A little known fact about unicorns is that they don’t drive. I use public transport and cycle a lot. When my bike was stolen (twice) earlier this year, I was upset:
I try to cycle about 100 miles a week. Other than my leg, I am healthy and I retain hope that through physio, I will get to a place of normality. I am one of the lucky ones. Even without a bike, I live on an excellent bus route and, as long as the place I want to travel to is on it, I can get there quickly and efficiently.
Today’s report in The Guardian on how councils are cutting bus services won’t get the attention it deserves, not with Brexit, Trump, the World Cup and the heat wave. The sad thing is it feeds into a narrative that the most vulnerable in our society have been the most affected by government cuts.
Take me. When I came out of hospital last year, I had regular appointments in 5 different sites at a range of different times during the week. Few of them were on good bus routes and I was, at one point spending £50 a week on taxi fares, which translates to £2,600 a year, and, I should add, I live in a place where taxis are cheap. None of the sites were more than 5 miles from my house and yet, without my income, I would not have been able to receive the treatment I needed.
You don’t need to look too far to find someone in a worse position. I have a friend who has been diagnosed with MS. Unlike me, she does not live on a good bus route. In fact, she does not live on a bus route at all. The closest bus stop is about half a kilometre away, which would be fine if she was able to walk that far. But she can’t. She has a young child, and the effort of pushing a pram to the bus stop and then loading it on and then off of a bus is simply not possible. My friend is lucky: she has good friends and family that will do what they can to help, but there is still an impact. I know better than most how awful it feels to have to rely on others for help. I felt like a drain and anybody who has ever needed others for help can empathise. There used to be a bus stop outside her house – the service was cut.
When the government talks about austerity, this is the impact of it. People that are vulnerable are confined to their houses, with a lack of public transport. Libraries and public services are cut to the bone whilst stories like this are all too common
The link is tenuous, but the point is clear: the rich are getting richer and the vulnerable can’t catch a bus. I’m sure the government will respond that they have a robust free bus pass scheme. But it is useless if the people that are receiving a free bus pass are unable to access a flipping bus.
I get it. Buses aren’t sexy. This article will not get as many views as one where I write about Beyoncé or the royal wedding. That’s fine. With respect, I think as entertaining as those stories are, this is more important. We have thousands of people that are prisoners in their own homes, a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system that is confusing and has led to people not receiving the assistance they need and a government department that is finding people fit for work shortly before they die. It’s like that old saying: you wait ages for a bus and it never comes. And even if it did, you live too far away from the bus stop to get there. I think that’s the old saying. If it isn’t, it should be.