When the new Mayor of London was elected four years ago, one of his major campaign pledges was to remove the hated bendy (articulated) buses, calling them “writhing whales of the road”. The 400 buses were introduced in 2002 and as of last Friday, they are gone.
A good public transport system is key to getting cars off the road and people into buses and subways. So should we be lamenting the loss of the bendy buses or cheering their demise?
There are advantages and disadvantages to the buses.
On the plus side
They are faster to board, having three sets of wide doorways. Time at each stop is reduced because of the easy access. They are very accessible for special needs and wheelchairs. They carry more people and are cheaper to build. The bendy buses hold 120 people however there are fewer seats and more people have to stand. Double deckers hold around 85 passengers. On busy routes during rush hour they are very efficient and on routes which are poorly served by public transport.
On the minus side
The buses became a symbol of all that was wrong with public transport in London. During rush hour they were full, for the rest of the day they clogged up the streets as they seemed to travel in convoys and were always empty.
The buses do not work well in cities with narrow, winding roads: they can't make tight turns. Because they are so large they jam up busy streets. It's easier to avoid paying fares because there is only one driver and no one to check up. Where there are lots of pedestrians there are lots of accidents. Estimates for the London articulated buses put their involvement in pedestrian accidents at over five times more than other buses. However, it appears to be an urban myth that cyclists have been killed.
The buses are gone, but not forgotten. They have been sold to U.K. cities Brighton and Leicester as well as to Scandinavia.