Road to Freedom

This week, Jews around the world celebrate Passover, when we remember how God redeemed, delivered, and freed us from slavery in Egypt. I say ‘us’, not ‘our ancestors’, because we are told to imagine we were there too, experiencing the biblical story of the Exodus: once oppressed and now free.

This year, for many in the privileged west, imagining being freed is perhaps less of a stretch. As spring and sunlight return to the northern hemisphere and vaccinations gather pace, we feel the fear of disease decline, and the joy of easing restrictions on what we can do, who we can touch, and where we can go. We see the road to freedom ahead.

And yet, just as the story we tell on Passover ends at the first stage on the ancient Israelite’s road to freedom, with the prophet Miriam leading the people in song and dance on the far side of the Red Sea, so we too are very much at the beginning of our road to freedom. The difference is we are a lot less sure about whether our final destination will be the promised land.

So what else can we learn from the journey described in the Bible? Alongside redemption and freedom, we are told that we became the people of God. In other words, with freedom and rights came rules and responsibilities, such as following the 10 commandments and many more laws and codes. The biblical unwillingness to initially accept those rules and responsibilities condemned an entire generation to wander in the wilderness until the people who had known slavery were no longer in positions of leadership.

In modern times, not only can we not wait for a generation to pass to choose our direction, we also have yet to fully debate and describe the new responsibilities that are attached to the freedoms we think we are reclaiming.

I take my examples from the area of transport and mobility, where our freedom has been so restricted. We know that we should not, cannot simply return to our travel patterns of 2019. Nor do we necessarily want to, but who will take responsibility for what changes?

In the UK, there has been a 20% rise in people walking regularly. Do we have an individual responsibility to continue to walk more for our personal and public health? And whose responsibility is it to ensure safe, accessible environments in which to walk?

Alongside large increases in online ordering, support for local, independent retailers has grown. Do we as communities have a responsibility to continue to shop locally to help revitalise our neighbourhoods? And what other services do we need locally and how must space be organised to support that vitality – and our increased footfall?

Those with experience of working from home have quadrupled over the past year, with benefits from reducing the spread of disease to increased productivity and better work-life balance. Is it time for employers to take more responsibility for the time and energy dedicated to commuting – and how can they help employees avoid a return to the congested roads and overcrowded buses and trains of rush hours past?

Carbon emissions fell by an estimated 7% globally in 2020 – in large part due to a reduction in travel, both by road and air. Is it time for national and global organisations and businesses to take responsibility for preventing a rebound in emissions from long distance travel? And how can they also support those visiting loved ones spread far and wide, as well as all the innovation and inspiration that comes from working with, studying and exploring other cultures and places?

With freedom comes responsibility. If we, as individuals, communities, businesses, and governments do not take responsibility for and debate the rules we need to guide our post-pandemic freedom, we may well end up wandering in a wilderness instead.

The Dangers of Divided Responsibility

The rhetoric around climate change has shifted substantially in the last 5 years. There is a new urgency to declare it an emergency, to draw attention to global warming and its impacts, and to set ambitious emission reduction targets. International organisations, multinational corporations, networks of activists, national governments, local stakeholders; the majority from all sectors are singing from the same hymn sheet.

This shift is great news, but the challenges of transforming policy into action and rhetoric into reality are immense. Concerted efforts are required, not just voices in harmony. And yet, speaking together is much easier than working together.

A major reason that ambitious action is so difficult is that the responsibility for achieving the desired outcomes is divided and subdivided. Individuals are not only unsure what they can do personally, but even within organisations or government bodies, policy- and decision-makers are too often confused about their roles and responsibilities. Where do they fit in relation to the roles and responsibilities of others, and whose resources are available to do what? The result is often inefficiency if not inertia.

Let me use surface transport in England as an example. (I’m talking about England only – if you add in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s even more complicated!)

Most funding for transport comes from the central government, but Ministers and civil servants have very little responsibility for detailed planning and implementation. For national or strategic infrastructure, arms-length companies such as Highways England and Network Rail were established to get such things done. Meanwhile, the responsibility for local roads lies with local city and county governments, usually using monies distributed by or sometimes bid for from central government. However, to make things more confusing, in many parts of England there are two tiers of local government – county and district or city and borough. The county or city is the local transport authority, but the district is responsible for land use planning.

