No More Bendy Buses On Number 38 From Saturday

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 101 months ago
No More Bendy Buses On Number 38 From Saturday

Image of a maligned bendy by steve_w from the Londonist Flickr pool
The un-bendification of London's buses will face its biggest hurdle next week, as the 38 bus reverts to double-decker vehicles, barely four years after first going bendy. The switchover will happen this Saturday, reports London Reconnections, but the Monday morning commuter rush will be the first real test.

The 38 is one of the city's busiest routes, starting (on the northward leg) at Victoria before plying through Piccadilly Circus, Bloomsbury, Islington, Dalston, Hackney, and terminating in Clapton. It was one of the last in the capital to be served by Routemasters, with the last cheered along the way in October 2005. It's unlikely a similar parade will greet the final bendy on Friday night.

While we await developments on the Mayor's Routemaster 2K project, the 38 will be served by a new fleet of buses (Wright Gemini 2 DLs and Enviro400s for the bus-spotters out there). The bald facts don't look good: in order to maintain the same passenger capacity, 72 buses will ply the route, up from the current 44 bendy buses, and a significant increase on the 50 Routemasters previously required. The frequency of the bus will be upped to every 2-3 minutes during peak hours. The change will also see alternate buses terminate in Hackney Central, a move that'll upset Claptonites.

The 38 follows the 507 and the 521 in being stripped of the "hated" (quote: Boris voters) bendy bus. How will the new fleet cope with a busy route which is already thick with traffic, one set to worsen when the trucks carting Crossrail dirt away begin to clog the streets? We'll be riding the 38 come Monday morning to see how the first day goes.

Last Updated 11 November 2009


WHAT? This is utterly ridiculous. Can someone sniper Boris?


Goodbye bendy buses, I miss my free fares of just getting on at the back and never getting asked or funny looks :)

Anyway, I'm all about my cycling so no big loss, the bendy buses are pretty dangerous to cycle round :)


£78m of the £125m Boris is raising through fare increases comes from bus users (£47m from tube passengers). Debendifying the 38 costs £2,784,000 more per year than leaving it with the bendies. Do the maths. Boris *hates* buses and bus users with a passion, it's the only explanation.

"Anyway, I'm all about my cycling so no big loss, the bendy buses are pretty dangerous to cycle round :)"

But less dangerous than 60% more normal buses, that's the point. Boris's own figures* suggest once you go over 36% increase in vehicles on the replacement fleet even cyclists are less safe.

* the ones he grudgingly produced after being elected. The ones before being elected were lies.


The bendy buses are ideal for London's broad boulevards and logical grid system road layout. The complete absence of cyclists, who may have found them intimidating, also makes me wonder why on earth they are being removed!
It's also annoying when people do what they say they are going to do repeatedly and obviously during an election.


Never saw the problem when cycling myself. They bend. It's what they do. It's not a secret and should not be a surprise to anyone. They are nice and predicatable to cycle about.

I think it's unfair to say that Boris hates bus users - it's more likely that he just doesn't give them a second thought. Buses, like Wren churches, black cabs, phone boxes, post offices, Chelsea pensioners etc are simply parts of the historic visual backdrop of London one can enjoy when driving or being driven. They are there for the visual amusement of the privileged, not our conveyance.


"It's also annoying when people do what they say they are going to do repeatedly and obviously during an election"

That you, Andrew Boff? I've said it before, but it's not getting through - getting elected doesn't mean your policies are sensible, just popular. As for London's road layout, it's not designed for BMW X5s, but they're absolutely fine from Boris's point of view. Nonsensical arguments.

"I think it's unfair to say that Boris hates bus users "

No, I stick by that one. He's more interested in what shape buses are rather than the transport service they provide - hence he's quite happy to cut services and price me off the bus back into the car but won't let go of his ruddy Routemaster. The big arse.


Bendy buses were abused by people not paying their way (fueling fare increases). Most detractors were either non users or opponents to public transport because they saw it as a threat to their use of the car. Boris is not a fan of public transport, and his maths and logic for ridding us of the bendies, does not hold water. In spite of great improvements on London Transport under Livingston, we still have an extremely expensive and poor service compared to some major cities around the world. Anyone who thinks things will improve under Boris is either a die hard Tory, or someone who selfishly doesn't give a damn about people having affordable public transport. Boris is a dangerous manipulative individual who hides behind this absurd persona of bafoonery. He may act the clown, but he knows exactly what he's doing - and it is certainly not representing a broad spectrum of London folk. Get rid of this dangerous man before he makes London the butt end of jokes around the world. We don't need another major city for the privileged few. Some of us need an affordable working public transport system.


"The complete absence of cyclists, who may have found them intimidating"

It's not the bendies that are the problem IMO, it's a mayoral candiate making unbased assertions that they "kill many cyclists each year".

