Saturday, 29 May 2010

A little taste of America

I'm in Miami as this post goes up. (How organised is that?) Hopefully having a fab time with girlie friends - shopping, drinking, shopping, trying to ignore the sole member of our party who wants to do yoga on the beach at 7am. You get the picture.

A few posts ago I included a photo of the Chicago skyline, taken on my daily dog walk. The other day, we trotted through Lincoln Park and up the east side of the zoo, to come across this:-

Hundreds of school buses. As far as the eye could see, dropping off school kids for a day at the zoo or the beach.

How American do they look?  It's like something in the movies, only they really do go to school in them.

The funny thing is that although they look like something out of the 1940's, these are all new. Apparently, the yellow colo(u)r was designated for all school buses in the USA and Canada in 1939, and is officially called National School Bus Glossy Yellow, in case you're looking for it in a paint store.

Although most school buses still don't have seat belts (and boy do those kids travel when the bus is involved in a collision), they are equipped with several safety devices these days. The most important is a STOP sign on a barrier which you can just about see on this photo. Following far too many accidents where children exited the bus, and ran around the front, straight into the path of a car, now when the bus stops, a large red STOP sign on a barrier, wings out into the road to prevent cars from passing.  And woe betide any car driver who doesn't stop or who tries to pass the bus.

I was also interested to see these school buses from the UK, which have been introduced since 2000 in various counties.  Very smart indeed! (Oh and if you're an American reading this, I'm using smart to mean "spiffy".)


  1. Ours are blue but have the same lack of seatbelts.

    Which is why I was very unhappy about letting him go on one when he was at school.

    I don't really understand how seatbelt laws don't extend to transport specifically for short people who can't be relied upon to sit still.

  2. Amazingly, they've even imported a couple of these buses for the US embassy kids to use on their way to school in Moscow. They're not yellow, though. And if there's one place where seatbelts should be a requirement, it's here - although somehow I doubt anyone's thought about that...

  3. to me the usa/canadian school buses are an iconic image form my childhood....when l was at school in Montreal and later in Watkins Glen upstate NY...

    it has always seemed to me quite strange i such a litigious society that seat belts not be there, not be legal....are they not in motor cars of any sort these days i the usa?...what about under 8 child safety is there none?? l feel a pondparleys post coming on for yu????

  4. Working for a school system, I know the kind of noise that is made when a child is denied the right to ride a school bus. Busing is a big issue here. My county actually has newer models than the one you have pictured. They have a sleeker look to them. The 'smart' one from Britain looks like a tour bus. Nothing wrong with that. It does the job (and probably has seat belts!)

  5. I must say, that I am amazed that a country like America does not use seat belts in a school bus.Seems preposterous.
    I enjoy your photos and the topics that make us think.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  6. When we lived in Norway, my kids used to watch the animated TV show "The Magic School Bus". Imagine our excitement a few years later when we moved to the US and they got to ride in one!
    (Have to say it soon lost its magic, but for a moment......)

  7. My kids are always very excited when they get to ride a school bus. I don't understand why there are no seatbelts - other than the fact that the kids would probably wreck them!

    I remember seeing a fleet of school buses from the air the first time I ever flew into the US and wondering why you would have buses dedicated to school use (i.e. not used for a good chunk of the year!)

    In many school districts there is some stigma involved in riding 'the short bus', as some special ed. kids don't ride the regular bus.

  8. Yes, we have those yellow school buses now in Stockport. Made me think of the American ones (and specifically the Simpson's one). The yellow really stands out in traffic so everyone knows to watch out for kids. Great idea.

  9. I really like the bus system here. I've had several disagreements with the stupid bus company about some stupid routing decisions, but other than that, it is very good, super convenient.

    Yes, terrible that there are no seat belts. I don't get that. Probably some evil decision making method: cost of putting in seat belts versus cost of lawsuits. Until the lawsuits exceed the cost of seat belts, they'll manage without.

  10. The thing they are most strict about in the New York driving test is not overtaking a stopped school bus!

    Littleboy1 will be getting the bus in September for the first time - here they have older kids as 'bus buddies' to make sure the little ones sit still. No seatbelts, though.

  11. No seat belts!!!! I like the idea of having to stop for them much safer...

  12. Funny thing was, my boys had a toy American school bus before we came here. I hadn't really thought about it. Just assumed it was a toy bus. Then we got here, and I saw them EVERYWHERE (there are TEN that service our local elementary school), and I realised how iconic they are, and therefore why the die cast metal toy is reproduced in such detail.

    One stops near us, but it's on a 3 lane major road, and it stops on a slip road into a parking lot. No-one quite knows whether they are allowed to pass it - in the outside lane you'd be 3 lanes away, but even in the inside lane, you're still not overtaking, as it has pulled over onto the slip road. So the traffic grinds to a hesitant stop, or creeps along, and it really is a big hazard. And of course there is no way that any child would be crossing that road (6 lanes in all) anyway. They must get collected from the parking lot.

  13. I love the school buses too and never get tired of seeing them. The UK ones look a bit boring don't they? I think the USA ones are far more cool. I'm amazed they don't have seat belts though - how odd!

  14. So do you really think an essay about school buses let's you off the hook posting about your Miami excursion in great details and colour pictures? I don't think so.

  15. OK, bsck from Miami. (More of that soon.) The seat belt thing has come up for review several times in Chicago, so there must be a reason why they haven't been installed. (Probably a cost thing.) I will make it my duty to look this up and report back!

  16. Love the stop signs on the bus. Genius.

  17. I remember the first time we went to the USA and being told by the car rental company NEVER EVER OVERTAKE A STATIONARY SCHOOL BUS, or the end will be nigh. Every time we saw one we were frozen with terror...

  18. Well, the seat belt debate is raging in many states. Many people argue that because the buses are built like tanks, they are fairly safe in most collisions, and the high "compartmentalized" seats keep the kids safe. In addition, they say, most fatalities occur outside of the bus when the kids are hit by cars.
    They also cite the cost of adding seatbelts, arguing that the money would be better spent elsewhere (like educating drivers not to drive fast beside school buses etc.)
    On the other side are the parties arguing that when a bus does roll, the kids go flying. (There are quite a few awful videos on You Tube of this happening).
    It seems that many states have introduced bills to enforce seatbelts in school buses, but as yet, only a few have managed to pass them.

  19. Part of the problem with seatbelts is that once they're there, people will have to take the responsibility to make sure the kids buckle up.

    The school my nieces go to has belts on the buses, and every few months letters go home reminding parents that they can NOT spare a teacher for every bus to keep the kids belted in, the children need to be reminded to do that by their parents BEFORE the school day starts.


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