I’ve just had a bath. Not a thrilling opening line, I know, but it served a dual purpose:
a) to clean me
b) to calm me
Both the cleaning and calming were called for as I’d just been caught in a sudden storm and drenched by 11 (I counted) drivers who sped past me through a large puddle streaming downhill as I waited at this bus stop (45012458):
These people are cunts. They are ignorant and selfish and chose to drive past me through that rain water at speed. Plenty of others slowed down and drove around the cascading water.
This is one of the many downfalls of being dependant on public transport.
About 18 months ago I read and commented on this Culture Vultures post that sang the praises of public transport. They’d been given a free bus pass and only had to do it for a week, so they could afford to be chirpy. At the time I’d just given up having a car myself (I simply couldn’t afford to run it any more) and though it meant some sacrifices and compromises, I was all set to be positive about using public transport more regularly. I didn’t have to experience road rage any more (my own and others’), the stress of MOTs and renewing insurance, and could feel a bit better about my part in planet pollution. I also felt proud of my son for learning to get to and from school independently.
Not now, I’m bloody sick of it.
I frequently miss out on social activities because it takes so long to get there and back. I literally left a performance at West Yorkshire Playhouse before the third act because my last bus is 10:30pm (the show ended at 11pm). I gave up my beloved Samba band because Halifax is a pain in the arse to get to on public transport, and last week saw my travel time add up to as much as 3 hours a day on some days because of delays to the two buses I had to get from Morley to Chapeltown (it would’ve been 30 minutes in a car). And there haven’t been late buses in Leeds for years. Back in the 1990s there were buses at midnight, 1am and 2am on a Friday and Saturday night to certain districts. This was a great service (apart from the one time the midnight bus didn’t show, then the 1am bus didn’t show, and with no money for a taxi I had to walk home. As a then young woman in my 20s I count myself lucky that only one perv stopped and tried to get me in his car during that lonely 7 mile walk). Oh, and I almost forgot the japes from last week – the teenage lads who chewed tickets up and spat them into my hair from a few seats back. Oh, how we laughed.
And then there’s Christmas. I get the morning with my son before putting him in a taxi to his Dad’s in Dewsbury and spend the rest of the day on my own. I can’t visit my family or friends without a car. It’s shit feeling isolated. In fact, it feels a bit like old age has come early.
I come from a family where 99% of my relatives never learned to drive and never had a car. We cycled and walked everywhere. Sometimes we got the train to Skeg for a day out. Sometimes we went as far as Nottingham (that’s pretty much abroad to a Bostonian). I used buses for the first time as a 19 year old student in Sheffield and didn’t know you had to press a button for your stop – I thought they stopped at all points, like trains. I soon learned. Some of my more middle class peers learned to drive when they were 17, paid for by their parents, and were added to their family’s car insurance at no cost to themselves. I could name one person who literally drives everywhere, including places that take just ten minutes to walk. To me this is stupid, over-privileged and they deserve to get fat.
I learned to drive when I was 29 (paid for with my own income) and it was a revelation – incredibly freeing. I bought a shit 1980s Micra called Bobby Brown (it was metallic beige with a brown interior) and loved it. I could drive to see my family and be there in 2 and a half hours (compared to 3 and a half on 2 trains) with the added bonus of listening to compilation tapes in Bobby Brown’s in-built cassette player! A year later I had my son, and valued having a car even more. We went without for a few months when Bobby had to go to the vehicular grave yard, and it was a big fucking pain in the arse using buses with a pushchair (back then they made you fold them up – have you ever tried holding a baby, shopping bags and closing up a pushchair with one hand whilst the bus driver impatiently taps the dashboard? It’s a very particular skill). So apart from short periods of a few months in-between crap second-hand cars, this is the longest I’ve had to rely on public transport since 1999. And as I said, I’m fed up.
Granted, there are lots of positives. We have a relatively good bus service where we live, assuming you’re travelling to either White Rose Centre or Leeds city centre. My son can get to school ok, and I can get to work ok. It’s only when you need to get elsewhere that it can be complicated and time consuming. My dentist used to be in Halifax (short story – no NHS dentist places for years in my locality. I recently finally got one in Batley). So, as I already pay £82 a month for my bus pass I was determined to get to my appointment in Halifax by bus. This involved a 20 minute walk and crossing a busy dual carriageway to catch a bus to Dewsbury, from where I then caught a direct bus to Halifax. Door to door the journey (not including the return) took 2 and a half hours. It would’ve taken 40 minutes in a car. And my monthly journey to Bradford to make our radio show involves 40 minutes of walking and 45 minutes on a bus (each way). It used to take me 30 minutes in the car. I can’t go to gigs outside Leeds anymore, and even with gigs in Leeds sometimes have to miss the last band if I have to get back to the city centre for the last bus. Oh, and a recent bout of illness taught me that paying £3 to have one big online shop delivered is worthwhile and a lot easier than finding time to go food shopping on the bus twice a week.
Sometimes the transport hoo-has apply locally. I live in Morley and my nearest cinema is the Showcase at Birstall. It used to take 15/20 minutes in the car. Now we have to get a 20 min bus ride so far then walk 20 minutes through an industrial estate to get there – because there are no direct buses from Morley! Plus, once you are in Birstall Retail Park it is possibly the most pedestrian unfriendly place in the universe. Honestly, it thinks it’s America, it should get over itself. In recent years they’ve got off their arses and installed some crossing points for pedestrians, but this place is basically one big car park full of smaller car parks that turns everyone into a twat. If they see a parking space outside Gap and you are one of a handful of people daring to use one of the token zebra crossings, they will fucking mow you down. And what’s more, it’s designed so badly that most people will drive between the shops rather than park up in one spot and walk round. Pedestrians are an endangered breed at Birstall Retail Park, you dice with death – just look at this pavement:
I don’t know where I’m going with this really, except to say that there is a LOT of room for improvement when it comes to public transport, and pedestrian comfort/safety. And I’ve barely mentioned how unreliable some of the services are, or the handful of drivers who are rude and impatient, especially with teenagers and foreigners who’ve been sold the wrong type of day ticket. But I’ve also experienced plenty of really lovely drivers, and when services run on schedule and the connections work out it can be great.
But none of this changes the fact that some cars drivers will always be cunts.