‘Travel Diaries From Around Birmingham’

Roxanne Green- Bus and walking

My journey to work involves a short walk to the bus stop, a short bus journey into town and a 20-minute walk through the city centre to my office. I work flexi-time so depending on when I can drag myself out of bed the traffic and bus can be more or less frantic; but the journey itself varies very little from day to day. There are two routes that I take through town; my usual one, which I think is the most direct but involves a steep charge up Hill Street, or alternatively, if I am in need of a morning coffee, I go past the cathedral and via Urban Coffee Company for a flat white. These days are normally when the mornings have caused me most trouble, but it always feels like a luxury when I treat myself to a takeaway. I like chatting to the regular baristas, I like that I have a regular order, and I like it when I get two stamps on my loyalty card for using the correct change.

I don’t tend to have many interesting encounters on my walk to work, aside from dodging free magazines on every corner, but I enjoy the sense of motion through the city and the busyness of everybody else on their way to work. Sometimes I cross paths with friends doing the opposite journey, and the brief conversations put a smile on my face on the way in. Otherwise it tends to be a solitary experience but I think a bit of a walk gives me time to wake myself up, so by the time I get to my office I’m alert and ready for the day. I would walk the whole journey, but it would mean getting up earlier, and the daily battle with the alarm clock is a protracted and painful enough process already. 

The bus journey is easily moaned about, but I’m lucky to live on one of Birmingham’s most frequent bus routes, and having worked in many disadvantaged areas of the city, I know it could be a lot worse. Anyone who takes the number 50 regularly will be familiar with the sight of three or four buses driving in convoy, seemingly unable to pace themselves at more regular intervals, but normally it is not a long wait for the next one. Usually I get a seat. Usually there are people playing music loudly on their phones on the top deck, often there are children crying, sometimes there are people arguing loudly and obnoxiously. I do not like any of these things.

What I do like is the fact that somebody else has to worry about the traffic, which direction to go in, who’s approaching way too fast, looking out for hazards etc. etc., which is not the case for a car or a bicycle. If I’m honest, I like offloading that responsibility onto somebody else, and it’s a privilege I’m prepared to pay for. My time on the bus is one of the few times of the day when I get to read a book, when I am forced into pausing for a moment and slowing down the pace, even if it’s just for ten minutes. As I write this there is probably a foot of snow outside my office, but the bus was on time and got me to work with no fuss, as normal. It’s not perfect but it’s reliable and easy and I’m happy to be a bus user.

‘Travel Diaries From Around Birmingham’