I (and I am not alone) have argued in past blogs that land use planning, the density of housing and the location of employment and amenities have an integral role to play in reducing the need to travel and changing how people travel, thereby reducing carbon emissions from private vehicles. Place-making determines whether people have space to walk and cycle, and where they can walk and cycle to. Yet different people in different levels and departments of government are planning where housing and services are located than those planning the infrastructure for people to walk and cycle on.

Density and the relative locations of where people live, work and play also influence the viability of public and shared transport. Yet the responsibility for providing those transport services often lies with private operators, who may negotiate with the higher tier local transport authority (e.g. the county), or even the national governments when it comes to rail operators, for the provision of infrastructure, financial support, and favourable policies. Funding for public transport operations or revenue spend is also quite separate from any budgets for building infrastructure and capital projects, and as it is rarely permitted to mix these resources, so the interactions between the outcomes of capital and revenue investment is rarely accounted for in advance.

Meanwhile, another source of transport funding at the local level can be gathered from fees, fines and permits for parking on- and off-street. Yet those charges are usually collected by the district or borough level of government, even though other local roads and transport matters are managed at city or county level. So even the responsibility to put in electric vehicle charge points, for example, is divided between levels of government. And I haven’t even started writing about the movement of goods by private fleets or the roles of private utility companies providing electricity and other services under the roads.

Confused? You’re not alone. Nonetheless, we must find ways to transform the rhetoric into reality – for sustainable surface transport and all the other sectors where ambitions for an equitable, vibrant and zero-carbon world could otherwise be derailed by divided responsibility.

A Walk through Winter Lockdown (an ethnography)

The neighbourhood where we live is full of trees, but not necessarily leafy. This is particularly true now, when the deciduous trees are skeletal silhouettes, no matter the time of day or position of the sun. But even in summer, there are too many pines and other conifers – the neighbourhood is needle-y. And yet the trees are towering and majestic. They were here before most of the houses, before most of the streets, pavements and other signs of human habitation.

The fallen leaves, needles, nuts, and cones from so many trees have created a mushy, muddy detritus along the edge of pavements and gutters, built up over months. It is messy, but not smelly in the cold, damp air. Along with bumps and cracks in the pavement where tree roots have pushed upwards, and puddles where rain has pooled downwards, the slick surface of compressed and decomposing natural materials narrows the available space and makes an additional hazard during daily lockdown walks.

Our neighbourhood is not in a city, but it is in the densely populated southeast of England. There are never urban crowds, but we are rarely alone on a stretch of street for long. There are other households with children, some young, some older. Teenagers are usually absent from their family unit. There are joggers and dog-walkers. There are pairs of women, taking advantage of being able to see one other person outside the house, and there are pairs of elderly residents, occasionally masked, usually walking very slowly, sometimes holding hands.

Were so many out walking so regularly in the neighbourhood at all times of day in January 2019? Did they walk at different times of day or not at all? Is this only a lockdown practice, and is there any observable routine?

Whether or not the when and where of pedestrian practice has changed, the how has definitely become ritualistically different. On quiet residential streets, some cross to the other side of the road when they see someone coming towards them. Some wait until the two households are almost upon one another and then string out into a single file, or step into the muddy grass of a verge. Some go onto the road. Joggers usually do. People with children or dogs usually don’t.

But going onto the road is risky for anyone if there is traffic, which there often is on the busier streets. Passing cars are still a threat, even if the roads are less busy than they were a year ago. Traffic is also loud, drowning out the birdsong – or at least the bird squawking and twittering that is the more common audio accompaniment on the side streets.

Thus on the busier roads giving space can mean stopping entirely when width allows, such as at a driveway or dropped kerb. Stopping and waiting until the oncoming household has passed or to cross the road to continue is unattractive, causing a new type of negotiation in body language and facial expression.

Pedestrians who forge ahead without making eye contact expect you to stop. Those who smile and slow down to reach a conveniently wide place are readying themselves to pause purposefully. Some hesitate, creating more obstacle and delay. Some have buggies or wheeled trolleys and take up more space, or struggle to divert without a dropped kerb. Sometimes pedestrians hurry past each other, too close, but reducing risk through speed, heads turned sideways, a muttered ‘sorry’ over their shoulders.

