At the start of the pandemic, a small band of transport nerds from the USA, New Zealand, the UK, and Ecuador set out to answer a simple question: what does this all mean for mobility and transport? Now, 7 months in, their current findings are in.

Cyclist cycling past a sign in the city of Bogota
Cyclist cycling past a sign in the city of Bogota
Source: Carlos Pardo

It has been nearly a year since cases of an unknown type of pneumonia were first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Since then, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, more commonly known as COVID-19, has torn through our connected world. For all the talk of disruption in transport, it’s fair to say few saw this disruptor coming.

As countries began to lock down and the demand for mobility systems dried up, we set out with a simple question. How do the transport sector, and we as transport nerds, feel about the future now?

Typically, transport nerds would…

It’s not enough for planners to act now to #BuildBackBetter. Without changes in structures and decision making, this counts for nothing. This takes a long time.

Transport has not had a good crisis. There, I’ve said it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all been bad. We’ve managed to respond to arguably the biggest supply chain shock we have ever had to face. We’ve helped build new hospitals in record time. We’ve built temporary cycle infrastructure in record time, and are looking to make it permanent. We’ve (largely) given the public good advice on travelling that is scientifically robust, especially when it comes to using public transport.

We’ve acted and reacted. Perhaps that was all that was needed of us during a crisis? But there is…

While everyone thinks of the NHS, a silent army works away without the credit it deserves.

I need to get this off my chest. Because it has been bugging the hell out of me for the better part of 4 weeks now. Whilst the nation stands every Thursday to applaud the NHS and this vague notion of ‘key workers,’ a silent army works away in the background. Keeping vulnerable people cared for and our public services running. Doing things they were never asked to do, never trained to do, never imagined they would be doing. But are doing it anyway.

Us Brits love to tease them as officious. There are people who are more sinister about…

Its not time to talk or to act. Its time to do both.

Organising an online event is easy they say. You don’t have to worry about things like catering and venues. Nor do you have to do numerous trips to make sure everything is ok. Just set up a Zoom account, give people the sign up link, and away you go.

Those people have never tried to organise an unconference entirely online before. That is what me, Anna, Laura, Pawel, and Kit have spent the last 3 weeks doing for Transport Planning Camp Extra.

And you know what, I think we have got it pretty spot on, and I am really excited…

This is not so much an article, as it is me processing what the hell has gone on in the last few weeks.

Source: Reuters

Well, that came out of no-where. Didn’t it?

All the years of talk about disrupting mobility. Revolutionary business models. Technology-enabled innovative service delivery. Arguments for the status quo. Arguments for investing in traditional public transport, walking, cycling. All gone in just a few weeks.

Let’s not mess about here. Quite apart from the public health crisis that is clear and obvious, this is the biggest challenge that transport planners globally have faced in the time that we have called ourselves a profession, and are ever likely to face in peacetime.

Transport planners have faced mobility restrictions before. We have dealt…

Involving people who are traditionally excluded from society is hard, especially when attitudes towards them are truly appalling. We took the lessons from our first engagement exercise, and applied them to the hardest possible use case.

If you haven’t read Part One and Part Two of the story behind Mobility Lab, then I recommend that you do so before proceeding on.

“Why should I give you my view? You don’t care. You just want to tick a box.”
“Ok, here’s my view. The Council are useless and you should all be sacked. I’ve reported the pikeys 5 times and nothing has been done about them.”
“Look, we just don’t want the gyppos around here. Just blow up their caravans and be done with it.”

How do you overcome that level of vitriol in a public engagement…

They say you learn a lot from your mistakes. If those lessons scale to the size of your mistake, I took a university course for my first lesson in community engagement.

No, this isn’t a motivational post

If you haven’t read the first part of the story behind Mobility Lab, I suggest that you check it out before reading on.

John was right you know. Consultation really was a basic process. For about 6 months I kept up the gig in planning. House extension, after house extension, after house extension. The same routine day in, day out. Send the letters to the highway authority and the parish council. Go out and put the site notice up. No old ladies this time. Or any time. …

Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing the back story of how my company, Mobility Lab, came to be. As well as why I care about community engagement in transport so much.

This post was originally posted on the Mobility Lab website.

It was the Summer of 2005. Barely a year had passed since I had graduated from the University of Hertfordshire (BSc (Hons) Geography), and I had been working as a Planning Assistant in my very first job. South Bedfordshire District Council in Dunstable. Mostly, this consisted of checking planning applications. Making sure all the forms were filled in right, all of the relevant documents were included, the right fee was paid, and that it was all signed and sealed correctly.

I did that for 9 months. It wasn’t that bad…

After a not-so-great 2019, 2020 will be better. To do that, things are going to change around here.

Dank and gloomy. A metaphor for 2019

Well that was an awful year. Not for transport you understand, as its carried on as it always does. What I mean was that was an awful year for me.

During the week of Christmas, I got the first break that I have really had all year. And by God I needed it. Going into it, I was a wreck. Exhausted. Stressed. Worrying about everything. And now having reflected on the year, amazed that I somehow got through it all.

Almost every problem that a small business owner could face, I have faced. I have faced them alone for the…

James Gleave

I write about transport, transport strategy, a bit of future thinking, and how it all meshes together to think about the future of transport. Not much then

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