Non-Magic Bus

Last June, writer Ariane Sherine wrote an article on Comment is Free complaining about the amount of religious advertising on the side of London buses. As part of the research for the article she calculated that it would take about 4,500 atheists donating £5 each to get together enough money to have an atheist advertising campaign on the side of a bus. This idea caught on and a pledge was set up to try to make it happen. This original pledge failed, but the idea had taken root and several people started beavering away to try and turn the idea into a reality.

The campaign relaunched today. This time, some recalculations have been done and the project team have worked out that they for £5,500 they can get adverts on 30 buses for four weeks. Richard Dawkins is involved and has said that he will match all donations up to a limit of £5,500 – effectively doubling the purchasing power of the campaign.

The donations page on Just Giving went live this morning. When I gave my donation at about 10am the total stood at about £4,500. As I write this, it’s approaching £15,000.

The response has been phenomenal. Atheists obviously really want to get their message out to more people. It looks like the campaign will be able to put posters on far more buses than expected and therefore reach far more people than they hoped for. This is obviously an idea which has struck a chord with a great many people who are tired of being presented with religious advertising which largely goes unquestioned.

So it looks like it’s going to happen. The adverts will probably start appearing on buses in the next few months. They will say “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. The “probably” there is to satisfy the bus advertising people that they aren’t leaving themselves open to accusations of blasphemy. Seems a little weak to me as the religious adverts make the most ridiculous claims with no need to back them up in any way.

If these adverts raise a smile then it will have been worthwhile. If they stop just one person from taking a religious advert too seriously then the campaign will have been a great success.

The campaign are still accepting donations on the Just Giving page. Most people seem to be giving £5 or £10. Please consider giving a little bit to the cause.

Sherine has another piece about the campaign on Cif today. The story has also been covered by the BBC and the Times. I expect it to get more coverage tomorrow, once it becomes clear just how successful it has been. I can’t wait to see how the Mail covers it.

Now. Who’s up for trying something similar in the US?


The Joys of Tube Travel

Yesterday I was late getting to the Tube station and unfortunately got involved in this unpleasantness. I arrived at about 7:55am to see a train just pulling out of the station. It turned out to be the last one for about forty minutes.

All of that time, the Underground staff were advising us that service was suspended at that we should use alternative routes. They always say that. No matter how trivial the problem is, as soon as service is suspended for whatever reason, they start to encourage people to use alternative routes.

Now I’ve been using the tube pretty regularly for about twenty-five years. I’ve seen a lot of tube suspensions and in all of that time there have been maybe five occasions where taking an alternative route was the right things to do. Most of the time the right choice is to ignore the tube staff and stay put. Usually the service will restart and get you to your destination quicker than any other option. Think about it. If the alternative route was any good you would probably have taken it in the first place. And now it’s just going to be overcrowded from the people who are talking TfL’s advice and switching from your original route.

And that’s how it worked out again yesterday. Yes I had to stand about for forty minutes. But there’s no way that either getting a train to Victoria or a bus to Stockwell would have been any quicker. They would have both been massively overcrowded.

So that’s my advice. Always stay put. Of course, it would be nice if we could get a bit more useful information from the tube staff. But they always seem to think that the current problem could potentially drag on for ages. And, to be fair to them, sometime it can. But on more than one occasion I’ve been on a tube that has finally been given the signal to move on when the platform announcements are still saying that they can’t say how much longer the problem will last.

There was something else that struck me yesterday. And this might be a bit more controversial. Yesterday’s incident was caused by someone banging their head on a tube. We were told that some had been taken critically ill which might be overstating the case a little. The tube was held up for over half an hour whilst they got medical attention for this person. All that time there were thousands of people waiting for a tube to take them to work. In that situation do you leave the person on the tube waiting for medical attention that might take some time to arrive. Or do you get the person off the train as quickly as possible in order to minimise the effects on the rush hour tube service? Maybe they need platform staff who are better trained to make that judgement call. Personally, I think you need a really good reason to bring the kind of chaos that we saw yesterday to one of London’s main transport routes.

But maybe I’m a bit of a heartless bastard.