Saving the 35 bus

The 35 bus carries mostly older people to do their shopping, to visit friends, the doctors or the hospital and similar trips – during the middle of the day.  But back in July this was due to end.

On the bus!

On the bus!

Since June we’ve been fighting the keep the service running – and to publicise it.  This was basically the problem.  It’s a decent service, but it’s not been marketed and therefore shrunk to a middle-of-the-day service only.  And when the bus company, Notts and Derby, saw how little it was taking, they decided to cut it.

Local people were up in arms.  I was phoned by a regular user, and we started exploring how the bus could be saved.  Around £60 per day extra was needed.  But who would pay and who would hold the money?

The cash strapped council made it clear their answer was ‘no’ to subsidising it.  But local people were keen to keep it, and many were willing to pay, either because they wanted to use it, or simply because they understand the value of buses.  Taxis would cost far more.

A sample of publicity materials.

A sample of publicity materials.

This bus goes past Tesco, Iceland, the Co-op, Aldi and into town.  People use it to reach at least five doctors’ surgeries, a dentists’ and the Royal Derby Hospital – the major hospital for miles around.  It’s the only link between two suburbs, Littleover and Mickleover and nearly links to a third, Heatherton.  What it needs is marketing.

And marketing we did.  We produced paper timetables, put posters up on bus shelters, added timetables to timetable cases, and published a cut-out-and-keep timetable in Focus door-to-door newsletters.  We took timetables round those destinations, and handed them out to interested people when door-knocking for donations.

The all important first £1000, raised in under a day.

The all important first £1000, raised in under a day.

Meanwhile we persuaded the Council to hold the funds to pay for the service, raising over £1000 in under 24 hours to save it initially.  Since then a further £1000 has come from the local community, but more is needed.

The numbers of passengers started to rise, but when it’s too hand-to-mouth, people don’t have the confidence that the bus will still be running to stand outside and wait for it.  We need to have more security.

Meanwhile Derby is one of the city’s which must improve its air quality – and buses should be part of that solution.  Two thirds of people we survey regularly agree that the Council should do more to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

Many people in Heatherton would be happy to use a middle-of-the-day service to Mickleover and the Hospital.  So it’d be good to amend the route to include them – if only the bus were to be running for long enough to make it worthwhile.

An encouraging letter arrived just this morning!

An encouraging letter arrived just this morning!

So we need more money.  If you could help, then you can pay into the fund being held by the Council using www.derby.gov.uk/pay-it and search for 35 – to find the right account.  Add your details and we’ll try to keep in touch (though getting this info out of the Council is interesting due to GDPR!).

At a public meeting on Thursday 6th September, it was agreed to set up a support group for the bus for the long term.  And a generous donor is putting forward up to £1000 to match other donations over the next 10 days.

So anything you give till the 16th September will be doubled (up to that £1000 target).  Many thanks!

BBC's The One Show filmed on the bus!

BBC’s The One Show filmed on the bus!

 

 

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Could social housing be as personal as private ownership?

The private sector provides lots of choice. Could the social housing sector do so too?

The private sector provides lots of choice. Could the social housing sector do so too?

Could chains in social housing – Council or Housing Association homes – help more tenants to have the home they’d like?

People who’ve bought or sold houses know about ‘chains’.  Estate agents will advertise ‘no chain’ against a property they are marketing as an advantage.  And if you want that ‘no chain’ property then that’s great – but the odds are that you would prefer another.

As a house buyer, one chooses a property within one’s budget in the area you want with the characteristics you fancy.  You put in your offer.  If it is accepted you wait patiently until the chain moves.  You may have to find a buyer, the seller may have to find a property they want, but in the end a whole chain of people have their housing wishes satisfied at once.

In social housing, most moves are of the ‘no chain’ variety.  You have to be very lucky to be near the top of the waiting list and get a home that is something like what you want.  You may have to compromise size or location, but as a tenant you are somehow expected to be grateful for anything you can get – especially when housing is in short supply.

Most areas also allow people to ‘swap’ homes.  But rarely is this more than a direct one to one exchange.

I think we should be able to do better.  Imagine the following, all living in social housing.

