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The Flat Cap on ... Bus Stops

As anyone who has taken the time to read a little bit about The Flat Cap will know, Bert travels everywhere by public transport. Whether it be a trip into town, or a local journey to the shops his most commonly used mode of transport is the bus. It was whilst he was standing at the bus stop that prompted The Flat Cap to find out more about this everyday feature and how they came into being.

Obviously the first thing you need in order to have a bus stop is a bus and a recognised route. There’s no point in putting bus stops along roads that buses don’t travel down, and since bus deregulation in the 1980s there are plenty of those. However sticking to the roads that do have bus stops The Flat Cap discovered that not all bus stops are alike. The best bus stops are the ones that have those electronic displays that give passengers the waiting time until the next bus. Twenty years ago if you missed a bus you could be sitting around ages waiting for the next one, never quite certain if it had been cancelled or delayed. Nowadays you have route numbers, destinations and waiting times all shown above the stop. This is really useful information because if you know there’s nineteen minutes to your next bus you have time to nip back in the shop for the thing you have forgotten to buy, or you can go to the pub for a quick pint, dash into William Hills for a bet, or pop into the Post Office for some stamps.

The time people save from unnecessarily hanging around bus stops is one more reason why the UK is so productive and a great place to live. The Flat Cap reckons that if some boffins from a half decent university were to conduct a survey they would find people’s lives have been massively enriched and folk are a lot happier from having bus stop certainty.

As well as electronic displays the best bus stops also have shelters and somewhere to sit. Hanging around in the rain waiting for your bus is no fun. If The Flat Cap was elected Prime Minister one of the first laws he would pass would be to make bus seating and shelters compulsory at all stops; except of course for those temporary bus stops where someone from Arriva or Stagecoach, or indeed any other bus operator, just randomly plonks a six feet high lollipop on a stand in the middle of the pavement. If there is money for smoking shelters then there should be money for bus shelters.

The other good thing about bus stops is that they improve health and safety in a number of ways. For the bus driver it’s easier to drive if you know where the stops are. You only need to look out for intending passengers as you approach each stop and the rest of the time you can spend trying to avoid errant motor cyclists, bumbling pedestrians and cars who pull out in front of you at the last minute. For passengers properly sited stops ensure people don’t try to alight or board the bus at crossroads, or on railway level crossings. Also it is quicker if passengers board in small groups. The Flat Cap doesn’t mind waiting in a small orderly queue, but what really annoys him are old age pensioners who think they can push in just because they’re eighty five, or wear a plastic rain hat instead of carrying a decent sized umbrella. Some bus stops have lay-bys to pull into so that the traffic behind can pass.

Whilst waiting for the number 41 at his local bus stop The Flat Cap got chatting to a man called Nigel. Nigel said he was an avid bus enthusiast who loved to take photographs of double deckers. He also said he knew a fair bit about bus stops and volunteered the following facts:

  • Despite borrowing a bus from his employers at London Transport and collecting passengers en route to Athens Cliff Richard’s bus in the film Summer Holiday never once stops at a proper bus stop.

  • There are essentially four types of bus stop – request stops where the bus stops on request, fare stages which define the cost of your journey, timing stops where the bus has to wait if it is ahead of schedule (unlikely) and temporary stops as referred to above

  • Perhaps the most famous bus stop in the world is the one which appears in the animated sitcom South Park. The main characters Stan, Kyle, Eric and Kenny often hang out together or meet up at the school bus stop

  • The world’s first recorded bus stop was built in 1890 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, England. From here passengers could catch a bus to Colchester

  • In the UK television sitcom On the Buses actor Reg Varney who played bus driver Stan Butler would regularly drive past passengers at bus stops just to annoy his inspector Cyril “Blakey” Blake, played by actor Stephen Lewis

  • Transport for London is responsible for the management of over 19,000 bus stops across its network

  • Bus Stop is a song recorded by British band The Hollies. In 1966 it reached number 5 in both the UK and US singles charts. The song was written by Graham Gouldman who coincidentally used to take the number 5 bus to work before

becoming a songwriter. This is the same Graham Gouldman that was in hit band 10CC

  • Under rule 223 of the Highway Code drivers should give priority to buses pulling away from stops

  • Some old people’s homes in Germany have built fake bus stops for residents with dementia. After patiently waiting hours for the bus that never comes staff then take them back into the home for a nice cup of tea

  • Bus Stop is the title of a 1956 film that featured Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray in the lead roles. It was filmed in the American States of Idaho and Arizona despite California having more bus stops than any other State

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