Monthly Archives: July 2011

A London bus driver’s side of the story

Some time ago I wrote a post titled ‘Is it just me or are bus drivers losing it?”. And then I checked my messages today and an actual London bus driver has responded to it. Have a read.

“I’ve just seen this post, and despite it being quite old, wanted to reply. I’m a bus driver (not on the 242, however, so I’m not THAT driver LOL).

If revenue inspectors board the bus and we have too many non-paying passengers, we are reported to our company, because TfL insist on it. It is seen as theft, because the assumption is that we should be able to verify every pass in the brief instant that they are flashed in front of us. We are supposed to be able to verify that Oyster cards are legitimate, too – that young people aren’t using pensioners’ Freedom Passes, etc. And if we don’t, TfL assume that we’re letting out friends ride for free.

If we allow too many people on the bus, we risk our livelihoods. For each person standing forward of the driver’s shoulder (and thus forward of the bright red sign that you all ignore!), we can be given 3 points on our licence and a £60 fine. As I’m sure you know, 12 points means loss of licence. And that’s not just our PCV licence, it’s ALL of them – in my case, car, motorbike, lorry, the lot. No job, no way to take my daughter to school… So we open the rear doors to empty the bus before letting people on. We are human; we do sympathise when it’s cold and raining, but whenever I’ve tried to explain why I’ve kept you waiting, I only get abuse, because you don’t actually want to know why you didn’t get your own way, you’re just outraged that a lowly bus driver didn’t automatically accede to your demands.

Yeah, we are losing it. I start each day cheerful and helpful, and end it ready to rip someone’s head off. Every single day, without fail, I am abused. If traffic is bad, abuse the driver. If the passenger’s Oyster card doesn’t work, abuse the driver. If they don’t have enough money on it, abuse the driver. If they want change of a £20 and the driver doesn’t have it, abuse the driver. Here’s some news for you – we are not issued with change when we start work. If a driver has change, it’s because he or she has gone to the effort of getting some, just to help you out. We deal with traffic, drivers cutting us up, cyclists riding like Kamikazes, and woe betide us if we have to brake sharply – because if passengers are jostled, guess what? It’s blame the driver time! No win no fee lawyer heaven, and disciplinary proceedings for us! Lovely!

But, we soldier on. Times are hard, and there’s not a lot else out there, job-wise. Next time you get on a bus, look at the driver – that’s a human being sitting there. Try and feel a little of what we feel. And remember, we are not obliged to give out our names, or numbers. The number of the bus, the route, and time are all you need to identify the specific bus, and hence the driver.”



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The greening of Dalston

Amid the cranes and dusty footpaths and tower blocks, with their balconies cleverly rebranded as ‘winter gardens’, pockets of leafy green are sprouting at Dalston Junction.

First up is Farm:Shop. When this first appeared I thought it was a hydroponics shop. But once they added a bit of signage I discovered it’s a cafe, workspace and arts venue. There’s an aquaponic fish farm out the front, where they are growing (breeding? spawning?) tilapia & prawns – apparently a supper is planned for later in the summer when they’ll all be eaten – a polytunnel out the back, chickens on the roof and quite possibly the most attractive staff you’ll encounter in East London – glowing examples of the term ‘rude with health’.

Then, just across the road, we have the Eastern Curve Garden. This has been here for a while, but it’s now looking more established, and this summer there are a series of events planned, including tango classes and a Family Fun Day this Saturday (July 9) with free entry. The Hackney Borough of Sanctuary Group are also holding a Garden Party on July 15 (next Friday) with food baked in the garden’s clay oven.

And Ashwin Street, just off Kingsland Road, has a newly planted perennial border. Home to the new Arcola Theatre & Cafe Oto, it also has a rooftop garden, which I’m yet to visit.


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