TO BUS OR NOT TO BUS

Buses are known for being an inexpensive choice for commuting, but what exactly does the Sea Turtle think of buses in the UK? How do they compare with buses in China?

The public transport I use most often in the UK is the bus. Common British buses are double-decker buses, which are quite rare in China. I especially enjoy sitting in the upper deck of the bus and looking outside, watching the world go by. I always imagine that I am the heroine starring in some kind of film set in the British lands, singing songs and immersing myself in my own small world.

However, the bus fare in the UK is somewhat higher than the bus fare in China. Sometimes even trains are cheaper than buses. A round-trip train ticket from Coventry to Birmingham costs only £3, but a round-trip bus ticket is priced at £4, which is equal to almost 40 RMB.

I think the best part about the bus service in the UK is that there are many features specifically designed for people with disabilities. For example, the entrances of buses are designed with a slope–and some of them can be height-adjusted–so that people with disabilities can easily get on and off with a wheelchair. In addition, the bus also reserves a space for wheelchair users. That’s very considerate I think.

But for me, the British buses seem to be “unkind” the majority of the time. I must be cautious about the whole process from waiting for the bus to getting off the bus. British buses have specific timetables, but the timetables practically have no function. Most of the buses are not in accordance with the scheduled time. Whether you can take a bus is relying mostly on luck. And when waiting for a car to go past, you need to wave your hand to beckon the driver before the bus passes the stop otherwise you may miss your bus. If you just sit at the bus stop without making any actions, the driver will directly drive away, so you need to make it clear you’re waiting. British buses are not so frequent, therefore if you miss your bus, you have to wait at least 30 minutes for the next one and it’s quite grueling to wait on a bus for a long time in the cold weather. Experience has taught me to focus on the road, and I daren’t play with my phone when waiting for the bus.

A round-trip train ticket from Coventry to Birmingham costs only £3, but a round-trip bus ticket is priced at £4, which is equal to almost 40 RMB.

Besides, the most annoying part is that British buses will not report the next station through announcement or screens, and the driver will not stop at every stop. If you want to get off you must press the bell, then the driver will stop. As a foreigner, I have to stare at Google Maps on my phone very nervously to confirm the real-time GPS positioning to determine if I have arrived at my destination, to press the bell at the appropriate time. Sometimes even if I press the bell, but do not stand next to the door, the driver will not stop. Once, I undoubtedly pressed the bell, but the driver did not stop, and continued to pass by another three stations. This really irritated me because I had to forfeit more money and more time for the next return bus. In the end, I had to walk for a long time to get home.

I think the most notable and comical thing is that British people seem to have a special talent when taking the bus, in that they can automatically know when they should press the bell for stopping. Bus stops are really small, and when you are sitting on a bus, it is almost impossible to see the front of the stop ahead. How do passengers know they are arriving? Even more odd is that it seems they generally do not look out of the window. Normally they are reading or playing with mobile phones.

Speaking of this, I really admire British people’s reading habits. Unlike in China where most people play with their phones or watch the world go by, here there are always a lot of people on the bus holding a newspaper. I am really worried about their eyesight! It can be a bumpy ride and lights are relatively poor, and even the font size in newspapers are very small. It seems that many British commuters are passionate about paper media.

Taking the bus to school every day has become the most important and memorable part of my life here. Seeing the different sights and observing people’s habits, not to mention the fact that these journeys are what transport me for my education. All in all, although I still have been unable to adapt completely, taking buses in the UK is generally pleasing, comfortable and worth the experience.

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