These new ways of negotiating pedestrian space in a residential neighbourhood engender new types of interactions and connecting or disconnecting. There are new norms around good or bad manners – for example, saying ‘thank you’ where someone has stopped or taken the less attractive path, on the road or in the mud.

There is also new recognition between those who might normally be elsewhere during the working day. Does this create new communities of neighbours who might otherwise never meet? Does it integrate population subgroups, such as elderly residents, families with young children, or dog walkers, exposing them to the diversity of life stages and situations around them? Will any new experiences of neighbourhood and community be retained as people return to other routines of work, school, and socialising?

It’s a question of continued observation… my attempt at an ethnographic approach!

Can we build back fairer?

As we reach the end of a difficult year, we are all looking forward to the next one – one in which we regain the freedom to move around more, go places, see people, participate in activities in person. We have missed out on connecting, which is the main purpose of transport systems. Although it is also the main purpose of telecommunications systems, these could only offer incomplete substitutes for some of the most meaningful types of connecting.

Yet transport systems and the connections they offer cannot, will not, and should not return in all the same forms they took less than a year ago.

We need to continue to encourage walking, cycling and other forms of active travel that improve public health. We need to help people renew their confidence in the safety of public transport. We need to reduce the amount of travel per person, where telecommunications can replace unnecessary mileage.

As the slogans go, we need to support a ‘green recovery’ and ‘to build back better’ in transport as in other sectors. If we are to avoid further crises, it is time to take the decarbonisation of transport seriously and reduce local air pollution as well.

A switch to electric cars is part of the solution, but my current and future research suggests that we need to put this switch into perspective, not only because it is not the whole of any environmental solution, but also because the transition to electric mobility will not be a socially just solution without efforts to make it so.

This year has highlighted the importance of redressing decades of social injustices due to race, poverty, and gender as much as it has taught us not to ignore our vulnerability to natural disasters. It is as important to build back fairer as it is to build back greener.

My research looks at both the social and the environmental through the lens of the transition to electric mobility. If the replacement of petrol and diesel with electric is to be fair and equitable, then how do we recognise different needs and capabilities, enable more participation in identifying solutions, and make sure the relevant infrastructure is built in an accessible way?

Electric cars are very expensive, but they are becoming more affordable to purchase, lease or access on the now-developing second-hand market. Yet what about post-purchase? Any household who can plug their electric car into their home electricity overnight whilst they’re sleeping will rarely have to make a special trip to refuel, and will save money on the daily costs of running a car.

In contrast, those who rent and / or live in flats and terraced housing are less likely to have a private garage or driveway to park and charge an electric car. So how do we build the right sort of charging infrastructure in the right places so that drivers who cannot charge an electric car at home aren’t put at a disadvantage? How do we make public charging affordable?

How do we also make it safe and convenient if such characteristics are subjective and the majority of electric car owners and enthusiasts are currently men? How do we involve women, or those on low incomes, or those from different ethnic backgrounds in the forums on and front lines of implementing electric charging infrastructure?

Will the solutions for central urban areas be the same as those in the suburbs, small towns, or villages? For whom is shared electric transport, or micro-mobility (e.g. e-bikes and scooters) a more accessible solution?

These are the types of questions we need to begin to answer next year, as we all seek to reconnect in not just a green recovery, but an equitable one. Let’s build back better, greener, and fairer.

Light Relief

Diwali was a couple weeks ago. Hanukkah is a couple of weeks away. Both carry the nickname Festival of Lights. Meanwhile Christmas lights and displays are starting to appear in our neighbourhood.

And why not? It’s late November. It’s dark by late afternoon. If the sun happens to come out, it’s low in the sky, its light weak, watery and only briefly over the British Isles. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the world’s land mass and population can be found, the days are shorter. No wonder so many cultures have traditions of celebrating light at this time of year. We need a bit of light relief. And this year more than ever.

Which made me start to think about the ways that light(s) relief has transformed transport. The changes aren’t as noticeable as say the electrification of vehicles, nor perhaps as novel as driverless cars and drones.

But then again, they’re so pervasive and have happened so gradually, that you probably started to take it for granted before you’d even noticed it had changed. The yellow sodium glow of the street lamps, the blazing fluorescence of security lights, the uneven flicker of fairy light decorations. They’ve all been replaced with the steadier, more focused light of LEDs – light-emitting-diodes. The multitude of less efficient, more energy intensive and thus more carbon emitting, artificial light sources has been disappearing, and the quality of the light our eyes perceive along our streets has changed.

