Bus, sweat and tears: Bristol’s problem with transport

Home of the great Brunel, Bristol is held up as a historical example of innovation and technological prowess

A brief tour of Bristol, with it’s AT-ATesque harbourside cranes, gleaming new builds around Temple Quay and of course the landmark that is the Clifton Suspension Bridge, seems to confirm it’s place in the engineering hall of fame.

So why can I not get from said bridge to said gleaming new builds in a convenient and comfortable manner? Why does every attempt to circumnavigate this technologically advanced city result in a sweaty and panicked sprint up Whiteladies as I scream verbal abuse at a bus that never turned up?

Home of the great Brunel, Bristol is held up as a historical example of innovation and technological prowess. It would make sense therefore that we would have a gleamingly effective transport system allowing rapid and reliable travel around the city.

But we don’t. We have the polar opposite of rapid and reliable travel, and to be entirely honest I’ve had enough. I’m sure you relate, unless you have a car in which case you’re probably too busy desperately batting away the carbon emission zone emails. Either way, join me in bemoaning the lack of good transport and read on.


Bristol locals lament the fact that no one ever hops off the bus with a jovial “Cheers drive!” like they did in the good ol’ days. Evidently, the bus drivers of days gone past were more amenable, and didn’t greet you as if you’d just set fire to their gran’s bungalow.

A question to the bus drivers: if my bespectacled and backpacked self steps onto your bus and asks for a Student Single, only to realise that I’ve left my Student ID hanging on my door knob at home… but never fear for UniDays is here… why must you project your bitterness at the world towards me by denying me a 50p student discount. Is your mighty carriage so esteemed that only the most scholarly of scholars – those with their UCard tucked firmly into their breast pockets – are allowed safe passage?

Actually, ‘safe passage’ probably isn’t the best phrase to use.

I’ve had bus journeys where I’ve been sitting on the top deck, peacefully minding my own business, and suddenly alarms start blaring and a voice overhead robotically announces that my ride home is “UNDER ATTACK” and that I should “CALL FOR HELP IMMEDIATELY”.

Naturally, in a situation like this I was fairly taken aback, yet a brief look at my unfazed fellow passengers suggested that this was either an unsurprising and regular feature of this particular route, or that these weary travellers were so done with the horrendous bus service that they’d rather take their chances with whatever peril had set the alarm off than risk getting off to wait for the next bus.


So it’s not controversial to say that the buses are rubbish. And at least we have other ways of getting round the city? Right? What about trains?

Photo by Nik on Unsplash

Ha, ha. Ha, ha.

Because unless you have a five step plan that involves placating the disgruntled train drivers and restoring peace unto a ravaged and underfunded rail network (if you do, DM me xx), you might as well forget travelling by train altogether.

The Voi

Which leaves us with one other option, one developed by some very clever people in Scandinavia as a sustainable and modern form of public transport which should have eradicated our reliance on the Bristol buses forever. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I speak of the Voi.

Which would be an exceptional solution to the transport issue if you meet the following criteria:

You are willing to lower your chances of finding a potential mate – riding a Voi is allegedly considered an ick.

You accept the risk that at some point you will find yourself vigorously dinging the pathetic bell at a group of pint-sized roadmen who will inevitably mock you as you desperately swerve around them, into the path of an oncoming bicycle.

You fully understand that the chances of you parking where you actually want to park are as low as your self esteem, having just trundled up Park Street like a granny in a stairlift.

I could go on. But I won’t. Because despite their drawbacks, Vois are one of the few viable ways of getting from point A to (somewhere vaguely near) point B within an acceptable time period.

The solution

At least that’s what I thought before I bought a second hand bike for less than £100 on eBay and revolutionised my journeys around Bristol forever.

Cheap, fast and reliable, my little green bike has significantly reduced the stress of travelling around the city and will continue to do so until it either gets nicked or the wheels fall off once I inevitably forget to tighten the slightly rattly nut that seems to hold all the important parts together.

Photo by Metin Ozer on Unsplash

In a city where you simply cannot depend on public transport, becoming a self-reliant traveller can save you considerable time, money and energy; resources which as students, we have remarkably little of anyway.

So next time you’re trudging angrily through town having waited half the day for a bus that never left the depot, imagine yourself instead cycling merrily along the bike lane, a beaming smile lighting up the path ahead, dinging your bell out of sheer joy knowing that you might actually make it to your lecture on time. Just make sure to mind the Vois.

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