up quickly this week and any comments about the virus will probably be out of date by teatime. 

Before I ramble on into this week's blog, I want to pay tribute to to the people who are trying to keep the country running in this time of crisis, especially as it very much looks like we are going to be hit with a significant increase of people being impacted by the virus over the next few weeks.

Of course we have the people in the NHS, but I also want to thank the supermarket staff, the postal and courier services, highways staff, local authorities, the police, fire brigade, logistics drivers and of course public transport staff. In many ways, this crisis shows who is actually important for day to day life and frankly, my list will have missed lots of people.

I'm finding it hard to concentrate on writing anything too technical and so I thought this week, I'd share a few photographs and thoughts from the week. Most of us have slowed down, with our world shrinking accordingly. Getting out to pick up food or to post letters by cycle is now part of my new routine which has thankfully been helped by the sunshine. I did however venture out last Sunday for an exercise ride and I'll do the same tomorrow.

Even for a Sunday, the M25 was eerily quiet and made the clamour of building the 4th running lanes before the 2012 Olympics look like a different world.

I generally keep away from country lanes because of the way some people drive along them, but to have some variety away from my local urban trips, I ventured a little into the countryside and was left in peace.

Even back into the urban fringe, the roads were quiet when normally there'd be gradually increasing flows as people jumped into their cars to go and do whatever people do on Sundays.

Away from my isolated ride out, the work of getting food from time to time (and dropping bits off to elderly family and neighbours) became routine. A trip needing to be made now needs more purpose in my mind and so doing a post run for my wife who is self-employed running a retail business is a fair reason to get out on the streets.

I've been doing this immediately after shutting down the work laptop to give a useful bookend to the working day and it has further reinforced my view that a utility cycle with a decent set of pannier bags is *the* vehicle for most local trips and tasks.

One hiccup has been that the localish parcel postbox was locked during the week and so I'm having to go a bit further which is now giving me a 7 mile round trip. It's not a great distance and I did this daily when I worked more locally, but it's easier in two parts rather than one trip! So, not quite a 15 minute city, but not far off.

Of course, motor traffic has dropped right off and there's more people out walking and cycling than I have ever seen locally. The footways are clearly not wide enough for people to pass with a 2m gap and it's more obvious than ever on how much of our public space we have sacrificed for the personal motorised mobility of some people - in fact, cycling along empty streets and next to empty roads all makes it look rather obscene.

Will the post-virus world be different? Will more people work from home now we know that it can work for many people? Will we put a stop to road building? Will we turn our local streets back over to people to walk and cycle along? I would really love to see a new reality although sadly, there will be a push for business as usual. Let's see.

There are some people who haven't slowed down and that's quite a significant minority of people who are still driving their cars. Perhaps the bad driving I have seen and that others have reported is just more obvious with low traffic volumes, or it might be that clear roads which make it easier to drive fast and recklessly.

I've stopped for breath a couple of times this week by a vehicle activated sign and at least at that one location, there is very poor speed limit compliance;

So, as we all slow down and grapple with the new normal, is it too much to ask that the people who are still driving make sure that they actually need to be out driving and if they are, then doing so far more slowly than they are now. Frankly, I cannot see why the government doesn't bring in emergency speed limits to mitigate the increased risk from these antisocial people. We shouldn't be hurting people on the streets anyway and now even more so.


  1. We could of course enforce existing speed limits, but with far more penalty, perhaps instant bans with confiscation of motor vehicle. I mean, why endanger others at a time when the NHS is at it's very limit.

  2. Emergency speed limits are a great idea, they might cause people to rethink the value of the trip