If you’ve tried to travel with a dog, you’ll be aware that bus drivers sometimes take exception to canine passengers. It’s a problem that crops up regularly on FixMyTransport* – see these reports, for example:
We’re sure dogs can be a pain for bus drivers – but to be quite honest, they haven’t seen the half of it. Just for fun, we took a quick look through Flickr’s Creative Commons, where, we have to say, dogs are the thin end of the wedge.
We’d love to see how the transport providers of the UK would cope with these passengers… and we await our first ‘duck on the bus’ report with anticipation.
Image: Duck on the Bus by Todd Mecklem
Unusual passenger on a bus in Portland, Oregon. He looks happy enough… although it is hard to tell if it’s actually a stuffed duck.
Image: Cat on Bus by Andrew Bulhak
This fellow is apparently Bob, the same cat who achieved some notoriety by riding the Tube. And here he is on the bus. Doing something that would definitely get a human passenger thrown off.
Image: Ethiopian Cargo Service by Evgeni Zotov
Sheep on the roof? Can’t see it on the number 37 bus to Clapham, but in some parts of the world it’s absolutely standard.
Image: Parrot on a Bus by Claire Taylor
Pesky birds! They’ll travel on the bus if you let them… and if you don’t they’ll find a way, anyway:
Image: Hitchhiker by John Sullivan
Image: A Visitor by Joachim Probst
You know what? Dogs seem pretty innocuous when compared to a camel trying to board the bus. Maybe this is an image to print out, carry in your wallet, and show to the driver next time they try to stop Rover from boarding.
*As you can see from the operators’ replies to these complaints, the regulations about the carriage of animals vary from company to company. Dogs will generally not be carried if they are dirty, threatening or annoying to other passengers, or roaming free – but these are all down to the driver’s discretion.
TfL’s guidelines, for example, are here. Rather magnificently, they include the line ‘dogs must be carried on the escalator’, the basis of one of this country’s corniest jokes.
Top image credit: Michael Jung
There’s little doubt that the modern transport age has brought some incredible innovations. We gasp at the new King’s Cross roof. We appreciate being able to book our tickets online. We expect slick branding, 21st-century customer service, and mocha-frappe-lattes on demand.
But sometimes, it’s the exact opposite of all this that makes a travel experience memorable.
Think of the stations where, instead of a faceless chain, there’s a cafe where staff know the regulars and have their favourite brew waiting for them to grab and take onboard each morning.
Or the stations which display artwork from local artists in their waiting rooms – the sort of initiative that I assume comes not from head office, but from station staff having links with the community.
The personal touch might seem like something from a bygone age, but some stations are using very modern means to acheive a similar aim. Consider Stafford railway station. Like many operators and stations, they have a page on Facebook. They don’t just use it for adonyne updates on delays, though: they have genuine conversations with their followers, sometimes funny, sometimes asking for help or opinions.
Here’s one of my very favourite examples of the personal touch, something, it seems, that can be found in bus and train stations all over the world, and not always the ones serving quiet backwaters. It’s the institution of the communal bookshelf – a place where you can put books you don’t want any more, and pick up one that takes your fancy.
A quick browse through Creative Commons on Flickr showed the following pictures. Can you add any more stations to this list?
Image by Chris Gilson
Image by Kake Pugh
Image by Lars Plougmann
Kamppi bus station in Helsinki, Finland
Image by Matti Mattila
Union Station in Denver, Colorado, USA
Image by Jessamyn West
Lamy, New Mexico, USA
Image by Elly Jonez
Hinsdale, Illinois, USA
Image by Francesco Minciotti
If there’s nothing like this at your local station, FixMyTransport.com would be a great way to request it, and gather the support of other local people.
Also see Books for London, a campaign to start book-swapping schemes in London’s tube and railway stations – it turns out the West Ealing picture, above, is a result of that scheme. Books for London was apparently inspired, in part, by Bookcrossing.com – a fun way of swapping books without the need even for shelves.
A bus stop’s a bus stop, right? So long as it’s functional, accessible, and in a good state of repair, who’d complain?
Well, a look at the following shelters from around the world (all found via a Flickr Creative Commons search) might change your mind.
I’m not suggesting that you request similar modifications to your local bus stop via FixMyTransport. But I think there’s a valid point here to be made about how public spaces can be playful – perhaps if there’s a new bus shelter being commissioned in your area, that would be the time to ask the council to explore some more adventurous options.
And if you’re short of ideas, well, read on.
