On the Buses

by Lee Griffiths
Part one in a series of bus and transport investigations starts today!

Can bus transport in Hull be so bad?
Has it changed?
Jack, our editor,wants to know about access and recalls early days on the buses.

1.30pm Hull Bus Station. Sat in the White Lion Pub we discuss our options, deciding to choose a bus at random, we go into the East Yorkshire Travel office and ask for a day ticket to anywhere. This confuses them, we explain we want to take trips within the main parts of Hull and are told we can purchase a smartcard for 2.50. We have our day tickets!
Jumping onto the 104, our controlled condition test begin. No questions to passengers, no over emphasised body movements. We are normal clients using the regular bus service to Cottingham. Weather conditions are good. We set off shortly to be drawn to a jolting stop, a van has abruptly pulled out in front of us.

Sitting on the top of the double decker, we note there's no music, no smoking, no tea or coffee available. Things are normal, no different than the many trips we've taken before. Steve, our assistant, goes down stairs. The bus is noisy with the sound of an overwhelming rumbling engine. Towards the back of the bus, one person sits silently. Things are moving on.. A few stops and we arrive at the top of Beverley Road.
A bus inspector gets on. Has he bought a ticket - I reckon he will be checking mine! We seize this opportunity to ask a polite question - I have never seen a bus inspector on a bus before - He replies;
     "Well, you can't have been on buses that often,
      there's a few of use about!"

Our tickets are checked. We are surprised that on our random trip we have meet a ticket inspector for the first time ever. We ring Jack on the mobile.

( Jack - I ask for people's memorable, intimate, chats or unpleasant incidents from
past journeys. Had these changed over their years of travelling)

We tell Jack the bus is hot. We're uncomfortable, with no air conditioning, the wide open windows are no relief. What's the reason for the heat, perhaps the engine? We've no way of altering the temperature. Recollecting from our experience, it's always either very hot or very cold on buses, there's no in between.
(Jack - no wonder people use cars where they can change the temperature. Buses don't seem
to have changed, offer no facilities for comfort, a competitive selling point with cars)

Shortly we arrive in Cottingham. People don't realise Cottingham's in the record books it's the biggest village in England, it leans more towards a town than a village. It's very different than Hull city 5 miles away. Quieter, fewer shops, a more domestic, less intense feel. It's pretty, with village pubs and village hall. The library melts into the main square, we hardly realised it was a library until we noticed and started to get irritated by, a few passers-by, circumnavigating us to get to the library. All very pleasant though.
Still talking to Jack we had just got off the bus in Cottingham 20 minutes after leaving Hull.We were discussing access, the ease or not of getting on and off buses, when I started an interview with an older woman as she was entering the bus.

    "Can you manage to get on the bus?"

     "I find it rather difficult, I do manage it
    but know of many people who can't"

She explained how the bus floor was the principal problem,

    "it's too high to climb onto the bus"

She wanted to talk about this problem.

(Jack - other countries have accessible buses, with lowered floors and access for wheelchair users. We've had to wait, not just for legislation but for a number of years before companies will be obliged to comply and there'll be loopholes, there always are, so segregated (non-)transport continues.
I asked if the railing and grip could be improved an easily done improvment if there was a real will. Though there needs to be a variety of transport solutions, recognising that people are different and have different requirements - buses, for instance, would never suit me)

Where do we go now? When will the next bus appear? I meet 2 friends. After 20 minutes waiting, we get on the Hull bus via Priory road. We begin our experiments,deciding to over emphasise our normal expressions and carry out discrete actions, to test what is considered normal, acceptable. My colleague came up trumps! He relentlessly began coughing and coughing and coughing. It was a disturbing noise! What sort of reactions would we incur? How long would the coughing need to go on for?. Eventually, the bus pulls up, the driver coming to check my friend's OK. Thanking the driver for his concern, he stops coughing and we move on.

Jack rings, we talk about our activities and wonder about the quality of transport. Has it changed, in what ways? Who tends to use the bus? How many regularly? Jack recalls past experiences on buses. The intimate conversations with strangers, wondering if these still happen.
We talk of kids and excitment or bordom on buses accounting for vandalism, Jack remebers a time when a road in the west midlands became regularly flooded, kids always wanted the water to flow into the bus. Sometimes it happened but not now, they rebuilt the road, so kids go back to being bored and troublesome returning from school, whilst adults are subdued going home.

Our conversation turns to scooters used by some Disabled people. In recent years, Hull along with other towns and cities has seen an increase in these. They're popular, Jack says, for people who're disinclined to use powered wheelchairs. Jack has a powered chair but feels scooters are probably more acceptable to those who're disabled later in life.
She wonders if wheelchairs carry a stigma to people who were ignorant of and probably discriminated against disabled people themselves, in their earlier years. Scooters offer a critical, yet still, unfortunately, limited access into the public domain. But what are the real pros and cons of the scooter?

We carry on down Newland Avenue. Whilst talking to Jack on the mobile about the scooter issue. I spot one outside the Hogshead. Jack asks us to photograph it. We get off at the next stop. We walk to the scooter, start taking photos, the women owner comes out to see what we are doing.

An interview with the scooter owner follows:

photography-sam langford
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