Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Buses in Manchester

Politaholic's attention is grabbed by an article in The Times on Boxing Day about buses in Manchester. Last month a bus crashed into the basket of a cherry picker vehicle killing a signwritter - Martin Pilling - who was only 27. Politholic saw the aftermath of this as he was cycling to work (it happened outside the Tesco on Oxford Road, just before curry mile, if one is heading out of the city). The Times reports that one problem is that many of the drivers employed by the bus companies are Polish, and do not speak English well-enough to understand road signs (although how that would have helped in this case is not clear). Politaholic is not xenophobic but it does seem reasonable that bus drivers should be expected to read road signs. On the other hand, if one reads beyond the Times headline, it seem that other problems may be just as significant. Three days after Mr. Pillings death inspectors from the Vehicle and Operation Services Agency together with police visited the bus company base (UK North and GM Buses Ltd): "They inspected 28 buses and issued 16 prohibition notices for defects including faulty brakes, steering and suspension". In other words 57% of the buses inspected were not roadworthy. The Times also reports that: "Deregulaton has led to sometimes chaotic scenes on Manchester's roads as rival bus companies vie for custom on the most lucrative routes. On some roads bumper-to-bumper buses have brought traffic to a standstill". Politaholic can testify to the truth of that. While on other, less profitable, routes it is almost impossible to get a bus, and bus timetables are mere fiction, on a busy route such as Oxford Road-Wimslow Road buses are indeed often bumper-to-bumper. For a cyclist it is extremely dangerous, since buses and cycles share the same lane. I have had a bus pull-in in front of me - inches away - at traffic lights (close to where Mr. Pillington was killed), the bus stuck out at a forty-five degree angle into the road, its nose blocking my access. Other common hazards are when the bus is at the bus stop. There is no signal that it is intending to pull out. So one overtakes. Two hazards arise: cars behind will try to run you over (you're on the road when you should be in the cycle lane) even though they can see you must pull out to overtake the bus; or the bus suddenly pulls out and now you are jammed between the bus on the left and traffic on the right, in both cases inches away. The solution, of course, is segregated cycle lanes, but don't hold your breath. The green paint down the side of the road is better than nothing but not very effective (I have seen motorists drive in the cycle lane, sometimes so that they can overtake on the inside). For all the talk about "green" politics we have privatised bus companies putting buses on the road with drivers who can't read road signs, faulty brakes and faulty steering. We have bumper-to-bumper buses in one part of town and buses as rare as solar eclipses in other parts of town. We do not have adequate - or joined-up - cycle lanes. And King Car is supreme. I know, I know...I must learn to live in the real world (where have I heard that before?). Mind you, given how psychopathic most motorists are, I may not have much longer in this world. If Politaholic goes suddenly silent, you'll know why.

5 Comments:

Blogger Liam Murray said...

On the basis of the enjoyable & illuminating comments you've left on my blog lately I wish you safe cycling! Thanks for those & the link - I will reciprocate...

Have a good New Year!

12:36 pm  
Anonymous Mancubist said...

Nice post. I missed The Times article...

3:18 pm  
Blogger Steve Connor said...

Great posting and you're spot on... we need to give more control to GMPTE and the local authorities to get the bus operators under control. Transport for London has made a world of difference for the Capital - we could do with the same here.

5:09 pm  
Blogger skipper said...

P'holic
My partner got on a bus recently and encountered a similar Polish driver. Not possible to tell him where she wanted to get off, but she said he was immensely charming and also quite handsome... so no letters of complaint from her to date.

8:49 pm  
Blogger SPL said...

Bumper-to-bumper buses is also a problem in Oxford. Aside from the danger to cyclists, such as me, there's also a great deal of pollution, rendering an otherwise beautiful city dirty and unpleasant.

1:47 pm  

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