Rivers of Steel

The extension last year to the bus routes 301 and 135 meant they came right through Pipera and this was welcome. It came shortly after the election of the new mayor of Bucharest, Nicusor Dan, and it signalled a very welcome and much needed rethinking of public transport in the Romanian capital. This was particularly welcome in the northernmost part of Pipera from where there are only two real access routes into the city: Iancu Nicolae and the DN1, part of the 301 route; or straight down Pipera Tunari, the 135. Both of these bus routes are being chopped right back – the 301 terminating at Jolie Ville and the 135 stopping at the McDonalds roundabout – leaving large, residential areas completely unserved by any public transport. Meanwhile the aforementioned thoroughfares grow increasingly clogged for longer stretches of the day, traffic crawls along belching out life-threatening pollution, expensive cars filled with exasperated drivers inch their way to work or crawl home. These rivers of steel bristle with impotent, ill-mannered rage – I know, I’ve been that soldier. 

I’ve also used both bus services recently and I’ve been impressed by their reliability, the cleanliness of the buses and the speed that they can get you from A to B. There is the added advantage of not having to find a parking space, you can be on your phone as much as you like, read a book, have a drink when you get there if the mood takes you and it costs next to nothing. 

Please sign this petition to preserve these routes:

https://www.petitieonline.com/stb_135_-_revenire_traseu_tunari

But people would rather use their car, clogging up the roads and the city and the air and wasting precious time in traffic. Paying through the nose for the car and more often than not paying for the car over many years. Rather than sitting on a bus with fellow citizens. It’s a mindset thing I’m told but it’s contrary to that of a modern European capital, diametrically opposite. And it’s ruining Bucharest, which is now acknowledged as being among the most congested cities in the world.

This is a related, illustrative anecdote from a friend – he was showing one of his apartments to some prospective tenants. He’d arrived in good time for the appointment, having taken the bus to get there. 45 minutes late the prospective tenant arrived apologising and blaming traffic. Eyes rolled heavenward, shrug, what to do!? My friend explained that the apartment was wonderfully located for metro, bus and tram allowing easy access to much of the city. There was a snigger as the prospective tenant professed that she’d never use public transport. Not a trace of irony. 

And yet every square inch of this city it seems is occupied by a car, parked or driven – they’re like a mould. Seven kilometres can easily take an hour and there may well be another half hour spent finding a space within a half kilometre of where you want to be. And the driver has zero control over any of it!

Practicalities can trump mindsets and Romanians are nothing if not practical. Following the 7/7 Underground bombs in London bicycle sales there went through the roof if you’ll excuse the turn of phrase. Numbers of cyclists in the UK continue to rise steadily as more people see the benefits of the bike, the infrastructure is growing accordingly. With its fantastic metro, tram system, trolley buses and buses and especially when those are combined with the flat topography that lends itself to cycling Bucharest should be a public transport dream. Not a congested nightmare with one of the poorest air qualities in Europe.

It would be good if the mayor would look again at those bus routes and continue them, even increasing their frequency the better to encourage citizens to use them, drawing enlightened folks out of their cars and onto buses. Otherwise he’s only helping Uber and car companies. 

 

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