The Covid-19 lock-down has brought into sharp focus the vital – and now potentially dangerous – role transport workers play in keeping our world turning.
There are countless people and companies in the sector who have really gone ‘above and beyond’ in the last few weeks and I want to highlight their efforts, and encourage people to fully appreciate them, not just now but in the future too.
The unsung heroes on the front line include bus drivers, taxi drivers and tube workers, all of whom are coming into contact with the public every day. Their courage is incredible, especially as a number of their colleagues have already lost their lives to Covid-19. Whilst their bravery is to be commended without question, we should also recognise that some of them are continuing to work out of necessity, not out of choice. Self-employed taxi drivers may need to carry out a minimum number of trips each week just to cover the rental costs of their car. Bus and tube workers may not have the option of cutting back their hours significantly. Yet each time someone gets into their vehicle, I imagine they must be scared, wondering whether that person is carrying the virus.
Then there are other drivers who are less visible to the general public but are vital to keep the country moving. I’m thinking of the haulage and delivery drivers, who are ensuring the supermarkets have as much produce on their shelves as possible and that the spike in online orders can be delivered.
Thirdly, even more invisible, are the back-office staff of the mobility sector who are still going to work, risking their health, to keep all those essential vehicles on the road and in good working order – people like fleet maintenance technicians, who have to work from a depot in order to service and repair ambulances, taxis, buses, lorries, etc. They too are at risk of being in close contact with other people (e.g. co-workers and drivers) as well as potentially picking up the germs passengers may have left on the vehicles.
Lastly, there are leaders of mobility companies, which have pivoted and responded to the current situation with incredible agility and a sincere eagerness to play their part. CoMo wrote an article capturing a list of shared mobility companies who have done this. Many have offered significant discounts to key workers, to help them get to work safely and without having to rely on public transport. Zeelo was one of the first to adapt its model and provide new software to help public transport providers offer a safe passenger service. Brompton also swiftly came out with a great scheme, WheelsForHeroes, to help key workers hire bikes, so they could travel independently (as well as benefit from exercise and reduce pollution).
Many more heroes have emerged in these strange times, so this is by no means and exhaustive list. But I’m hoping we can take this moment to (a) celebrate and say thank you to those people who have sometimes been overlooked or forgotten during the Covid-19 crisis and (b) encourage everyone to continue to appreciate those same people long after the crisis has subsided – even if it’s just saying thank you to a tube worker or the driver as you get off the bus. (I’ve noticed this is something that seems to happen naturally outside London, by the way.)
Thank you to you all, now and always.