Street lamps now give a clearer, whiter light (although steps have been taken to make sure the light isn’t too white!). They vastly reduce light pollution as well as the cost to local governments, some of whom might otherwise have had to turn some lights off under budget pressures, even though the possibility raised concerns of rising crime. Instead, with LED street lamps, we still feel secure, whilst we also have a better chance of seeing the stars.

Other lighting innovations in transport include the bicycle lights that you can re-charge with a USB cable, the car lights that sense how dark it is and turn themselves on as appropriate (when driving of course – it’s also a lot harder now to forget to turn them off!), even an array of head torches for pedestrians and night-time joggers. They’re all LEDs, saving society money and energy.

But the lighting that gives the most relief this time of year are the displays. The shapes and colours made out of lights which line High Streets and homes, which twinkle above and beside our public realm. They invite us to pause as we’re passing through, to feel festive, welcome, part of a community, safe. Like the transport spaces they illuminate, they make us feel connected, whether we’re walking, cycling or in a vehicle. And like all celebrations of light, they remind us that soon the days will be getting longer, the sun will be higher in the sky, and we’ll have less need of light relief.

Putting Parking in its Place

There is less than a month left until the consultation on options to reduce pavement parking in England closes. In my blog last month, I argued for option 3, which would, by default, ban pavement parking unless action were taken to allow it; such action being marking permitted parking bays partially on the pavement.

If Option 3 is implemented, it will be a massive improvement in the management of our public highways and streetscapes here in England. However, for me it is not an end point, but should be just the beginning.

It’s not that I’m against parking. I’m against parking as a free-for-all. Free in terms of price, but more importantly in terms of space. The default in many places is park where you like, how you like, when you like, whatever type of vehicle you like. The result is often an untidy, obstructive mess. People are parking in public in such a shameful way, fig leaves are definitely required.

It’s a pet peeve whether I’m walking or driving. You know what I mean. I’ve probably made you think of dozens of examples of poor parking just by using the phrase.

People park across the kerb or too far from the kerb. People park too close to your car, making it impossible to get out, or too far from the next car over, making it impossible for you to get in. People park too close to the junction or where pedestrians cross, blocking visibility for everyone.

Near the shops, cars are left cluttering up the street when there’s a perfectly good car park around the corner. Or they’re left into the night or overnight among the houses of strangers just because there’s a railway station down the road.

Then there’s the caravan that detracts from the view out your window, the commercial vehicle that is left with its rear end in the road, the SUV that occupies either two normal spaces or the parent and child space at the supermarket even if there is no sign of any children.

I could go on, as I’m sure you can tell. I know regulation and enforcement aren’t popular, but we’re dealing with the limited resource of public space. Bays should be marked so people know where and how to park. I’d appreciate those lines helping me line my car up neatly. In some cases, there should also be signs with instructions about when or how long or who can park.

And if there are no signs nor markings, there should be no parking. Yellow lines simply are not attractive. And too many assumptions are made if there are no yellow lines. The Highway Code prohibits parking within 10 meters of a junction, but how often have you seen that enforced? Obstruction is still a criminal offense, but people block driveways and entrances without even noticing. Never mind obstruction of pedestrians as discussed in my previous blog.

Marked parking bays don’t guarantee good parking. Yet there is a good chance they’d reduce bad parking. They would certainly make it more obvious where parking is or is not allowed. Obstructive, inconsiderate parking should become the exception, rather than the rule. That’s how I propose putting parking in its place.

An Unnecessary Obstruction

The Department for Transport (DfT) in England is currently consulting on three options that will reduce the amount of parking that occurs on ‘the pavement’ (or ‘sidewalk’ or ‘footway’ alongside a carriageway). The aim is to address the obstruction that vehicles cause when they park where people are trying to walk.

The ubiquitous habit of parking on the pavement in the UK has evolved due in part to infrastructure design, in part to outdated legislation, and in part to misguided priorities.

First, many residential streets in the UK are narrow and many houses have no off-street parking, or insufficient space. Some of this is down to history, with neighbourhoods built before mass car ownership. However, there are also many more recent developments, where narrow, winding streets and cul-de-sacs were in fashion and developers did not predict that cars would get so much bigger or that households would have so many of them.

