Today's your last chance to ride the bendy bus. From the morning of Saturday, 10th December, the 207, the only route still operated by the much-maligned articulated vehicles, will be served by a fleet of new double decker vehicles. Almost ten years after they were trialled (coincidentally, on the 207 route), and nine years after they breezed into proper service on the streets of London, the bendy bus will be consigned to history.
Hallelujah, the bendy doubters will exclaim: no more will these fire-prone, dangerous, impractical, fare-dodge-enabling vehicles clog up the roads and byways of our fair city. Never mind that they're hardly the only flammable vehicles (a double decker went up in flames this week), or that (despite their reputation) they haven't been responsible for the death of a single cyclist, or that the new buses offer reduced capacity, or that on certain routes — say, the 149 from London Bridge to Edmonton — having a high capacity bus made perfect sense. In its brief lifetime the bendy bus became a symbol of everything wrong with public transport in 21st century London, hence it had to go.
It's probably not a coincidence that 9th December marks exactly six years since the final Routemaster was taken out of regular service (a few vehicles still run on 'Heritage Routes'). This was during Ken Livingstone's second term, where his earlier view on London's bus conundrum — "only an inhuman moron would get rid of Routemaster" — had long been replaced by the zeal for all things bendy. They were on borrowed time ever since Boris Johnson made ridding them a key pledge in his election manifesto.
He's achieved it with several months to go, which will be a nice boost to his election campaign. Sometime in the coming weeks the New Bus for London will take to the streets for testing, before entering service early in 2012. While Livingstone may still be perceived as more trustworthy on transport than the incumbent, the boost Johnson is likely to get from the post-bendy era could be significant.
Diamond Geezer has already been out to ride the 207, while @bitoclass will no doubt be live-blogging his trip on the final bendy bus tonight (he's previously done so for the 436 and the 453 ). You might even catch Londonist riding it one last time today, for nostalgia's sake.
Bendy bus: The Facts:
- The buses were trialled on the 207 in 2001, and entered proper service on the 521 and 507 on 2nd June, 2002
- Because it'll almost certainly come up in a pub quiz, here's the list of 12 routes on which bendy buses were used: 12, 18, 25, 29, 38, 73, 149, 207, 436, 453, 507, 521
- At their peak, there were around 400 bendy buses in London's fleet, or around 7% of London's 7,500 buses
- Despite being described as "cyclist-killing" by Boris Johnson, not a single cyclist has been killed by a bendy bus
- The buses have been sold on to Brighton and Leicester, among other places
Photo / petephotographic