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Boris bends the figures on bendy buses?
25.03.08 by Buffalo Bill

As you may remember, London Mayoral candidate Boris Johnson has made bendophobia, an irrational hatred of the bendy bus, a manifesto commitment. He apparently plans to bring back an updated Routemaster, with conductors. Naturally, there is little agreement on what this will cost. Ken’s camp says it will cost close to £100 million, which is a lot of money. Boris seems to think it will cost closer to £10 million. (update: Ken’s figures have been verified – analysis by independent public transport consultants TAS estimates the cost of Johnson’s plans to just under £114m.)

To me, it seems slightly strange to base an entire campaign on bringing back the Routemaster (see footnote 1), especially when, as we all ought to remember, the Routemaster was totally out-dated technically, and totally unsuited to the elderly, the disabled, parents with very small children, and anyone with large amounts of shopping. I can vividly remember the thick black clouds of smoke that used to issue from their exhaust pipes, and the terrifying noises that came from under their bonnets. The big selling point of the bendy bus is that with three doors you can get on and off them much quicker, unlike double-deckers. Critics say that they are fare-dodgers dream, and are far less convenient than the open-platform Routemasters were. The bendy buses likewise are not equipped with that convenient rail which made it so easy to get a tow up the little hill from Farringdon Road.

Of course, they also take up lot more room on the road, which is especially noticeable at junctions. They can be intimidating to share a road with, especially if you are a less-than-totally confident cyclist, which is presumably why Boris has called them ‘cyclist-killing’. He claims that they are much more dangerous than double-deckers, and produced some figures to back up the claim, which apparently show that the bendy buses are twice as dangerous (collisions per mile travelled) than double-deckers. However, despite being challenged to do so, he was unable to produce a single incident of a cyclist killed by a bendy, whereas it was reported that a double was involved in a fatal collision with a cyclist on Park Lane in February of this year.

Case almost proven? Not so, according to this Channel 4 News report.

Figures released in January to the London Assembly paint a more moderate picture than the overall totals to which Boris refers. This breakdown compared collisions on all 12 bendy bus routes to collisions on 15 selected non-bendy routes. These selected routes tended to cover busy inner-city areas rather than the quieter suburbs. The number 41, for example, which goes from London Bridge, through Holborn, to Wood Green, or the number 8, which goes from Bow in the East End, along Oxford Street to Victoria. It’s not necessarily a scientific study, but it would seem to be a more accurate representation of the kind of routes bendy buses serve. According to this breakdown, bendy bus routes threw up 5.6 collisions with pedestrians in 2006/07; non-bendy bus routes 5.17. Collisions with cyclists were 2.62 on bendy buses; but 2.78 on non-bendy routes.

Case not proven at all, I would say. Personally, I don’t especially like the bendy bus or the double decker – whichever, it’s another large vehicle on the road, with a big exhaust, which obscures my sight lines and cuts me up. But I do think that replacing a large part of the bus fleet, something that will cost me money, ought not to be done simply because one man does not have the cycling skills to deal with a particular vehicle safely especially when the evidential case that they are more dangerous is questionable.

I am also somewhat surprised that a London cyclist, who is making a bid to become Mayor of London, has not identified the most dangerous vehicle on the road to cyclists in London: lorries. ‘From the estimates of vehicles use in London, the risk of heavy goods vehicles being involved in accidents in which cyclists die in inner London can be estimated at five times that of buses, 14 times that of light goods vehicles, and 30 times that of cars.’ That’s according to 1994 report published by the British Medical Journal. In fact, Boris recently described the Low Emission Zone, a scheme which aims to clean up the exhaust of goods vehicles has described the scheme as ‘the most punitive, draconian fining regime in the whole of Europe’. Although the LEZ is not primarily aimed at improving the safety of London cyclists, I am willing to bet that taking the dirtiest lorries off the road will make some impact in the figures for killed and seriously injured by lorries.

I don’t suppose that Boris actually likes sharing the road with lorries, but I haven’t seen a single statement from him indicating that he is aware of the HGV/LGV/lorry cyclist problem. Ken, despite being a non-cyclist who has made several very dodgy statements in the past about cyclists, has actually done a lot to improve the lot of cyclists in London.

