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Observations

Lockdown Divide

For my family the negative impacts of lockdown have been limited to some extent by shifting even more of our daily lives online – most notably video calls with family and friends. Online shopping, browsing Instagram for ideas to entertain the baby and downloads of podcasts have also definitely seen a significant increase. Lockdown is hardly a bed of roses, but these things definitely help. With this in mind, Cat Macaulay’s tweet (below) really struck a chord when I read it a few days ago.

800,000!

Covid-19 is not affecting all people equally. It is widening the inequalities faced by so many, but the digital divide is particularly striking. (This includes people who do not have: access to a device, the means to pay for digital access or the necessary digital skills.) There’s no easy fix. As we move forward I think there are two paths which both need to be followed – first, find new and better ways for those who are digitally-excluded to gain access to the digital world (IF individuals want to) and secondly, ensure that access to services is not wholly reliant on a digital channel. There needs to be an immediate response to get through the lockdown period, but then also a longer-term, more fundamental response.

I’m glad to see that there is action happening here in Scotland – this post by the SCVO explains more about the challenges and the “emergency national aid effort to mobilise” those at risk and digital excluded.

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Observations

Resilience

I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience through our first days of this pandemic. Resilience is a topic that has interested me since I studied it briefly during my Masters degree where the focus was the resilience of infrastructure to climate change and extreme weather events. What’s happening at the moment is making me realise how broadly we need to consider resilience. 

A traditional view of resilience might focus on being strong in the face of a challenge – being steadfast or hardy. However, in the wake of Covid-19 I suspect adaptability will be seen as being increasingly important in planning for resilience. 

I’ve started collecting examples of how businesses are demonstrating their adaptability in response to our current circumstances. I’m not sure I can judge yet whether these approaches ensure they are resilient; that will play-out in the longer term.

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Observations

Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland

When I became a mum seven month ago, I was keen to breastfeed, having heard about the numerous benefits. I also knew it wasn’t always an easy endeavour. However, I was lucky and we took to it well – so much so that my baby refused to ever take a bottle. I’m pretty confident to breastfeed when and where I need to, although this has become harder now that my little boy often chooses to ‘shout’ rather loud when being fed! I can’t say it’s always been easy but I’m glad I made the choice that I did. With that in mind, I was really interested to see this event being promoted on social media – How can we build a Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland? 

It’s a drop in event organised by La Leche League working with NHS Lothian, the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), the Breastfeeding Network and the Scottish Government Breastfeeding Advocacy and Culture Change Advisory Group. I’m looking forward to attending and hope I can make a positive contribution to the conversation. I just hope that it’s not just mums like me who are interested breastfeeding (and who have had a positive breastfeeding experience) who choose to attend and add their voice to the conversation. I’m sure the organisers are working to get a mix in attendance. This was always a challenge for us when recruiting for similar events or for co-design activities – how to make sure you hear the full range of voices on an issue. 

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Observations

Choo Choo!

Every few years when I was young we were treated to a trip on the ‘Santa Special’ – a steam train ride on the Severn Valley railway to meet the man himself. So it was a very special day for all the family when my parents took us and my little one (their first grandchild) back to the Severn Valley Railway for a Christmas treat. And what a morning we had! Santa boarded the train and came to give each child a present while chatting with the adults who were each merrily munching a mince pie. Even when Santa wasn’t visiting us, our little carriage was full of singing and chatter. We took photos; played games; and showed a bemused 6-month old out of the window. Many of the staff were volunteers and seemed genuinely pleased to see us all enjoying ourselves. Wouldn’t it be nice if every journey was this much fun! Could it be?


It was even fun waiting to board!
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Observations

A new mom on the road

Yesterday I travelled solo on the bus into town with my 4 month old in his pushchair. No big deal hey… Actually, it was a pretty big deal for me. Readers will recall that back in May I wrote a post about my ambitions to be a “multi modal mom”. Well, the baby arrived and at various points over the last four months I’ve reflected on that blog post and on our travel choices. 

Our travel reality:

My first admission is that I had completely underestimated the sheer effort just to get out of the house with a baby in tow – especially if you have a set time you need to be somewhere. It gradually becomes a little easier but I now know to leave an extra 15 minutes at least for an unexpected nappy change or demand for food.

