'Some traditions need to be abandoned, and working 9-5 is one of them'

Britain needs to re-think its approach to commuting, according to Mike Rutherford

Opinion commute

There are some quintessentially British problems that we, as individuals, can do almost nowt about. For starters, the UK’s road network, parking facilities and public transport systems are at best inadequate, at worst unfit for purpose – despite the fact that we pay through the nose for them. 

Another major issue is the obsession with 9-5. This tradition forces workers and students to clock on and off at more or less the same time. Result? Millions of commuters travelling from A to B in unison. It’s madness. In these times of social distancing, everyone travelling at the same time is needlessly and unacceptably risky, and it’s largely avoidable, too. So can we please immediately start the process of relying less on a Britain that’s 9-5, Monday-Friday, and more 24/7/365, where we exploit all the hours of our days, not just a small proportion? 

Let’s leave the school run as it is, allowing kids to travel to and from school during their usual 7am-9am and 3pm-5pm slots, when the light is generally good and they’re safest. We also need to respect the needs of the elderly and vulnerable, who often prefer to travel at the brightest times of day. But what about the vast majority of working adults? They’re tens of millions strong, but do they need to stick to the 9-5 ‘norm’ when we know the roads and railways – never mind social distancing – can no longer cope? Cars, vans, trucks, buses and trains and the people aboard them forced to blitz inadequate roads and tracks during rush hours is plain dumb. Some traditions need to be abandoned, and this is one of  ’em.

First, truck operators have to be financially rewarded for keeping off the roads from 6am-9am and 4pm-7pm. Next, offices and retailers need to ensure that they don’t clash with school times by ensuring that workers stagger their start and leaving times. Simple. 

The most effective way to reduce congestion, limit parking pressures, curtail the spread of Covid and control the volume of people on the streets (Britain is in the global Top 20 for population density) is for businesses and citizens to spread the load. For those able, doing things like the weekly supermarket shop, the monthly visit to the barber and the annual car service outside of a 9-5 window would help hugely. As might an experiment to discover if drivers really must travel by car every day. If there were a financial reward system in place, might you consider parking up more often? 

A law demanding motorists and their cars can only enter busy centres on alternate days would be a step too far. But what if we were instead given the right to drive in (and out again) the equivalent of every other day – ie 182 days per annum? Before you answer that question, ask yourself another: unless you’re an essential employee or carer, aren’t you out of your mind to drive into and park up in a big city more than 182 times a year in the current climate? Go on, improve your life and health by abandoning the archaic 9-5 existence. And make yourself even happier and healthier by cutting back on those gruelling, expensive drives during still-hellish morning and evening rush hours.

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