Now we know they don't kill many cyclists each year, but HGV's actually do. What's Boris doing about that?


jeez enough of the boris bashing already! do any of you actually live on the 38 route? i have lived in hackney since the days of the routemaster and i can safely tell you that when it was bendified in 2005 it destroyed what used to be a great route. from november 2005, if you wanted a seat for the 45+minute journey into town from anywhere further west than hackney central you were scuppered. there is nothing more uncivilised than being forced to stand in a cattle truck every morning for your commute.
the bendies were slow, cramped, cumbersome, and attracted fare dodging and violent/intimidatory kids.

i for one will not miss them one bit and look forward to actually being able to get a seat again at last (this should, surely, be everyone's right on such a long bus route). just a shame there won't be conductors, but one step at a time eh.

i can see the worth for bendies on short routes like the 507 and 521 (imho boris made a mistake there), but the manner that the bendies utterly destroyed and dehumanified routes 73 and 38 still pisses me off to this day and i applaud the mayor for his steadfastness in sticking to his guns on this.


I've only been a casual user of the 38, but I do know the 25 & 8 routes out to Stratford well.

On the double decker 8 it was not a question of getting a seat, it was a question of getting on at all. Excusing the bi-weekly central line signal failure you can allways get on the bendy 25.

It's far more uncivilised to be left at the side of the road as buses fly by non-stopping than to have to stand for your journey.

The bendies are not slow - principly as they board at vastly faster speeds (which helps with trafic flow on narrow roads) They certainly arn't cramped, and they are not cumbersome on the right routes.

They attract fare dodging only in so much as TfL fail to check tickets suffiently and the penalties are too low (plenty of more anarchic places than London use the honour system, but they enforce it)

As for violent/intimidatory kids, there's nothing like the back seat of a double decker to encourage that problem.

I'm happy to see a mix of buses, if we can have a fancy borismaster without putting up fairs - fine, but people should not have to accept a worse and more expencive service to serve the anyone's political and asthetic whim.

Oh, and Photomass - one side effect of the fall in the £ is that TfL tickets are good value in european terms now! €6.10 for a travel card in Berlin and €2.20 for a Single bus ride!

lee jackson

Those of us with small children in the last few years have really appreciated the bendy bus - great for pushchairs. And now my toddler wants a regular seat, well, Boris has timed it just right - more seats will appear.

Magic. Selfish on my part, but great.

Next, can Boris persuade

1. all mp3 headphones leaking white noise to spontaneously explode

2. bastards in the aisle seats - those who just shuffle their legs sideways when you want to get past - to f**king get up



Yes, I live on the 73/38 bus route.


>In spite of great improvements on London Transport under Livingston, we still have an extremely expensive and poor service compared to some major cities around the world.

That's a bold claim. Can we have some examples please, Photomass?

Don't go mentioning Berlin. Things may have changed in the last few years but the last time I had to get a bus in Berlin from a couple of miles out of the centre we had to walk getting about a mile beforehand because a lot of the routes don't run to their full length after 8pm.

Also, I used to work for TfL. People used to throw these ridiculous claims at us all the time. "London's bus system isn't as good as that in [European city x]". Really? Could that be because [European city x] has only a quarter of the traffic congestion that London has?

So if you could give us some examples, backed up with details of traffic levels, cost of fares, likelihood of delays, whether or not the routes are designed to provide useful journeys or to maximise profit, how many years in advance of regulations the buses are in terms of meeting requirements to provide accessible public transport and the availability of 24 hour bus services. Take your time. If you could come back to us by this afternoon that would be wonderful.


The biggest revelation to me about the bendies was when I took one from Euston station during the Tube strike. So much faster than the other buses.

As for the people who think cyclists find them intimidating. I ride my bike from Bow to St. Albans, 2-3 times a week. I don't find the bendies more intimidating than the other buses, quite the opposite. They can't accelerate as quickly and are therefore easier to predict. Why is a longer bus more intimidating than one that towers high above you and lurches in and out of stops?

lee jackson

As a humble pedestrian and occasional car-driver, I've never really understood the problem with bendy buses and cyclists either. They are large, fairly predictable in their movements, and when you see them at a bus stop, you know that, shortly, they're going to want to pull out. If you can't get past them safely, surely you just stop and wait?

Stopping and waiting is, of course, impossible for a certain breed of London cyclist, as can be seen daily at pedestrian crossings and traffic lights throughout the capital.



These 38s really are regular, at least during the day. I just saw 4 go past at practically 1 minute intervals - what's the verdict on rush hour?


In discussing the bendy vs. bike quandry, it's worth noting that not a single cyclist has been killed in London by the supposedly lethal bendy bus.


I am making a 3 mninute doc about the bendy buses . Well it was meant to be about my journey on the 38 bendy bus that I travel on every day from work . However Boris beat me to it and replaced the 38.

On saturday I am going to film on the 73 instead from newington green to islington Essex road . This will be on the 8.20 bus . So if any of you are around and would be willing to do a quick vox pop on the bus I would be really grateful.
This is only a minute piece as part of a short filming course I am on so the questions and answers will be short.
It would be great to hear from some of you as you write with such passion!
Also I want to film some cyclists cycling past the bendy bus and it would be great to ask some cyclists a couple of questions - anyone interested ?