Death Race: An Omnibus Prequel

Having typed in “buses are boring” into Youtube just now I was dismayed to find at least four videos where people complain that buses are boring. I didn’t actually bother watching them, and admittedly I only searched for them so I could come up with an introduction to this post, but it raises an important point. Buses are boring. But you should be thankful that they are.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries buses were far more exciting. In fact, they were too exciting. With a myriad of different companies competing for passengers, things occasionally got heated. Buses would often try daring overtaking manoeuvres in order to get to a bus stop first and claim the bounty of passengers. Unfortunately, this tended to encourage the bus being overtaken to up its speed and fend off the challenge, the result was occasionally carnage.

In 1884, a bus operated by the London General Omnibus Company tried to overtake a competitor at speed. One passenger took issue with this, and demanded the driver slow down. The driver reportedly told the passenger to “mind your own business”. At this point the bus smashed into a bus shelter, promptly did a barrel roll, and sent the passengers sat on the open top deck flying off into the road.

Five years later The Times reported that because of several days of racing, ‘a woman was killed, a cab was smashed, a boy was knocked down, and a bicycle was run over by omnibuses in the King’s Road’.

Whilst the death of a woman and the maiming of a child was an accepted part of Victorian society, the destruction of an innocent bicycle was clearly shocking enough to be reported.

Even as late as 1910 racing still occurred. Two racing motor buses ploughed into each other in Chelsea, sending one bounding across the pavement before it obliterated the front of a pair of shops and sent a shower of glass over the hapless spectators. The result of all this was that Victorian and Edwardian London sometimes resembled the scene from Star Wars Episode IV were Porkins loses control of his X-Wing and ploughs into the Death Star.

Except with buses. And fewer lasers.

All in all, the next time you’re stuck on a bus perhaps you should be more thankful. Like these people.

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