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Observations

Pondering my Future Travel as a Mom-To-Be

A year ago I wrote a proposal for innovation funding to explore how you could make public transport an easy choice for new parents and those with young children. I am now writing this blog post at 7 1/2 months pregnant and pondering whether I’m really going to be able to achieve my own desire to be a multi-modal mom! 

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Observations

Examining our world of work

I don’t subscribe to many podcasts but a few months ago I came across the Harvard Business Review’s ‘Women at Work’ podcast series. My interest was piqued and I downloaded Series 1. Series 2 has just kicked off and I’d honestly recommend it to everyone. Focusing on a different theme each episode, the hosts discuss their experiences of being women in the workplace but also examine formal research in the area. (Much of which is available on HBR). Obviously, these podcasts are part of a much bigger movement which is questioning topics including women’s position in society, inequalities and sexual harassment.

I’ve taken something from every Women at Work podcast episode. I’ve got to say that I work in a super, small and inclusive team although I still find the wider transport sector to be too male-dominated particularly given the fact that we are trying to design inclusive transport systems. The Women at Work discussions have prompted me to see and then question the inherent biases – expectations, cultures and perceptions – facing women in the work environment. I’m sometimes surprised by the things that I hadn’t previously recognised. For example, in the first episode of Series 2, the hosts discuss the fact that women, in general, spend more of their working hours on ‘non-promotable tasks’ than men at the same level of seniority. These are tasks including office housework (like watering the office plants, ordering lunch, and taking the minutes in meetings) as well as many other routine jobs which don’t support career progression. The patterns here are complex and include the fact that women tend to feel the pressure to volunteer for these jobs more than men, but also that they are asked to do them more often by managers (and are reluctant to say no when asked). It’s easy to see why men might progress faster in organisations if they’ve had more time to concentrate on promotable tasks compared to their female counterparts.

I’m left examining my own actions and attitudes as a woman who wants to keep her career progressing, but also as a colleague to other women. I think it is important to note though, that we shouldn’t have to be anything different – we shouldn’t act more ‘male’ – but that our work environments should see the value in a diverse workforce and allow all to prosper.

On a related note, I’m also excited to be starting to read Deep Work by Cal Newport which examines the distractions we face while working and our tendency to low-value, shallow work. More on this once I’ve finished the book!

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Observations

Nordic ideas from the ITS World Congress 2018

The ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) World Congress is a pretty big deal in the public transport world. The 2018 Congress has just been held in Copenhagen and I was excited to attend to present a paper that I had accepted and to take part in this global discussion about the future of transport.

There has been a perceivable change in the themes covered in the ITS Congress’ sessions over recent years, reflecting a wider industry shift towards ‘mobility’ and ‘service’ instead of ‘transport’, ‘vehicles’ and ‘operations’. With the theme of this year’s Congress being ‘Quality of Life’, a citizen-centric approach was apparent across many of the presentations I attended.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a hot topic at the moment and is an area I am actively engaged in. At its most simple I would describe MaaS as an approach to reduce single-occupancy car use by making it much easier for people to be aware of, and combine, a mix of alternative modes, which together can match the car for ease and convenience. It was impressive to see so many session dedicated to, or including discussion of, MaaS and while not everyone is in agreement about the approach to delivering MaaS, the conversations are definitely moving forward. However, it wasn’t strictly a MaaS presentation that has stuck most firmly in my mind.

The very last session I attended, was one I selected on the spur of the moment, but I’m very glad I spotted it on the Programme. It was called ‘Better Mobility with Public Transport’ and included three excellent presentations about activities being undertaken by HSL (the Helsinki Region Transport Authority), Ruter (the public transport authority for Oslo and Akershus counties) and Movia (the Greater Copenhagen public transport authority). These agencies have been supporting each other in refining their direction and approach to public transport delivery.

