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.

Muddle of Mobility Messages

As the UK begins to ease its lockdown restrictions and people are allowed to move about more, I don’t have a problem with the change of message from ‘Stay at Home’ to ‘Stay Alert’. I feel I can be trusted to behave responsibly and sensibly as I encounter more people beyond my household, and I’d like to think the majority of my fellow citizens can be trusted likewise.

Besides, the first message when it comes to work activities, is to remain working from home if this is possible. And whilst the group that can work from home is not a majority and their socio-demographics have implications for equity, it turns out that far more people can work from home at least some of the time than were doing so before the pandemic. This will reduce pressure on transport infrastructure and destinations alike.

The second message is to walk and cycle where possible, and it is backed up by emergency powers to make changes quickly and funding to implement those changes. Local transport authorities around the country are reallocating road space to pedestrians and cyclists, both to enable safe active travel, and to support social distancing outside essential shops and services.

As I wrote in my last blog, with a proactive approach supported by good spatial planning of these essential non-work destinations, these facilities will help increase walking and cycling among those who are working from home as well as those travelling to work over relatively short distances. In 2018, two thirds of trips in England were under 5 miles (p19).

So far so good. But then we get to the muddle. Whilst some of the other third of trips will be to destinations that are still closed, trips to work and to exercise further from home are being actively encouraged, whilst the use of public transport is being actively discouraged. This is problematic and indeed contradictory for a number of reasons:

  • People are being asked to stay alert if they need to go to workplaces where they risk potential infection due to social interactions outside their household, often in indoor spaces. Meanwhile workplaces are expected to put into place safety measures (for cleaning, social distancing, etc) that make staying alert rather than staying home a sufficient precaution. Public transport vehicles are also workplaces. They are also expected to put into place safety measures (for cleaning, social distancing, etc). Therefore, surely the directive to stay alert should be sufficient for both workplaces and public transport, without the additional directive to avoid public transport altogether?
  • Related to this, encouraging the reallocation of road space at the same time as encouraging a return to car use could create more conflicts between motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists – both on the road and in the media. Clarity on the hierarchy of road users is preferable to the current mixed messages.
  • Furthermore, reductions in carbon emissions and air pollution has been a major benefit of reduced road traffic during lockdown. As COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, keeping air pollution down will not reduce risk of transmission, but may reduce the numbers who are at risk of becoming severely ill. Air pollution causes excess mortality from numerous respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Finally, a study in NYC correlates higher infection rates after lockdown with car-dependent areas, compared to those connected by public transport. The authors suggest this could be because people who travel by car to shops and services are more likely to come into contact with more people from different areas of the city than people who travel by public transport and access what they need by foot within their own neighbourhood. Indeed, if people are returning to work by car (or visiting more distant places for exercise), they may split their essential shopping (food, medicine) across communities, potentially spreading or picking up the virus from multiple places rather than one. Such linked trips by public transport are much less likely, whilst active travellers keep everything local.

In conclusion, if a resurgence in car travel is to be avoided, trust in public transport cannot be undermined further by stark warnings, local people must have priority on local roads, and long distance day trips should be discouraged – at least until more destinations re-open and there are more economic and social benefits to making those trips. The messaging around mobility needs modification and a more strategic outlook.

On Foot Essentials

Last month, I wrote about what many practitioners of transport planning and advocates of accessibility have been mulling over: the tidal wave of telecommuting in these turbulent and yet strangely static times, and the potential sustainability and resilience of online access. Scroll down to my previous blog (or an earlier one) if you want to know more.

However, accessibility is much more than access to work, particularly as telecommuting, contract employment, and other flexible working patterns continue to grow – even before the COVID-19 crisis. Jobs and populations are unevenly distributed and dominant employment sectors and local labour skills often don’t quite match up. Thus, whilst it is important for public transport and road networks to link neighbourhoods to employment areas, it is at least as important that places where people live offer easy access to essential non-work services and activities. Especially if we want to see some lasting effects of the current reduction in carbon-emitting car travel.

Part of the problem, however, is that it is tricky to clearly define what is essential for people to continue to access outside the home. Non-work trips are usually more flexible in terms of the time of day / day of the week they could take place, and there are usually multiple options to fulfil each need in a given area, from supermarkets to hair salons. Some services are also moving online in a big way, such as shopping for comparison goods.

