Tom from Boris Watch and Andrew Bowden have both been studying TfL's bendy bus consultation. The results?
Okay so we've been over most of this. We know, that Boris knows, that we know, that this policy has absolutely nothing to do with common sense value-for-money policy-making and everything to do with ideologically-nonsensical politicking.
He's confidently marched us up the double-decker stairway anyway, and even though there's a gang of knife-wielding maniacs on the top deck, there's no way he's going march us back down again.
This is what his deputy Kit Malthouse calls courage.
Now one man's hard-headed courage is another man's blind folly, but we are where we are.
Bendies are going and eventually we will get the gleaming red boondoggles that are the new Routemasters. So let's take a look at those boondoggles.
Into the abyss
Well when you're marching up a bus stairway, you always have to keep in mind that at some point you're going to have to march back down again. Even if the gang of knife-wielding maniacs doesn't set you on your heels, at some point you're going to need to get off at your stop.
With this in mind, and with the Routemaster competition still ongoing, London Travelwatch prepared a report on which staircases work best on a double decker. Here's a summary:
The original Routemaster staircases were rear ascending and had a steep 90 degree turn. Steps on the curve were obviously narrower and more difficult to traverse, but overall they seemed to work.
The onset of front-loading buses meant that some later designs put the staircase at the front.
Thankfully these were never taken up in London, partly because of the risk of being hurled into the abyss whenever the bus made a particularly sharp stop.
As a result of this fault, future designs put the staircase in the middle. Although they were no longer front ascending, the DMS and Titan designs unfortunately had the added obstacle of a 180 degree spiral turn.
This meant that the staircase treads were even narrower and more dangerous to descend than those they had replaced.
The solution was the 'square' staircase as shown above. Less precarious than the spiral and with a wider tread, the Metrobus seemed to be the ideal solution. However, space considerations meant that later designs incorporated the now ubiquitous straight staircase:
The straight staircase is almost in universal use in London. It is both easy to ascend and takes up a minimum amount of space. However, there are significant problems with it as pointed out by Travelwatch:
"For the passenger, the problem with a straight staircase becomes apparent once the bus actually moves. The reality is that a bus lurches about – back and fore, sideways, up and down and in any combination of these – and can brake suddenly. For passengers going up the stairs there is no real problem; if they are thrown off balance the worst that is likely to happen is that they fall forward onto the staircase. This is unpleasant and may result in minor injury, but it is a risk which passengers seem willing to take."Descending a straight staircase is different. When standing at the top, the passenger looks down on a long open space which offers an unbroken fall if the bus lurches or brakes suddenly. Even for the most able bodied, this is psychologically disturbing, causes most users to hesitate as they descend (thus slowing the unloading of the bus) and is particularly difficult for those who are carrying bags and therefore have only one hand free to hold the handrail."
Of course the ideal solution to all of these problems is to simply *not* have a staircase at all.
But accepting that double deckers are necessary on some routes, and accepting that a whole new fleet of them is about to be designed and built, then it is important that these considerations are taken into account.
So what did Travelwatch advise? Well here's how they broke it down:
That London TravelWatch adopts the following policy on bus staircases (subject to any further evidence becoming available from practical trials) :
(a) All staircases should be forward ascending.
(b) Straight staircases which present descending passengers with a long drop into an open void are not acceptable.
(c) Of previous staircase designs in London –
- The square staircase used on the Metrobus is the preferred option.
- The 90 degree curve used on the Routemaster may be acceptable, subject to careful attention to design detail and to user testing.
- The 180 degree spiral used on the DMS and the Titan is not acceptable.
Okay, so the straight staircases don't work, the square ones do, the 90 degree curve just about does the job, but the 180 degree curve absolutely doesn't.
Now after reading all of this can you guess which type of staircase our common sense, listening mayor went for. Yep, you've guessed it: