Buses and bus porn… (Not as exciting as it sounds…)

Ensignbus Bristol VRT Mk2 348 Lakeside

I’m going to talk about something that’s quite close to my heart: Buses.

Buses today are great from the accessibility point of view:  ”Kneeling”, ie, lowerable front suspension; ramps; large spaces for wheel chairs and reserved front seats (a bit of a joke that, of which more later).

My issue is two-fold:  The first is, why did it take so long?  The first bus that I can recall being fully wheelchair accessible, other than a specially designed bus was a “SMART” bus in 1998 – on a single route.  There may have been some specimens before then, but not, as far as I can recall, on Merseyside.

Didn’t disabled people use public transport before then?  Don’t get me wrong – I love old buses and would rather have old buses than new (while I’m as mobile as I am on a good day), as my family will tell you (my son is glad that he is now old enough to be left behind when I go to the Wirral Bus and Tram Show, or to a collectors’ fair to buy more models, and his mum is dreading the day when my mobility deteriorates to the stage that she HAS to go with me)…  But this change in attitude, why did it take as long as it did?

The forerunner of the Paralympics was at the London Olympics of 1948 and the first official in 1960…  The Disability Discrimination Act came into force in 1995, but accessible buses did not become widespread until at least 10 years later…  Now it may be that I just wasn’t paying that much attention to disability accessibility issues back then, but somehow I think I would have noticed…  After all, I remember the SMART buses for two reasons:  One is that it was the bus I used to get from town to work at Brunswick Dock, the other is that it was so unusual to see a bus like that, ie accessible, and once I got off in town on the  way back home, I would get on an Atlantean or a Volvo B10B – which while more comfortable, were decidedly wheelchair UNfriendly!

My second issue, which I feel needs addressing as a matter of urgency, is the BLANDNESS of modern buses!  They’ve gone the same way as cars:  Euroboxes with no individuality.  This needs to be looked at and sorted!

Finally, while I’m on one…  Those front seats on buses…  I’ve noticed that on Arriva and Stagecoach buses, they are no longer designated “for the elderly and disabled”, but simply “for the disabled”…  I think that this is in recognition that, with an aging population and improved health and diet, the elderly are quite often a damn site fitter than the couch-potato youths of today.  However, and this is a real bugbear of mine, you TRY and get a front seat if, like me, you are under 70 and not as able as you’d like to be…

Seriously…  I’ve been physically pushed out of the way by an old woman who proceeded to get on the bus in front of me and then sat in the last available disabled seat…  And when I’ve been that bl**dy knackered I couldn’t make it to another seat so I’ve asked someone to move…  Well, you’d think that I’d asked for the blood of every first born child…

There is something about the current generation of pensioners, especially on Wirral, that is particularly horrible.  Now I realise that I am painting with a very wide brush here and that not ALL pensioners are the same, but I’ve spoken to a couple of people about this and they’ve agreed…  And I think I know what it is:  They’re baby-boomers…  That generation born just after the war and have benefited from the times of prosperity, the hey-day of the NHS and the welfare state, and have not really had to struggle, and so have come to expect everything to be theirs by right…

Now I could be wrong and accept that there are people that will disagree with me, but this is MY opinion…  And if you don’t like it, tough.  (But you have to agree about the look of buses though, don’t you?)

MPTE AEC Regent V 78 Hunts Cross

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