Seeing as how my job in life is all about the revitalization and overall design of cities and urban places, it is important to start this blog with the correct reference points. I love cities and urban living. A key element to any successful and sustainable urban environment is absolutely a well established means of public transportation.
London has a very good system of public transportation generally. The tube is pretty good, though overpriced. And it doesn't run twenty-four hours a day which is a bit annoying, especially if you pair that with the overpriced aspect. But the bus service is excellent, and the night buses work alright. The overland trains aren't great, but they get the job done eventually. And then there are things like the DLR which because it generally serves upper and middle class business folk, is always running smoothly.
Where I live in Hackney, there is no tube. A fact I found daunting when I first moved here, but have since grown to not only not care about, but actually appreciate. Because I have eight bus lines that all stop just around the corner from my house. One of the most popular buses that goes past my house is the 38. The 38 was, up until yesterday, one of the routes that still used the old routemaster buses. But alas, it is no more, and has been replaced instead with the infamous bendy-bus.
Now I do understand some of the complaints about the routemaster bus, the main one being that they just aren't safe. And a close second being that they are not handicap or pram accessible. And I can agree with both of these points.
However, London's decision to use bendy-buses is ludicrous. They are simply too large for the small scale city that London is. The fact that there are no wires or overhead projections that prohibit things like the double-decker buses is a benefit to the city. And the fact of the matter is, they simply take up a smaller footprint than a massive double car bus.
The only cities I've seen successfully use the double long bus were American cities with long straight streets with multiple lanes. The traffic on the main road around the corner from me has been unbelievable all day and I know why that is, it's because of the stupid new buses.
Now some people say, 'Yes, but with three doors, you can fit all these prams and things on now where you couldn't before." And while that's true, the fact is you couldn't fit ANY on the old bus, so even a double decker would be a clear improvement over the routemaster, and a bendy-bus is not the only solution.
The real fact of the matter is that the bendy-buses are cheaper to run and the decision is really just a financial one. But it's a shame for the city. I know that the city will adapt around the new buses, and in time, it will ease up on the current congestion as the drivers get used to handling them and the other vehicles on the road get used to them as well. But is it really worth it? A bendy-bus does not represent the character of London. It's really a shame.