Bronze Bus stop by Vlasta Juricek This remarkable bus shelter, reminiscent of Jack and the Beanstalk, is in Liberec in the Czech Republic and was created in 2005 by the sculptor David Černý. I like the way that it can obviously also be appreciated from the path running above it. And now that I’ve seen the potential of waiting for a bus underneath a giant’s table, the bog-standard shelters in my own neck of the woods seem curiously unsatisfactory.
Macondo Bus Stop by Kidz Connect It may not look much at first glance, but this shelter on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria, encapsulates many of the same ideals as FixMyTransport. For a start, it was campaigned for by local residents who felt cut off from the city centre. It contains a map of the local area, on a whiteboard to encourage additions and comments from local people. The idea is that they might help first-time travellers find their way – just as we hope FixMyTransport allows people to get friendly advice from other users. More about the social art project here.
Unst Bus Shelter by Birdfarm Unst bus shelter on the Shetland Isles is pretty famous – it’s won awards and even has its own website. Again, there are parallels to be drawn with FixMyTransport, since the shelter was first constructed when a seven-year-old wrote to the local paper to ask whether the roof could be repaired on the previous, rusting one.
According to the website, “A few days after the completion of the replacement shelter, a wicker sofa and table appeared in it with nobody claiming responsibility for putting them in. Soon afterwards, a small TV was added, closely followed by a ‘hot snacks’ counter. In the winter, a 2-bar heater was installed, allowing an even more comfortable wait and it wasn’t long before a carpet was fitted. ”
Still feeling satisfied with your own local bus shelter? Mind you, you might not feel so well-disposed to all that clutter if it starts tipping down with rain, and there are more than a couple of people needing shelter.
See also the work of Mick Sheridan, who upholsters chairs and puts them in remote rural bus shelters for the infirm and elderly.
Bus shelter – Aachen, Germany, by Jim Linwood This one is public art, as well as a practical shelter that you can see clearly out of to check whether your bus is arriving. It even features in the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture – and apparently it’s used as a climbing frame by local kids, as well as for shelter. The screen on the left displays the time, and local news stories. Room for something like this on your high street?
Sophisticated transit stop in Chicago by Clarkmaxwell We’re all used to seeing adverts on our urban bus shelters, but a couple of years ago, Absolut Vodka took the idea a step further by giving a series of Chicago bus stops a complete makeover. The one above is my personal favourite, but the one featuring thrones outside the opera house is a close second.
Message on a bus shelter, by HoxtonChina Seems there’s a whole genre of art that can only be seen from the top of a double-decker bus. There are messages like this one, and a few years back, a series of strange, spiky sputnik-like objects. The former would seem to emanate from a group named Bus.Tops.
While we’re all comfortable with the idea of council-commissioned art cheering up a dreary bus shelter, I suspect that many would be a bit more nervous when it comes to guerrilla art. But this project uses spaces that most people will never notice, and adds a little surprise into a boring commute for those who do – does it do any harm?
The photographer of this image handily geotagged it, so I can identify its page on FixMyTransport too. No-one’s complained, so does that mean no-one minds this sort of thing?
See also: green roofs for bus shelters and stations – an environmental use for this under-used spot.
Giulia and the bus people by Aine D in Madison, Wisconsin. Heard of yarnbombing? It’s the beautification of the environment around you, via the medium of wool. Again, not always officially-sanctioned, it certainly cheers up a dull, grey bus stop.
Birds on a Wire by Serakatie shows a bus shelter in Seattle. If not for the bird painting, you couldn’t really class this as ‘unusual’: that sand-blasted wave pattern seems to be prevalent on bus shelters around the western world. Not that I’m complaining: it’s a nice piece of jaunty graphic design that has the air of a very adept woodcut.
Bus shelter Auckland by Anne Beaumont Here’s a slightly more distinctive example of the same technique. I imagine this sort of decoration goes a long way towards discouraging vandalism and graffiti – and just as I’m all for every high street having its own character, I’d definitely vote for every bus shelter to be contributing to that local character.
Bus Stops by Sam Kelly It’s hard to keep this list down to ten, but I’ll finish by picking a shelter from my own home town of Brighton. This stands for all bus shelters that have their own distinct architectural style, the more so if they echo their surroundings.
In Brighton, the shelters along the Old Steine are all Deco like this, and very elegant they look too. Along the prom, we also have some wooden shelters that fit effortlessly into their surroundings.
I suspect that their upkeep costs the council an arm and a leg, but their style is part of what makes Brighton different, and in some small way, I suspect they contribute to our tourist economy.
- Not enough bus shelters for you? I’ve put all these photos, and quite a few extra that I haven’t featured, in some Flickr galleries.
- Is there a special or interesting bus shelter near you? Please do share in the comments.
- Something wrong with your local bus stop? Report it on FixMyTransport.com.