Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Now arriving in Clapton: the 488 bus to Dalston

It's been on the cards for years - Transport for London held a consultation back in 2009 - but all the signs suggest that the 488 bus will finally be arriving soon in Clapton, destination Dalston.

Look, the bus stops have finally been installed. I took this picture of a new bus stop on Rendelsham Road this morning. Yes, I felt a twit doing it.

Of course, the 488 bus has been a Hackney fixture for years, starting and terminating around Clapton Pond. But from there it only used to head in one direction, through the badlands and backstreets of Homerton and Hackney Wick on its inexorarable (read: 29-minute) journey to Bromley-by-Bow.

But from next Saturday, June 4 - if the whispers are to be believed - the route will be extended the other way, all the way to Dalston Junction station. I'm giddy at the prospect. You can't beat a new bus route.

Or can you? I'm not interested in the rights or wrongs of the new multi-million-pound bus terminus at Dalston Junction that, according to reports at the time, will only cater for passengers on the 488. (It's done, it's built - time to use it or lose it).

I'm more interested in whether the new bus will be more frequent and quicker in getting to Dalston Junction station than the 56, which goes via the Pond, down Cricketfield/Pembury Roads and past Hackney Downs station. Along busy, fast-moving main roads.

My big bugbear is that 488 is a good idea in principle, but the chosen route - along Kenninghall Road, Rendlesham Road, Downs Road and Shacklewell Lane to Dalston Junction - will mean it meanders through backstreets, and create problems.

As someone who cycles along the Rendlesham Road rat-run every day - around the time that school-run mums drop off their kids at the various schools along it - I know how tight it can get, with room for little more than traffic in one direction.

Getting past the parked cars at the best of times is a challenge when there's oncoming vehicles. The variegated speed bumps lining the road only seem to encourage white van drivers to hit their accelerators, in an attempt to beat you to the humps and make you swerve out of their way.

Traffic also gets stuck behind the lorries and diggers building the new flats in the area. Stick a few buses-an-hour onto the route, and I wonder how far the tailbacks will be - and how long before a child goes over the bonnet of an angrily-driven van.

I wonder if the lollipop guy by Hackney Downs minds the sound of beeping car horns, and is any good at mouth-to-mouth?

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