Vancouver has a deep commitment to ‘going green’; it has the awards, the international recognition and the pleasant urban neighborhoods to prove it. But somehow, the commitment doesn’t extend to one of the basic aspects of being environmentally sensitive, which is to ride the bus instead of driving the car. Because to ride on a bus in Vancouver, especially if you’re of a certain age, is fraught with literal and figurative pitfalls.
Let’s just start at the beginning: actually catching the bus. Like I was doing yesterday, on my way to a Yoga class at the Jewish Community Centre. It involves taking two buses; not bad. I was late, but the fast B-Line came almost immediately and got me to my intersection in short order. I dashed out and as I came around the corner of 41st Avenue, I saw that the second bus was idling at the curb. I was about 25 feet from that bus and started sprinting as fast as my aging legs would carry me, waving frantically. At first it looked like I was going to make it, but after letting me run for a few seconds, the driver decided that waiting for this old dame wasn’t worth his while.
He pulled away. I stopped and stared in amazement. I would have been there in less than 10 seconds; but no. Furious, I gave him the finger, much to the amusement of a student who was right behind me, equally out of luck.
Fuming, I paced back and forth. Now I would be really late for my class. An entire herd of people showed up shortly after and we all stood waiting for about 12 minutes; then the next bus pulled up. Now for the next hurdle: not getting thrown into the lap of fellow passengers. I got lucky; a seat was empty at the front, and I managed to make it before the driver started down the road at a mad pace, pulling up at the next stop with such force that everyone was hanging on. He kept driving like this, accelerating and hitting the brakes hard, without any considerations for his passengers who were getting a lesson in bus survival.
Why of why do Vancouver bus drivers do this? I’ve been to other places where the drivers do not labour under the delusion that they are in a death defying race and all alone on the bus. And more than once, I’ve not made it to the nearest seat, once landing in the lap of another older woman. The driver in this scenario was young, female and in such a bad temper that she must have just broken up with her boyfriend. She also demanded to see my senior ID, something that is hardly ever done.
Not happy at being asked and thrown about, I cursed under my breath, whereupon she ordered me off the bus. I refused. Battle lines were drawn. People got angry. She stalked off the bus, letting us sit there to wonder what would happen next. When another bus pulled up behind us, most got off, muttering obscenities and swearing to report her. I certainly did, but this incident did nothing to encourage my ‘green’ transit choices.