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Friday, 26 April 2013

In Praise of Public Transport

Waiting for the bus in Nimes, April 2013

Most people assume that not being able to drive is the most negative thing about being registered blind. But I have never seen it that way. At times not being able to hop in the car at will can be mildly inconvenient but this is an occasional annoyance rather than a tragedy.

The same people who feel sorry for me because I will never drive, tend to overlook the main advantage of not driving: public transport. I love public transport. True, it is generally slower than going from A to B by car but once you've accepted that speed is not necessarily as important as Jeremy Clarkson would have us believe, and got used to a little bit of forward planning, public transport is a lot of fun.

This year I managed to convince my (driver) husband to put this theory to the test by travelling round France exclusively on buses, trains (both under and overground) and trams. French public transport is cheap, plentiful and well-organised and we managed to do everything we wanted (including a trip to the remote Pont du Gard) without a car. Public transport is a great way of feeling part of the country you are visiting. Conversations spring up easily with fellow passengers (especially when you have two chatterbox children with you) and it gives much more interesting insights into the minutiae of everyday life than a cocoon-like car. Studying train timetables and eavesdropping are two of my favourite pastimes so I am particularly well-suited to the combination of co-ordination and communality which makes public transport such a pleasure. And listening to people's conversations (especially in France) always makes me feel more at home.

Above the Pont du Gard, April 2013

Recent eco-initiatives have made public transport more popular but it is still vastly underrated. For most people is it is a second-choice or worst-case scenario. But my blindness allows me to experience the fun, adventure and camaraderie of communal travel which car drivers unwittingly miss out on.


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