Tuesday, 13 August 2013
How to Find a Bus Stop All on Your Own
You are in an unfamiliar location. You know there is a bus that will take you to where you need to be, but where does it go from? If you have a copy of the timetable it should at least give you a stop descriptor: "Bus Station", "Rose & Crown" (pub names are popular) etc, but of course you still need to find these.
If your bus goes from the "Bus Station" then you are in luck. Every passer-by should know where it is, even if they haven't used it for years. It should also appear on pedestrian signage around the town. If in doubt, a good place to start would be the railway station. Not that the bus station will necessarily be anywhere near, this is the UK after all, not continental Europe, But in the station there should be a map of locsl information, which includes bus stops.
If there isn't a bus station, or if your bus goes from somewhere else, it's not so easy. In town, all bus stops usually have some indication of which bus uses them - either a service number on the flag (the "bus stop" sign) or in a timetable case. At major stops you might even find a plan or chart showing which bus goes from where. BEWARE though, that in some towns, Stafford is a case in point, where the council has left the provision of information to the major operator, that services run by other operators may be ignored. For these, you'll just have to ask the waiting passengers.
It's usually easier in a village because there are fewer stops to choose from and fewer buses using them. The chances are that all buses in a particular village will use the same stops, so it's just a question of working out which side of the road to stand. (This though isn't always obvious - or logical - as by-passes and new roads have forced buses to take circuitous routes in places or to double-back on themselves as I found in Alrewas). Bus stops are usually located near village landmarks, pubs, post offices (or former post offices!), schools etc. and everyone in the village will know where the bus stops. In smaller villages, or areas where the council is less active, the stops may be unmarked. These are known as "custom and practice" stops. Buses have stopped there for years but no one has ever got round to putting a sign up! With experience you should be able to spot them - a patch of tarmac on a grass verge put down for passengers to wait at (the stop I use at Anderton is like that), or an "obvious" place such as a pub forecourt or outside a shop.
Out in the Country
You are unlikely to find a marked bus stop in the middle of nowhere, except possibly on busy main roads, where they will have been sited for safety reasons. But you may be trying to catch a bus near an isolated canal bridge, or lock, and need to know where to wait.
The good news is that where there is no system of fixed stops buses will stop anywhere that it is safe to do so. "Safe" generally means not on a bend, the brow of a hill, a major road junction, or where there is fast heavy traffic i.e. a trunk road. Note that junctions with minor roads are OK, and in fact these are usually "custom and practice stops" anyway. You'll also need to find somewhere safe to wait off the road and choose a spot where the driver can see you (and you can see the bus approaching). It's important to give a clear hand signal to the driver (hold your left arm out at 90 degrees with palm facing the bus). In fact, it's a good idea to do this at any bus stop, it certainly helps the driver - and the locals do sometimes spend a lot of time gossiping at bus stops without intending to go anywhere.
TIP OF THE DAY: If in doubt ask a local and make sure the driver of the approaching bus knows you want to catch it.
Next time: Fares, Tickets and Passes