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Where do you sit on a bus?

As you will have seen in some of my previous anecdotal postings, I am currently on a long assignment to a certain financial institution based in Edinburgh, and this means that rather than drive to work I am taking public transport namely the bus.

This has given me a few more cycles than normal, for a couple of reasons I suppose. The level of concentration while driving is much higher, and therefore the cycles I do have available in my brain are devoted to the general avoidance of the objects in the vicinity of the car. Not crashing is a practice I have honed over the years, and despite my efforts sometimes I have succeeded so far.

Of course, with recent events in London, the whole public transport thing and buses has taken on more serious connotations. What I'd like to say is that this is a light hearted post. Nothing to do with risk assessment relating to suicide bombers, but to do instead with avoiding my blight of travel sickness.

I'd hoped that I'd grow out of it, but I haven't when it comes to bus travel. In order of sickness, I find the bus worse, followed distantly by the train, never really had a problem with Plane travel even to L.A. Never had a problem with sea travel either, the Stena HSS crossing to Northern Ireland was choppy and didn't cause a problem. I have been a little travel sick in the car when driving myself, but that is very rare. And it is a lot of years since I was actually physically sick - this is all nausea and dizziness stuff.

The experience with the Bus very much depends on where I sit, and the general temperature and humidity. It helps a lot if I have good visibility in the direction of travel of the bus. With british buses this means sitting on the left most of the times. The driver sits on the right and the pod they build around him obscures forward vision if you sit on the right. Then the experience varies depending on where I sit. All of the buses round here are rear engined, with the driven rear wheels mounted in front of the engine, and the front steering wheels mounted about two metres behind the driver, or just to the rear of the opening doors.

This means that the rear seats can get a bit warm, which can be a recipe for increased travel sickness if I overheat, but they tend to get avoided by folks anyway. The other phenomenon of sitting at the back is that it can feel like the whole bus is pivoting around the point I am sitting. This happened on the old bus I was on this morning, might have been some worn suspension dampers. At some stages on the A71 it felt a bit like the Renault adverts that feature lots of twisting. This might also lend an explanation to the feeling that the bus is a lot bouncier on the top deck of the bus. Double deckers tend to be the norm on the route I take, and for some reason always feel bouncier upstairs. I'm not sure I can explain this, surely the amplitude of any bounce is the same upstairs as down? On the basis that the chassis of the bus is fixed from the top of the suspension upwards, then the top and bottom decks must move the same distance surely? My working theory is that it must be related to a point round which the bus pitches, and upstairs is further away from this point than downstairs. In fact, I reckon the point must be somewhere slightly above the centre of the wheels, which would be roughly seat height on the lower floor. The further you are from that, the further you travel with the suspension.

My lowest experiences are on the bad days are when the weather is wet, the windows steam up and all the wimps on the bus close the windows. Then I heat up, can't see outside the bus and the motion sickness kicks in. Then it is a trip home of unpleasantness, so bad that I sometimes consider getting off and walking the remaining 5 miles in preference to the bus.

And reading on the bus is a recipie for disaster too, unless I look up regularly or make sure peripheral vision catches the proper motion of the bus - best to avoid reading or playing with my phone instead.

posted on Friday, July 22, 2005 10:17 PM Print
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