Still, my research using the English National Travel Survey to investigate non-work trips by telecommuters (those with an external workplace who work from home at least once a week) suggested that telecommuters make a similar number of trips per week to the rest of the working population, and confirmed that a much higher percentage of those trips cannot be defined as commuting. In other words, if you work from home, you still want to get out for other purposes about the same number of times, even if to a greater variety of destinations.

My conclusion is that if the majority of these destinations were within walking distance, then more walking and less driving would naturally occur. More walking is better for public health, for community cohesion, and for the environment.

However, other than ‘escort education’, I found it difficult in my research to precisely match land uses to trip purposes such as ‘other escort’, ‘personal business’, or ‘leisure’. Which brings me back to what is essential to have in every neighbourhood, within walking distance, other than schools.

The current situation gives us new insight. First, although it would be helpful to know what indoor leisure opportunities are best localised, we clearly could all use more access to outdoor space and nature for daily exercise, especially where gardens are scarce. Is this an argument for ‘green wedges’ rather than ‘green belts’ and linear parks rather than enclosed squares? I’d advocate further research into the possibility at least.

Furthermore, pharmacies, post offices, and banks are clearly essential, if that was ever in doubt. Such facilities need to stop closing local branches and perhaps diversify their business models to provide other essential services. Finally, there is the admittedly anecdotal evidence that local food shops, convenience stores, and takeaways have been more successful through this period in providing the basics, keeping their customers happy, and offering personalised ordering, collection, and delivery services than their bigger rivals. If there were ever signs that the large, out-of-town hypermarkets are not fit for purpose, they are now flashing red.

In conclusion, it is more apparent now than ever that places with plenty of access to nature and plenty of essentials locally are not only more attractive, but also more resilient. If we want more resilient communities, more telecommuting, and less medium-distance travel, then our goal should be walkable places for everyone.

Broadband in Extreme Demand

Resilience is often described by a number of other words beginning with ‘R’. Resistance or Robustness are two. These refer to infrastructure that is designed or an activity that is organised to avoid risk and withstand the expected impact or disruption. Redundancy and Replication are two more. These refer to equivalent or at least parallel alternatives that enable the same outcomes, even if not by the same means. In transport, it could be an alternative route or another mode that still enables access to the same destination. Finally, there is Response and Recovery, how quickly action is taken and life returns to either its previous ‘normal’ or stabilises into a new ‘normal’.

As I explored in my recently awarded doctoral thesis, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have a major role to play in resilience to severe weather events. Broadband networks are often more robust than transport infrastructure and access to some activities such as work can be replicated online. Opportunities for communication are also enhanced to speed recovery.

Yet the ability of ICT to play these roles may be constrained by the interactions between supply and demand, availability and quality. Broadband supply and availability can be limited if there are not the physical connections to support superfast services, or certain providers simply do not operate. Yet even where the supply is available, broadband quality is affected by increased demand – something the industry calls ‘contention’ or slowdown in busy periods. Usually this happens due to entertainment, and the daily peak tends to be in the evenings, when streaming video content is most popular. Other times, such as during major sporting events, capacity can be managed to some extent by Internet Service Providers.

In contrast, my research was designed to test if contention could be detected when internet activities are in unusually high demand because household members are unexpectedly home due to extreme weather events. Thus, I analysed data comprising 5 years of broadband speeds, from 2012-2016, in England and Wales, which was provided by Speedchecker Ltd, a private company that allows internet users to check their own broadband upload / download speeds, and stores every speed-check with a timestamp and geolocation. Using multilevel modelling to control for supply side variation, I regressed download speeds against daily weather records to assess how more severe weather affects contention experienced at the neighbourhood level. My results confirmed that winter weather and storm-level winds have significant, albeit small, negative effects on broadband speeds.

Yet these effects are likely to have been an underestimate – sensitivity testing suggested greater contention in subsets of the data designed to control for uneven growth in average broadband speeds or exclude spatial extremes in service. There are also divergences between weather parameters and weather impacts, with the latter dependent upon confounding variables like what type of transport infrastructure is affected and the length of advance warning. Also, the noise in this big data source and the subtleties of the assessment meant it was not easy to identify who was most likely to avoid travel risks and work from home during severe weather or where the most telecommuting activity occurs.

In contrast, we now have an ongoing disruption where everyone who can has been told to use ICT in order to be more resilient, avoid a very different type of risk, and replicate their productive activities as much as possible until we can recover. How is the quality and level of service of broadband in the UK coping with what is likely to be the most extreme level of demand it has ever experienced? I’m planning to find out!