It must be time for another rant about commuting, surely?

Given that I currently spend a minimum of two and a half hours in transit every day, I’ve been pondering for a while whether there’s a particular thing that would improve my commute.

Certainly less time on public transport would be a boon, but would unfortunately mean living somewhere either entirely unaffordable or unsavoury, neither of which I’m keen to do.

So in the absence of cutting the time spent down, I’ve been wondering whether the addition or removal of anything specific might actually make the whole thing more tolerable.

Not going yet

The short list so far includes:

  • Air conditioning on the tube: not a big thing at the moment, and I understand there’s work under way, but some of the lines – the Victoria, mainly – do seem to get ever so fetid in summer rush hours
  • Turning off the heating on London bus services: I know that it’s probably related to the engine of the bus, but there’s been times on my twice-daily bustrek that I’ve been sure I could smell something singeing. Like human flesh. Forty years ago, we managed to put a man on the moon. Are we seriously unable to stop grilles pumping out heat on buses during the hottest part of the year?
  • People shutting up on the tube: I know it’s a bit anti-social, but on the longest bit of the tube journey, I generally try and read, and if people are shouting at each other in English, Spanish, French or German, I find it enormously distracting, no matter how loud the music in my ears is. So sometimes I wish they’d SHUSH or (better and less grumpy) that there was a dedicated reading/quiet carriage, like on long-distance trains.
  • Less human chaos in and around King’s Cross Underground station: I know they’re redeveloping it at the moment, but the fact that there’s only one main entrance/exit which is around a hairpin corner from the ticket gates means that every day – without fail – is a seething mass of bewildered tourists and idiots dragging suitcases behind them and tripping people up while looking for the right exit for the Eurostar, all bottlenecked into a pretty narrow space.

    Plus don’t get me started on the poor escalator and platform etiquette I observe daily – standing still in the “fast lane” or in the doorway to a platform is still one of the quickest ways to get punched in the back of the head in London. Fact.

    In fact, I feel that a general reduction in human idiocy between stepping off the tube and stepping into the office would be a massive (but unlikely) improvement: the main problem here is that I work close to a major transport hub, so all human life is there, albeit mainly just standing about gormlessly and smoking.

    And on a related point, whose bloody stupid idea was it to put a major bus stop on a bit of pavement just around the corner from the station on York Way? The pavement is so narrow and there are regularly 100+ people waiting for the next bus to trundle along, and since they’re not as well-versed in the art of queueing as their W/SW London compatriots, that makes it impossible to actually walk down the pavement, which instead means anyone wishing to do so needs to make a detour into the (three lane, busy) road, which can’t be a long-term good idea.

The tube renovators can't spell

All of these things are irritating, and removal/refinement/improvement in each area would doubtless improve both the experience of commuting and the state of my mood when I arrive in the office or back at home.

But after much consideration, I must conclude that the single thing that would improve my commute – and, I’m sure, that of countless other poor souls in London – is some sort of ASBO preventing people in branded T-shirts from handing out free commuter newspapers while standing in the middle of the pavement.


I appreciate that their job is to hand out free newspapers, but standing in the middle of a busy public thoroughfare, desperately thrusting free sheets into the hands of harassed commuters may well be an effective way of dispensing resources but it’s a remarkably piss-poor strategy for making people feel well-minded towards the companies who instruct their minions to do so.


Every evening is like a gauntlet of dodging the eager profferings of these branded thrusters. It’s not enough that I don’t actually want to take one of their papers – I still have to dodge and swerve around them as they slow traffic by standing directly in front of the entrance to the station, or in the middle of the pavement, or at the point at which the pelican crossing disgorges onto the main pavement from the road.

I don’t blame the individuals, but I do wish I could get a message to their shift supervisor, or whoever instructs them in the tactics of their tasks.

So here’s a message, specifically to whoever’s in charge of distribution training at thelondonpaper and London Lite, in the hope that this mention will get picked up by their social media signal filters:

Tell your uniformed distributors to stand beside rather than in the flow of foot traffic around major stations and busy areas.

If you don’t, I’m going to report them – and you – for causing an obstruction and endangering safety on the public highway, and start a campaign to get your antisocial tactics banned altogether.

Here endeth the rant.

8 thoughts on “It must be time for another rant about commuting, surely?

  1. Much agreement with everything you say here. The newspaperers consistently make me more stressed than even the worst tourists.

  2. Yes! And can they also be told to stop forcefully shoving the paper at my face as I try get past them as they stand in the middle of the flow? It a) is very dangerous and b) annoys me even more.

    And it seems to be an instruction they’re given across the board as I’ve almost gone arse over tip down the subway stairs at Blackfriars as it’s strangely hard to see through a freesheet that’s been shoved in front of my eyes. Not to mention Holborn and down Oxford Street where it frequently comes close to netting me a broken nose.

  3. I do so agree with you. The distributors of the free papers are incredibly irritating when I’m just trying to get somewhere, as I usually am.

  4. Can’t say I disagree with you on anything there, though I can recommend treating yourself to a better pair of headphones to drown out the loud talkers on the bus and elsewhere. I spent, admittedly, a hideous amount of money of some in ear Shure headphones and they’re worth every single penny.

  5. Hear hear to all of this. The free paper pushers are incredibly frustrating, even if you have both hands full they insist in placing a paper right in your path. I’ll admit I have taken to walking briskly straight ahead and making them move their paper out of my way. I think they annoy me more than the chuggers.

    I’d recommend getting a pair of passive or active noise canceling headphones. My Sennheiser set can give 40-50db of sound reduction which helps a lot. is a good place to start (feel free to remove link from comment)

  6. You know how annoying it is when people say “no, you want to do it like this…”? Well, I’m going to do it anyway.

    Have you considered switching to the overground? In my last job I commuted from our neck of the woods to Farringdon. I quickly found out that it’s marginally quicker and infinitely more pleasant to bypass the tube altogether, catching the train to Waterloo and walking the last bit (or get the bus if it was really tipping it down). A pleasant walk can be had through central London listening to music rather than to the tedious conversation of other commuters. It also put some exercise into my otherwise a very sedentary working day.

    By sticking to backstreets you can avoid most tourists/paper-shovers/the terminally stupid, too.

    These days I work in Surrey, when gives me no option but to catch the train the whole way. They don’t deliver the London Lite out here though, so it’s not all bad.

  7. AuntieMabel – when my work was in Farringdon, I took exactly that route. However, now my office is in King’s Cross, it’s actually much more hassle – either getting off at Waterloo then a couple of tube changes, or Vauxhall and braving the Victoria line – which I do occasionally, and is rather awful because it’s packed on the way in and on the way back home you can never get a seat because the train’s full already.

    Which is a shame, because we’re potentially moving to somewhere which would necessitate that commute. Ack.

    But either way, it doesn’t excise exposure to the paper thrusters at King’s X, who are ferocious and doggedly determined.

  8. Thank you for reminding me why I left London. I have never regretted it although there are a few people that give out a light Version of the metro at Brighton station in the morning its nothing on London standards.

    Now if you don’t mind i going a 5 min walk to the beach for a swim.

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