LONDON MOOT

More money for the buses, but who actually likes getting on one?

The good old bus may be about to play a key role in helping to reduce pollution and congestion. However, there is a but …

Many people involved in developing our public transport system see the bus playing a major role in our clean air future. It is estimated than one bus full of passengers can help take up to 40 cars off our roads. That’s 40 fewer tailpipes kicking out CO2 and 40 fewer vehicles helping to form traffic jams!

When put in those terms, the Government’s decision to lob £5 billion over the next five years into bus and cycling projects looks like a win/win situation.

But…

There is a flaw in this clamour for bus travel – many people don’t like riding on them. Me? I hate being on them, with a passion. It’s not the actual buses themselves, I hasten to add. But the motley bunch that gets on them that’s the problem.

The rude morons who are convinced that their lives are so interesting that everyone in earshot should be able to listen to them either on the phone or chatting to work colleagues about mundane matters in a very loud voice.

Sitting on the outside seat and defying other passengers to ask you to move over is intensely annoying

The selfish people who think “if I sit on the outside seat no one will ask me to move over so they can sit next to me”.

The gourmets who think that the sweat following the heavily spiced meal they had the night before is no longer seeping out of their pores and making those sitting or standing close to them feel sick.

The yobs who think everyone shares their taste in music.

Above are several good reasons why I don’t care to travel by bus. In principle, a great bus service is difficult to argue against – especially with reference to green matters. In practice, I’m not so sure it works.

One thing (among many) I find especially galling is that many of the people deciding we will all be better off on the bus have probably not seen the inside of one for years. And probably won’t do for years to come either. This concept that “other people don’t need to travel by car, but for me it’s an essential”. What a crock!

At least Boris Johnson, when he was London’s mayor, would get on his bike to cycle to events. For security reasons I don’t suppose he would be allowed to now as PM.

I don’t have a car. I drove in the UK for about 40 years. Not a cost consideration, but I live in a town centre with major shops, supermarkets and bus and rail stations within a five-minute walk so it is difficult to “justify” running a car. But, I do miss having one.

I commute to work by bus. The vehicles themselves are okay. One of the buses I can take has Wi-Fi and charging points for mobiles. It accepts contactless payments and people can buy ‘season ticket’ cards in advance of travel to present to the scanner though some still use this strange thing called cash. It can cause delays, but not unacceptably long ones.

The vehicle itself is okay and the company that owns it has made a decent effort to move with the times. But the idiots (aka passengers) detract from the experience. Many is the time I stick my headphones on – whether I want to listen to music or not – just to drown out those around me.

In short, I would support the bus revolution if we could address the question of people behaving badly and in an oafish manner while on the bus. As a kid we used to have conductors on buses. They disappeared when Oyster cards came along. If people misbehave on a bus now there is little the driver can do about it. The conductors were able to do something although there was always the risk of confrontation.

For buses to gain popularity, then the natural insularity of the passengers needs to be addressed. The reserved Brit’s dislike of sharing their space with a stranger needs to be overcome.

People need to rediscover the benefits of treating one another with consideration and decency. Only then will people hop on a bus out of preference, not necessity.

Maybe we should bring back the clippies in a bid to ensure passengers stay on their best behaviour!

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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