1 Footnote: Christian Wolmar, a man whose views on transport I very much respect, agrees with me:

The idea that in what is supposed to be the world’s leading city, the most visible argument is about a kind of bus is slightly strange… …There are not many votes in arguments about types of buses. It’s entertainment, like a Punch and Judy show we can all enjoy from time to time.

Daily Mail attacks cyclists, Jenny Jones says write to your MLA
Cynthia Barlow of Roadpeace on cuts to 'lorry police'
Boris left at the lights
BJ wants to see cyclists fined £130 for cycling on the pavement
Bendy buses have not killed any London cyclists
Motorbikes in bus lanes from 5th January
What do you think of the Congestion Charge?
What to do about lorries?

  1. I believe he has an office on Doughty Street, at the offices of that magazine he edits, which name escapes me as I write this. He is extremly approachable, if he still edits the magazine, new statesman, I think and a client of Reuter Brooks. ;-). drop him some papers and speak to the chap, then you wont have to suppose.

    herod    26 March 2008, 11:19    #
  2. Isn’y it the Spectator somewhere around queen anne’s gate, SW1?

    — Artful Dodger    26 March 2008, 12:03    #
  3. Harry Hill for mayor!!

    — Mogadishu    26 March 2008, 13:19    #
  4. F*cking mayorengers man.Kill em all!

    — overdrive    26 March 2008, 16:11    #
  5. Baris has run such a thoughtful and carefully documented campaign, I am sure anything he undertakes will be accurately costed, and that includes anything relating to bendybuses.

    However, The most important issue for Boris is crime, not bendybuses. There are so many upsetting stories about crime in the papers, in the Standard alone tonight, heartrending stories about a cleaner battered to death on her way home from her nightshift in Canary Wharf and also more details of the Matalan manager stabbed as he cashed up in Hackney.

    Boris has his priorities dead right and he totally convinced me how important he considers it to fight crime and make the streets safer.

    No mother in London would rate green issues over the safety of their kids and the safety of vulnerable old people and Boris Johnson realises that.

    — angela    26 March 2008, 17:34    #
  6. Crime. Good point. The Mayor should get the Met Police to do something about crime, shouldn’t s/he?

    And of course, the Mayor is control of the Met Police, isn’t he?

    Oh no, wait a minute – the Home Office control the Met – maybe someone ought to tell Boris, eh?

    — Bill    26 March 2008, 19:03    #
  7. “Baris has run such a thoughtful and carefully documented campaign” Good old Baris

    stupidP    26 March 2008, 22:29    #
  8. Boris is the only one with a plan to keep Londoners safe. Ken has failed london for to long. I hope the rest of London boot this waste of space out of the mayoralty.

    — Zach    27 March 2008, 03:15    #
  9. Safe from what? The big bad wolf?

    — Bill    27 March 2008, 08:21    #
  10. >snipped< - the report is ALREADY linked in the article body, thanks...

    Roger Wilsher    27 March 2008, 08:53    #
  11. Yeah, that’s the report orginally quoted. But the second report shows a different picture, as you would know had you bothered to read the article. Please either read the article and respond to its contents or p*** off.

    — Bill    27 March 2008, 09:17    #
  12. i hate bendy buses, but boris johnson is a racist. the fact that he is even in the running for mayor says a lot of things about this city. none of them good.

    — lurkette    27 March 2008, 09:39    #
  13. Jeez, an actual MT reader responds! Thank Mercury for that.

    I am not sure he is an actual racist, but certainly has made some very questionable statements (for which he has since apologised), and published the revolting writings of Taki, which are definitely racist.

    — Bill    27 March 2008, 09:45    #
  14. aside from the fact that boris IS a racist, he seems to have his PR department on here. MT becomes tory bulletin board shocker

    — sleepy    27 March 2008, 09:51    #
  15. no white person from an over privileged background and a country with a rich colonialist past who is a committed anti-racist would make those comments.

    he is a racist.

    i don’t care how much and for how long he apologises, that is who he is imo.