Secondly, although the Traffic Management Act 2004 offered a much-needed update to parking management and enforcement in the country after 20 years of neglecting the issue, it did not make the process of introducing parking restrictions any less bureaucratic, and it did not directly address the prevalence of pavement parking. It allowed local governments to take over responsibilities for creating and enforcing parking restrictions from the police, but only by writing and advertising Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) with precise measurements and correct signs and road markings.

The default is that parking is permitted, even if it is on the pavement. That is why the DfT proposes Option 1: streamlining and digitising the TRO process. This would help authorities pass more TROs to prohibit parking where it is a problem, whether on the pavement or not. However, I would argue that it is unlikely to make much of a dent in the profligate habit of pavement parking seen in your average residential neighbourhood.

Why? Because the third reason parking on the pavement is so widespread is down to cultural norms: it is quite simply assumed and expected in most places that the private space a household has available for parking should not limit the number of vehicles it owns, so long as there is some unrestricted public space on-street nearby. If that street is not wide enough for traffic to travel safely between cars parked fully on the street, then the cars park partially on the pavement. There is absolutely no consideration as to whether pedestrians can travel safely on the pavement or are forced to walk around into traffic.

Thus the DfT suggests Option 2, where consideration should be given as to whether pedestrians, including those in wheelchairs or pushing children in buggies, are being obstructed by the cars parked on the pavement. In such cases, Option 2 suggests, local authorities could issue a parking ticket to the car causing the obstruction without the need for signs or road markings.

But there is a catch – parking enforcement must have some way of showing that the vehicle was not just on the pavement, but causing an ‘unnecessary obstruction’ by being there. The consultation suggests that this could be demonstrated at least in part by an exercise in measurement, as the amount of obstruction depends upon both the width of the pavement and the width of the vehicle, and how much the two overlap.

Yet how to define, let alone demonstrate the ‘unnecessary’ bit? The document undermines its own arguments by suggesting that an obstruction to the pavement may be necessary if there is not sufficient carriageway for vehicles to pass on the road. In other words, parking is necessary, driving is necessary, and only if both of these can happen safely is walking on the pavement safely a necessity.

Thus, we turn to Option 3. Ban parking on the pavement. Make pavement parking enforceable by default, unless a TRO, with all its bureaucracy, signs and road markings, streamlined or not, is officially designated to allow it. Make local authorities and local communities decide if they really want to give up their sidewalks to SUVs. If they do, they can, but only after some actual consideration.

The counterargument is that too many cars will no longer have a place to park, too many exceptions will have to be made. That is the argument of those who think parking has more rights to the pavement than pedestrians, who assume parked cars are a necessary obstruction – if they think about it at all.

In my view, Option 3 is the only one worth considering. Surely if we really thought about the pavement parking we encounter when walking around our own neighbourhoods, we would conclude that it is almost always an unnecessary obstruction we’d all be much happier without.

Staycation Surge or Back to Business as Usual?

As the summer winds down, I can’t wait to learn what September will bring in terms of transport use.

The lack of traffic, and therefore air and noise pollution back in late March through most of May was an incredible silver lining of lockdown. It meant that during the sunniest spring on record, we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy clean air and quiet on daily family walks and cycle rides either along every street, cul-de-sac and cut-through within a 2-mile radius, or through the woods that permeate and separate the towns and villages that make up our corner of the Home Counties.

Yet over the summer, traffic has returned, until, according to Department for Transport statistics, vehicle levels are almost ‘back to normal’ compared to an equivalent day in the first week of February 2020. However, are these trips for the same purposes as they were in February? Do they represent the window of opportunity closing for long-term travel behaviour change to be captured from the short-term, mass disruption?

Anecdotal, survey and big data sources all indicate that there remains a substantial proportion (20-30%) of the population who continue to stay at home, so it is hard to believe that the rise in traffic is solely due to people returning to work as encouraged by Government. Even if some commuters have switched modes from public transport to car (due to unhelpful messaging around the risk of infection on buses and trains compared to other risks, e.g. of road accidents), the rise in unemployment and ongoing telecommuting makes it unlikely that commuters are responsible for the return of pre-pandemic traffic.

Furthermore, in transport modelling, you would never compare August to February anyway. August is not an average month. It is prime holiday season, particularly, though not solely, for families with school-age children and those who work in education. Thus, traffic levels, especially in the morning and evening peaks, are usually less in August than in February. It may be that there is actually MORE traffic this August than during an equivalent day in August 2019.

