Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Highway Code: Love it or loath it, you MUST pay attention to it!

Specifically, as a bus driver, I'll draw motorists attention, once again, to a simple fact of life: Buses are part of the mass transit system, and as such have a few rules devoted to them in the Highway Code. Now, while the Highway Code is not, in and of itself, law, many of its' rules have the backing of law, including the Road Traffic Act, the Construction And use regulations, and much more besides. Have an accident, and if you weren't obeying the letter of the Highway Code will, trust me, cost you dearly at court (I wasn't always a bus driver, and was trained in a previous occupation to a reasonable level in the upholding of Road Traffic Law).

So, why am I prattling on again about this topic? Easy. More and more I'm seeing completely muppit-like driving from motorists (note: NOT Drivers, who are by definition paid to drive for a living, mostly of very large vehicles, like buses, for example!) who, for reasons best known only to themselves, want to make sure they get in front, if only by 3 feet, of a bus.

Consider this. A bus is shifting up to 75 people to and from work, school, and so on. You, in your car, are shifting on average maybe two people (I'm being generous here) at any given time. Who has the greater claim to road space? In addition, buses run to a specific timetable. Delay us, and you delay up to 75 other folks already on that bus, and countless more down the route, because you decided in your own selfish way that the bus was an inferior class of life that deserved to be delayed.

Now here's the stick:

Highway Code Rule 223

Buses, coaches and trams. Give priority to these vehicles when you can do so safely, especially when they signal to pull away from stops. Look out for people getting off a bus or tram and crossing the road.

The operative phrase here is, of course, "Give priority to these vehicles when you can do so safely". This means that if you are able to stop without having to jam on the anchors full-strength, then you should.

The carrot? Most of us bus drivers will give you either a flash of the hazard lights, an alternate left-right-left-right of the indicators, or even merely stick out a meaty paw from the window, thumb pointing up, to say "thanks".

So, spare a thought, not just for the driver of the bus, but for his passengers (ahem. Sorry. "Customers"), and let the bus go first :)

I (and my colleagues) thank you!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The daily Chicken Run and Quality of Life...

I got to work well early this morning. Just as well, really, as the run-out was messed up again.

On Tuesday, none of the buses were 'plated', or assigned; Plating refers to the practice of assigning a running number to a bus, thereby setting it's order in the morning runout from the depot, and it's order in the days schedule of a given bus route once out of the depot. In this case, it seems one of the garage inspectors called in sick, and no-one was available to do the job until the last minute. Sod's law, that. While it meant that buses were first come, first served for the first part of the runout, it did at least have a minimal confusion factor to it. Controlled chaos, if you like.

This morning (Wednesday), it appears that, while he correctly plated them first, the garage run-out inspector arbitrarily decided to re-arrange where, and in what order, each routes' buses would sit prior to being taken out on their first run...

Result? Unorganised Chaos, loosely disguised as Complete Pandemonium! No-one knew where their bus was going to be, or even how they were going to dig it out when they were due to leave first when their bus was at the back of the pile! I was one of the fortunate few who, having come in early, had time to amble round the yard, find my bus, and dig it out to the front in plenty of time, rather than run around in ever-decreasing circles, etc.

For some reason, this got me thinking about quality of life. Not standard of living, but quality of life: The two, while related, are different in scale by many orders of magnitude. We all seem to be conditioned into thinking that monetary income is the key to success. Bull. It's quality of life. You can be poor as a church mouse, and still have quality of life. Money is only part of the equation. It's mainly about, for want of a better phrase, not only smelling the roses, but having the time to smell them, and savour and enjoy the experience. This is what a lot of folks seem to be missing; we rush around like blue-backsided flies, forever chasing the dream, but never realising that it's there for the taking, if only we'd slow down and sniff it out. It's odd. In 26 years of adult life, I only just realised it. And now, I look back, and realise that I lost it, the moment I struck out on my own, and left my parents' home. Like I said, it's odd. Now add a mental shrug of the shoulders: What's done is, after al, done. No point worrying about it too much, after all.

So, how does this relate to buses? For once, I had time to actually do my morning routine at a manageable and easy pace, rather than the more normal running-around-like-a-headless-chicken pace, as is normally the case for pretty-much everyone at our depot in the morning. In a depot where there are some 150 drivers clocking on for work each morning, that's a shedload of headless chickens, as you can imagine.

Strangely, I find that once I've managed to exit London for good, I'm probably going to miss the daily chicken run at work!

Now is that QoL madness, or what?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Suicide Jockies with and without umbrellas!

OK, today I was going to blather on about White Van Man and his lack of road manners, but he was pipped to the punch by a bunch of Suicide Jockies...

Suicide Jockies are pedal cyclists. they've earnet this nickname because of the blatendly suicidal way they go about getting from a to b to c and so on. They'll dive in and out of traffic without so much as a sideways, let alone backwards glance, and presumably trust in God to protect them from going under the wheels of whatever it is that they've just cut in front of. Like I said. Suicide Jockies.

The one this morning, however, was a cut (ahem. I mean Carve) above the average for suicidal intent. It's raining heavily, (I do mean heavily here, folks: It was heaving down cats, dogs, bannisters, the entire stairwell, and then some for the majority of the rush hour this morning), and there I am, on the bus stand at one end of the route, and this moron from hell on two wheels pedals up between two buses, one hand holding the grip of the left handlebar, the other holding a bleeding umbrella! I had to blink and look again to be certain that my eyes weren't deceiving me, I kid you not. He then does a weaving left turn onto the main road without even looking to see if there was anything coming - there was, and they all managed to avoid him, or he'd be a pavement burger.

Later on, there was a cyclist with a very basic bike - pedals, no gears, and no brakes fitted either - needless to say, she was smack dab in the centre (weaving away merrily left to right and back again) of the northbound A20 (Old Kent Road) when encountered, and could any of the five buses she was holding down to 10 miles per hour get past her? No chance.

So here's the argument point... Cyclists insist they have a right to use the road. We, the drivers, have to take a test to receive a licence to drive on the roads, and we do not have any right to use the road, as our licences can be taken off us by a court if we stuff things up. Cyclists, on the other hand, need no licence, and about the only thing they can be nicked for is "furious cycling", whatever the hell that is.

So here're the questions: WHY do cyclists NOT have to take a DVLA/DSA-approved test before being let loose on the roads, and why on earth can their cycles not require an annual MOT-approved test before they become so delapidated that they fall apart when in the rain (I've seen this happen!)? More to the point, when the hell will someone MAKE then wear some form of numberplate, so that Police can be involved when they cause a major shunt, and cycle off never to be seen again?

Anyone know?