Cheap, economically sound and with an interesting smell awaiting you on every top deck – we all love buses. They’ve been around for centuries and are the most popular form of local transportation. And it is where many of us experienced our initial moments of intimacy, usually on the back seat with an old, strange man looking on. You can’t say that about a monorail. But how much do you know about buses? Strap yourself in for some fascinating facts.
1. The term ‘bus’ derives from the word ‘omnibus’, which in itself was a pun on the name Omnes, a hatter whose shop was situated outside one of the first bus stations in France. It is not known if he created an enormous bus shaped hat to celebrate this fact – but it thought doubtful. This is also where the idea of a ‘French pun’ derives, meaning a pun, which has no humorous value whatsoever.
2. The famous yellow school buses used in North America first appeared in 1939. This may explain the delay in the US entering the Second World War. They were busy picking bus colours. The colour is now officially known as National School Bus Glossy Yellow. So all that hard work didn’t go to waste.
3. The oldest unchanged bus route in London is the 24, which runs from Hampstead Heath to Pimlico and began in 1910 and has been infuriating the denizens of the capital ever since.
4. If you are called a ‘bus driver’ you probably work one of two occupations. You could be a person who drives a bus around the streets of a particular area or conurbation. Or you could be the rapper Busdriver, whose latest album “Jhelli Beam” is available now on Epitaph records. Though you are more likely to be the former as there is only one of the latter.
5. China is said to be home to the world’s largest bus; the Neoplan Jumbocruiser which has three sections, five doors, and a 300-person capacity. Though both Australia and Brazil claim to have buses of equal, if not larger, girth. It is thought that if this bus envy spirals out of control and culminates in war followed by global apocalypse that will be a really depressing thing.
6. Venezuela is known for its lawless driving conditions, due to the incredibly cheap price of petrol there. In an attempt to stop the roads resembling something out of Death Race 2000, traffic laws have recently been implemented and the historic first person to have their licence suspended was bus driver Ramon Parra. Ramon was caught speeding, was overloaded with passengers and had one of the busses wheels sitting in the aisle. That’s outrageous. A bus speeding.
7. Bus spotting might not be as popular as train spotting, but has its own devoted, passionate followers. It is particularly popular past time in Hong Kong, for reasons no one seems able to explain. One man in Suffolk ran up a bill of £10,000, fraudulently exploiting his position at an insurance firm to improve his personal bus spotting log. This led to the government sponsored campaign: “Bus Spotting: It Screws You Up”.
8. Paul Stender from Indianapolis fitted a school bus with a Phantom fighter jet engine and created the world’s fastest bus. Capable of reaching a top speed of 367mph, it was still ten minutes late for its first pick-up.
9. One of the great movie mysteries was finally deciphered when the solution of how the gang from the Italian Job got their gold off the bus teetering over a cliff was worked out. The solution was easy: science.
10. The future of the humble bus may have been spotted recently in China where the ‘flying’ or ‘straddling’ bus was unveiled in Beijing. This mechanical marvel takes buses out of the busy road equation by placing them above the traffic on rails. I’m telling you, it’s a short step from straddling busses to hover busses and that is one vehicle I will definitely be onboard.