    — lurkette    27 March 2008, 09:55    #
  16. Excuse me, I have just got to pop to chemist to get my blue rinse.

    — Bill    27 March 2008, 09:57    #
  17. So, where can I get a good courier bag? …oops wrong website. Hang on. This IS Moving Target. What the fuck’s going on here? Where’s all the messenger crap gone?

    westcoastmess    27 March 2008, 17:11    #
  18. Roger that!!!!

    — overdrive    27 March 2008, 17:45    #
  19. Laugh now, oh messengerlings, but if Paddick has his way, you’ll all be wearing hi-vis clothing and helemts…

    — Bill    27 March 2008, 18:07    #
  20. Boris is a close friend of Darius Guppy, another ex-Etonian and a man who was convicted of insurance fraud, VAT fraud and firearms offences. Clearly Boris is a man to be trusted when it comes to fighting crime don’t you think?

    — will    27 March 2008, 19:52    #
  21. tvcream.squarespace….

    — Dazzling    27 March 2008, 20:05    #
  22. www.youtube.com/watc…

    — bob    27 March 2008, 23:53    #
  23. news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/…

    — sleepy    31 March 2008, 23:41    #
  24. I saw Boris coming down liverpool road N1 ages ago. He was all over the road in his black suit with a little colourful schoolbag on his back. Cracked me up. The routemaster is synonymous with London. Bring back the 73. The bendybus is just like the tube. No soul, horrible atmosphere. Bill don’t make me run you over again with 4 death squad bendy buses.

    — Zack Speedfast    1 April 2008, 03:48    #
  25. My grandfather drove a 73 bus. Badly, according to my uncle.

    — Bill    1 April 2008, 09:02    #
  26. 73, bus for me!
    38, always late…

    — Bill    1 April 2008, 10:00    #
  27. its all a load of bollox. Vote for what? nothing will change, you will all still be whinging, paying your taxes and putting up with it.

    Brian Bignose    1 April 2008, 12:42    #
  28. Well said Bignose.

    — overdrive    1 April 2008, 17:09    #
  29. Why do the tories and other fat misanthropists hate the bendy bus? Because it is simply more sociable, and convenient for mothers with prams anmd causes less stress to the people who use it, who are then are less likely to get cars and become part of that atomised, anti-social sect.
    The access and seating arrangements of the articulated bus are far superior to the routemaster, providing speedier stops, and mixing agegroups together in on space face to face, which is why there are very few school fights on them, unlike the upstairs nightmare world of the doulbe decker – reeling from side to side as it attempts to hurl its bulk around London’s streets. Which raises the whole question of manoevreability. When cornering, the routemaster throws all its upstairs load across the turn, and when cutting that corner, endangers any cyclist at the cusp far more than the Bendy, which goes around corners as if on rails, leaving more space alongside the kerb, as it was intended to.
    The Bendy Bus is the epitome of social transport. Those who say it ‘has no soul’ and other embicilities, are obviously afraid of the human face, which the layout of the Bendy encourages contact with, and don’t mind waiting for and queing and shoving to get on to the bottle-neck routemaster, with its upstairs ghetto for squabbling schoolkids and greasy chicken remains. Still less have they tried to get a pram or shopping trolley on a bus. In other words, they are a bunch of ignorant idiots, in hock to a sentimental vision of tourist Designer London and willing to make working Londoners pay for their fantasy.
    Boris has lied continually about this one, and made people afraid to gain political advantage.
    Despicable. But he won’t be around much longer. This fake mayor won’t stand for re-election, and will never be prime minister either, having being consigned to history by some characteristic bungle or other before that can happen. In which case the country will be spared London’s experience of being merely a step in Johnson’s career. A plaything of an idle year or two.
    His mad dictator hero, Pericles, needed to resort to war and the suppression of science to maintain his political power. Johnson can only hope he can buy himself a position in a Cameroon Cabinet as defence minister, and send as many British soldiers as he can to their deaths to further his ambitions.
    And according to the figures, the Bendy bus will not be scrapped either. If, that is, Johnson is serious about his rigorous spending plans. If, that is, he is around much longer.

    Little Richardjohn    8 October 2009, 14:25    #

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