  • Michael has recently retired and lives in a one-bed ground floor flat with his dog but would now love to have a garden.
  • Audrey is still living in the three bed property her family grew up in, but the stairs are difficult to manage and the garden is too large.
  • Paula is also in three bed property with her two teenagers.  She wants to support her elderly mum who has just had a stroke, but lives on the other side of town.
  • Gary and Julie now have three children in their small two bed terrace and the arguments are starting…
  • Paula and Marc are expecting their number one, but are still living with Paula’s mum and dad in their two bed bungalow.

Following current practice you might be able to suggest some exchanges.  Perhaps Audrey could swap with Gary and Julie, at least Audrey’s garden problem might be reduced.   Or maybe Michael’s flat would suit Audrey – though Audrey’s house would be rather big for Michael and his dog.

It is really not very satisfactory.

So what happens if we make it into a chain, like the private sector does?

  • Paula and Marc can move to Gary and Julie’s small terrace
  • Gary and Julie can have Paula’s family three bed house
  • Paula can move to Audrey’s house on the other side of town near her mum
  • Audrey can have Michael’s flat and
  • As soon as a small house or flat with a garden becomes available for Michael, the whole chain moves and everyone can be a bit happier!

This works in the private sector.  And I want it to work in the social housing sector too.

There’d need to be safeguards – like tenants would need to be up-to-date with their rent and property be in reasonable condition.

Wouldn’t it be great if this wasn’t just a system in Derby, but across the country?  It could then open up employment opportunities for people currently fearful to apply for a job beyond commuting distance from their current rented home.

Now all we need is the IT, the safeguards and a willingness to give real choice and flexibility to people in the social housing sector, and hopefully improve social mobility too!

Who will help to make this happen?

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I’m just back from Radio Derby

Today’s question: Would it make any difference to walkers in the New Forest whether cyclists all had bells on their bicycles?

This feels like a storm in a teacup to me but it is the reason why I was asked to go in to Radio Derby this morning: A debate in Parliament about walkers in the New Forest concerned about ‘rogue’ cyclists rushing silently past them.  Earlier in the programme there had been an excellent discussion with Tony Roelich of Derby Cycling Group, highlighting the importance of courtesy.

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The bell on my Brompton bicycle. I find a cheery ‘Good morning!’ or ‘Cyclist approaching’ is kinder to alert others.

Putting a bell on a bicycle sadly doesn’t mean it will be used correctly, especially by ‘rogues’ (whoever they might be!).  And would enforcement of bells on bicycles be a good use of public resources?  What about bells on mobility scooters, or runners, or horses?  And what about people who are deaf, or engrossed in conversation, or deep in their own thoughts, or listening to music.

Tony got it right.  The key message is really that all users of public spaces should be aware of, and courteous towards, each other.

The radio debate went on to try to identify the worse people on our roads.  Lots of different categories were mentioned later in the programme.  Cycling home, I realised that my pet hate is people who shout abuse at other road users.  If something needs saying, say it politely, your message is more likely to be respected.  It’s courtesy, again.

Meanwhile, it’s been good to hear people phoning in to say that a polite call from an approaching cyclist is more use, and than a tingingly bell.    Let’s hope that our MPs see sense!

 

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Derby City Council’s Cycling Champion

I was surprised and amazed tonight.  Derby City Council made me their cycling champion, and the position wasn’t even on the agenda!

Proving small cycle improvements, like this on Brierfield Way in Mickleover, can open up new routes for cycling.

Providing small cycle improvements, like this on Brierfield Way in Mickleover, can open up new routes for cycling.

I don’t think of myself as a keen cyclist, it’s just that cycling is a really good way of getting around in a city.   Parking a bicycle is rarely a problem compared to parking a car, and one can pause to chat, drop in at a shop or stop to answer one’s phone.

You don’t have to pay for petrol or diesel (or electricity), there’s no road fund tax and repairs generally cost much less than for a car.  You also exercise as you go, saving time and money compared to the gym!

So what do I hope to achieve?

Not surprisingly I’m still thinking about that one, so watch this space.  But if you’re reading this, do share your ideas with me.  We can achieve much more together than I can alone.

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