Sunday, 12 September 2004

Bendy Buses

So its upon us. The Bendy Bus. The public transport of 21st Century Europe. I've listened to 1,560 complaints (I'm exaggerating for effect!) about them and 1 positive comment (but this is a true figure).

The positive comment is that you can wheel your buggie onto the bus without having to fold it up (which I might add you're also able to do on the more modern double deckers) but its a fair point for parents and wheelchair uses.

Bendy bus complaints include:
  • When I was a kid they weren't called Routemasters they were simply known as Double Deckers. In a world of public transport the double decker is a rarity (its equally thrilling to ride those double decker trains in Europe). One of my favourite things is to sit on the top deck of a double decker bus and watch the world go by beneath you. People stepping on and off the bus below - tops of their heads, weird angle to see people from. Buildings' first floors, decorative flourishes seldom seen at street level (where you concentrate on where you are going, not bumping into others, not stepping in dog mess, not tripping). Easy to see the height of things, the colour of the stone, the sculptures, window trimmings, clocks, signs, and stuff. A view that is above the people. You don't get that on a single decker. Single Deckers are just NOT London.
  • They may have the turning capacity of a regular bus but they are 18 metres long (or is that feet?) and on nice wide european roads that may not be a problem but it is a problem on the tight curves of narrow london streets. While the 149 on its largely straight route doesn't meet this problem the 73 has a very hard time turning on several points on its route - from Pentonville Road round the one way system to avoid the junction with St John's Street and turning from Pentonville Road by the corner of the Scala (where the bus has to pull out across three lanes in order to make the turn) to name a couple.
  • They hold more people therefore there are fewer on the route. So they are always crowded and you can never get a seat. They have capacity for tonnes of people to stand, which they do. Its neither easy for those that need to sit down to be offered a seat or for them to get through the crowd to get to it if you do.
  • You can enter at any of the three doors along the bus provided you don't have an oyster card or a pack of saver tickets, in which case you have to enter through the front doors.
  • They are so long they take up more than the whole bus stop. Fine if this is the bus you want to board, but not if you are trying to get one of the ones coming along behind and you happen to be at a request stop.
  • They are supposed to be faster but there are fewer of them on route so you have to wait longer, they can't overtake one another so get stuck behind each other.
  • Some people standing in or near the consetina'd rubber bit complain of getting headaches (this may of course reduce as the rubber gets older and stops emitting a 'new' smell).
  • Smooth journeys were promised over the chugging of the routemaster, but instead of the chugging you get that swinging sensation as you go round the corners.
  • Character: 0

Accessibility in this day and age should be a right and a matter of equality, but double deckers are a symbol of london (along with the red pillar box and the red telephone box), I mourn the loss of the Routemaster just because its old and gives me a childish thrill to get on one but worse than loosing the routemaster will be if the double decker disappears completely.

Bendy Bus Information
Bendy Bus Routes
Guardian Letters Extra: Routemaster
73 Bus Stories - the final ride
Little Red Boat on bendy buses
Diamond Geezer on the routemaster
Goodbye Old London Bus
Save the Routemaster
Routemaster Association
Routemaster and other bus stuff

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