Six weeks in: a lowdown on the lockdown at Brake

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COVID-19 has changed many things in many workplaces, but what has not changed at Brake is our unwavering commitment to our vision and strategy – to support road crash victims and to campaign for safe and healthy mobility.

So, six weeks in to lockdown, I thought it would be a good time to give an update on how we have adapted to lockdown working, what the current situation means for Brake (and for road safety), and what might come next.

Working through lockdown

Brake staff are all working from our respective homes, thankfully all safe and well. We are communicating and coordinating together in new ways (from video calls to instant messaging services) and connecting as one in our Monday morning team huddle – as you can see above. Unfortunately, however, the impact of COVID-19 has meant that some colleagues have had to be put on furlough, as the charity adjusts its plans and projects for the year – we hope to have them all back working alongside us soon.

We are incredibly proud that our helpline for road crash victims has remained open throughout the lockdown, especially as fears of the crisis and isolation from social distancing may be adding to people’s trauma. This month, we also announced that the Government has increased its contribution to the funding of our National Road Victim Service in 20/21 – a brilliant endorsement of the work of our team.

Since lockdown, we have been rescoping this year’s plans, shifting our physical events and fundraisers – such as bungee jumps, marathons, conferences and seminars – to digital replacements and communicating these changes. We have been heartened by the continued commitment our friends and partners have shown to Brake, and to our cause, throughout this process.

What does the crisis mean for Brake?

COVID-19 is having a big impact on the charity sector. At Brake, the contributions that we receive from our supporters – who raise money by jumping out of planes, coordinating bake sales or shaking buckets in town centres – is vital. Much of this activity can no longer take place and so we are having to think differently (and digitally) to plug a quite considerable gap.

We launched our #CommitYourCommute campaign to encourage people to donate what they’re saving on their commute to Brake and have been sharing a whole host of other ways people can fundraise for us – please have a look to see what you can do to help support Brake through these challenging times.

What does the crisis mean for road safety?

The situation facing the world, at present, is undeniably bleak and requires us all to minimise the risk to ourselves and others. At Brake, we have been ensuring that the Government’s message of stay home and only travel for essential journeys is at the forefront of our public communications.

However, the lockdowns in force across the globe do provide a unique opportunity for people to experience healthier, and probably safer, streets, and so offer an alternative vision for the future which chimes with our own – a future which puts people’s needs ahead of the needs of traffic.

From Paris to Bogota, Brussels, to Philadelphia, cities are using the lockdown to reclaim space from motor traffic to people walking and cycling. Excitingly, some of these cities are planning for these measures to be in place beyond the current crisis, potentially heralding a new era for urban mobility.

In the UK, we have seen small-scale national measures introduced, and some developments at a local level, but nothing to match the scale of ambition shown by others. In fact, most of the temporary measures that the UK has implemented have largely been to relax safety rules, such as driving hours limitations and vehicle testing requirements – rest assured we are working hard to hold the Government to account for these changes.

We are still hopeful for positive developments, however, and the Government’s recent ‘Decarbonising Transport’ document, points towards a better future and a significant shift in the UK, stating that: “Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.”.

Focusing back on the here and now, the UK lockdown has inevitably decreased traffic flow, which has contributed in part to reports of massive decreases in air pollution. We have heard countless stories of individuals and families across the country enjoying walking or cycling along quieter, cleaner roads – a sight to lift the spirits in these difficult times.

However, while the roads may be quieter and cleaner, there are worrying reports of increased average speeds and a sharp increase in excessive speeding by a small minority. Speeding at any time is selfish and dangerous but with roads only permitted to be used for essential journeys – and our emergency services and NHS under more strain than ever – this is significant cause for concern. We are working with our partners, including the police, to communicate the dangers of speeding and the need to only travel if essential, and we’ve also backed the campaign to introduce emergency 20mph limits during lockdown.

Throughout this crisis, we will continue to be your voice for safe and healthy mobility calling for positive change.

What comes next?

This is the million-dollar question and unfortunately we don’t have a crystal ball. However, we commit to do all we can to support road crash victims throughout, and beyond, this crisis, and to campaign for safer and healthier streets for everyone. We will be using our blog to give perspectives from colleagues across the safe and healthy mobility community, exploring how the crisis might change future travel patterns and what we might be able to learn from lockdown – watch this space!

This is a new and worrying situation for everyone. However, we believe that as a charity, as a community, and as a country, we can learn valuable lessons from this crisis and come out of this terrible situation with a renewed vigour to make positive change to people’s lives.

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Saturday, 31 October 2020

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