I don’t know have the data to say for sure, but call it an educated guess. Holidays are usually much more spread out in time and space than they are this year. Most spring holidays were cancelled, but employers are not changing their annual leave roll-over policies. Going abroad is an incredibly risky business with constantly changing quarantine rules. And alongside staycation tourism, people are also catching up on visiting friends and relatives around the country who they may not have seen for months.

People may even be taking more leisure and social journeys in order to use up mileage on leasing contracts. There is some evidence that concerns about the ability to take occasional long-distance leisure trips unduly influence perceptions of the practicality of electric vehicle adoption and range anxiety.  So are such concerns any less likely to influence decisions on mileage allocations in leasing contracts?

The point is that traffic levels are never a product only of commuting trips, the school run, and other ‘necessary’ and ‘essential’ travel, which tends to happen locally. Leisure trips often have outsized impact and involve longer distances. Thus, my hypothesis is that the current high levels of traffic are not a reflection of life returning to pre-pandemic patterns, but rather a staycation surge. Any evidence to support this hypothesis is welcome, but the real question for transport planners wondering if the time to lock-in local, active travel patterns has passed, is: What will happen in September?

Blogs in Other Places

I did not write a blog here in July. However, I did write a brief update of my current work for the Transport Studies Unit summer newsletter.

I also wrote a blog about my time as Chair of the Transport Planning Network on behalf of the RTPI as I step down and we aim to recruit a new volunteer for this very important role.

This is now published. Please have a read, and if you’re interested in the latter, get in touch. It’s a great way to keep up to date with transport and planning policy, get involved and influence , and promote our work as transport planners.

Will-o-the-risk

I’ve been reading, thinking, and talking a lot about risk lately. So now I thought I’d write about it.

Understanding risk and using that understanding to rationally make choices and act accordingly is a challenging and tiring business. As Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel prize in economics explains in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (which I highly recommend – an excellent read), understanding probability and risk is neither easy nor intuitive. Humans naturally find these concepts hard to grasp. Even experts in statistics have to put in a good deal of mental effort to follow the advice of an impersonal algorithm that evaluates risk more accurately than their human instincts are willing to believe.

I’m not saying I’m an expert in statistics, but I have spent many of my working hours over the past four years learning how to calculate probabilities and apply quantitative methods. I also spent most of that time as part of a centre for doctoral training that had the word ‘Risk’ in its title. So I should have a head start on the topic.

Yet I didn’t start talking about risk that much until the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of humanity has been asked to change how they live their daily lives in order to reduce the risk of transmission and exponential infection, the risk of healthcare systems being overwhelmed and of excess mortality.

With the restrictions on everyday activity have come a torrent of data and statistics to help people understand why it is their civic duty to limit their mobility and interactions so severely. Yet as I said, it is not in our nature to understand this information easily. And as more data is gathered and modelled and blanket restrictions are replaced by nuanced recommendations, the messages about risk become much more complex.

So I read and think and then talk it through to try to capture the will-o-the-wisp that is comprehension of risk. I tell other mothers that the reason some children have been allowed back in school even whilst they are not allowed to stay over with vulnerable grandparents is because of the difference in the level of risk. I tell my mother that it is riskier to visit her favourite shop that has re-opened than to go for a walk with a friend even if they drift closer together than the recommended ‘social distance’. I try to balance the emotions of paranoia and complacency that I hear, see, and read about every day.

And yet, all these risks relate only to one potential cause of death. Other risks to human life are absent from the equation, something of which I was reminded in the starkest terms this past weekend when, on our first time on a motorway in three months, we passed a road traffic incident involving three cars and being attended by seven emergency service vehicles.

Thus, when politicians tell people the risks are low enough to encourage more travel for both work and leisure, but that the risks are higher on public transport than by car, they are reporting rather incomplete information. As traffic increases, so does the risk of dangerous driving and all its normal consequences. It may be that the risk of dangerous driving is actually greater than before lockdown as many people take to the roads for the first time in months and may be rather out of practice.

Understanding this and deciding how these risks should influence your behaviour isn’t easy, nor can I offer an easy solution. But neither should the conflicting risks be ignored – even if it does feel like trying to catch a will-o-the-risk.