It was a story from Endre Angelvik at Ruter, which really caught my attention although all were clearly undertaking some excellent work. Endre talked about their desire to reduce single-occupancy car use, but instead of being caught up in MaaS or another technical solution, they’d had taken a broader approach. They’d noted that trip chaining (i.e. stopping at multiple points along your journey for different tasks such as picking up some shopping on your way home from work) was actually one of the biggest challenges to reducing car use in their Region. At the same time, they had some issues to solve around the transportation of children to after-school activities and then to their homes afterwards. By putting on a relatively simple minibus service, which the kids paid for using a usual child’s monthly travel pass, they quickly solved the problem of getting them home. It also boosted inclusion for children whose parents may not have otherwise been able to get them to/from these activities. However, the even greater knock-on effect is that the kids’ service removed the main chain in the evening commutes of the parents. This meant more parents could leave their cars at home that day and take public transport.

In some ways, this all seems so simple and commonsensical. However, this type of approach doesn’t happen often enough. All too often we get caught up in finding a technological fix, and miss the wider opportunities. I found it inspiring to listen to Endre and his Nordic colleagues and am sure I will now question our transport challenges and solutions even more thoroughly.

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Observations

The joy of reading

I’ve always enjoyed reading, ever since I was young when I wished I lived in America and went to ‘Sweet Valley High’. However, it was only usually during holidays that I would devour a pile of novels as quickly as possible. This year, my New Year’s Resolution was to try to read 25 books in the year. Now I know for some proper bookworms, this probably doesn’t sound a lot, but for me, one book every two weeks or so seemed like an ambitious target. I was fuelled on in part by my new commute, which resulted in me sitting on the bus for over an hour most days. I’d had enough of gazing out of the window and felt frustrated with using this time to keep checking emails before and after my working day.

The impact of my New Year’s Resolution has been much greater than I imagined. It’s early November and I have now almost finished with my 24th book of the year. I’ve nearly always got a book in my bag. I don’t read on every single bus journey, sometimes I’m just too tired, but on the vast majority, you will find me engrossed in my latest literary choice. I now look forward to my bus journeys rather than seeing it as a chore. I’ve also noticed that it seems to be helping my day-to-day stress levels. It’s proving a nicer way to start and end the day and allows me to turn-off my work brain as I head home for the evening. I’m sure I sleep better too when I read as I go to sleep. A recent article in The Simple Things magazine, explains that reading can become a form of mindfulness – I most definitely agree!

Beyond these great personal benefits, I’m also enjoying the wider impact of books. I’ve hardly read anything on my Kindle this year; the good old paperback is my medium of choice. I enjoy receiving other people’s recommendations and passing books on to others who I think will enjoy them. My mom and I have been drip-feeding each other with books throughout the year. I’m talking about books with friends and colleagues much more, and finding new, common interests this way. I’ve always enjoyed a riffle through charity shop bookshelves and can now do this without any guilt, knowing I probably will get around to reading the book I’m about to buy, rather than it ending up on my bookshelf, unread for years. I look forward to buying and reading even more books next year! I’ve kept a note of the books I’ve read this year, but next year my plan is to write a proper review of each one.

For those interested, this year I have read:

  1. The Versions of Use by Laura Barnett
  2. The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
  3. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
  4. Dissolution by C J Sansom
  5. Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson
  6. The Buried Giant by Kazou Ishiguro
  7. The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
  8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  9. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
  10. The Hidden Light of Objects by Mai Al-Nakib
  11. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
  12. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  13. Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
  14. The Blackhouse by Peter May
  15. A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman
  16. After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell
  17. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
  18. The Dry by Jane Harper
  19. Nutshell by Ian McEwan
  20. I’m Travelling Alone by Smaual Bjork
  21. The Marmaid and the Drunks by Ben Richards
  22. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  23. The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen
  24. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
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Observations

When I was glad I was five minutes early

I’m regularly travelling for work these days and can certainly notice that the more I travel, the less anxious I feel about missing connections or being delayed etc. However, on Friday I was glad that I’ve not become too relaxed, and left work a little earlier than required to get to the airport. I had decided to take the tram. I have my Ridacard so the tram is free all the way to the airport (as in many cities, paying passengers have to pay a premium to take the whole route to the airport). As it was approaching rush hour, I thought the tram would be a safe option because it doesn’t have too many points where it can get stuck in traffic. It’s also super easy when you are dragging a suitcase along behind you. However, Friday’s trip wasn’t the most user friendly. Here follows my (slightly long winded) account of the journey.