SAFETY FIRST AND COURTESY NEXT.
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By " The Inspector."
NOT THE LEAST astute move on the part of those very astute people, the present organizers and controllers of the Underground and London General Omnibus traffic organization of the Metropolis, was the adaptation for publicity purposes in this country of a traffic educational movement much fostered in the United States of America. I refer, of course, to the much-boomed "Safety -Fleet" movement. Although the whole Underground group in the metropolis have all along been at the head and forefront of this propaganda in which, -too, most of the other metropolitan traffic authorities, including the tramways and the electric surface railways have taken their share' it has always appeared to me that its, educational intention was particularly one for the benefit of the L.G.0.0. and its services.
There was a time, not so many years ago, when it wanted very little agitation on the part of those sections of the general press, who know only too well how to exploit public excitability and sensibility, to have raised a howl of protest which would have re-echoed far beyond the limits of L.O.C. authority, and gone reverberating through all the public traffic centres of the country. It needed but a little on the part of such sensation-mongering journalism to have flung the motorbus to the dogs of public opinion and to have hindered its development for public usefulness by many a long day, on the score that public safety in the thoroughfares was endangered. That thin was so before more gigantic happenings distracted the attention of those who if at a loss for other upheavals, are satisfied to exploit the sweet-pea or to standardize the leaf, is evident from the fact that we were quite accustomed to hear the motorbus spoken of as a Juggernaut and to be held up to not infrequent blame for the massacre of the innocents. I do not seem to have heard the term " Juggernaut " applied to the motorbus for many a long day I There are other more real and greater juggernauts abroad, and the motorbus has benefited by this overshadowing.
The motorbus, just before the war, was passing through a very critical period—a time when it was quite likely that public opinion might be exploited very seriously to its disadvantage. And those who direct the policy of the greatest of the motorbus undertakings therefore properly foresaw that the method of avoiding such a possible tumult of criticism was to endeavour to educate the public to look after itself in the new conditions, which, if reasonably faced, would be responsible for no particular danger to the skin of the man in the street. We have, therefore, since then become accustomed to pictorial and verbal appeals in manifold shape and through the medium of the unrivalled publicity schemes at, the command of the traffic magnates of London.
We have been taught almost in kindergarten fashion that it is unwise to allow oneself to be hit in the ;sack by a motorbus or tramcar—that there is a right or a wrong way to get off or on in the case of either vehicle --that it is unwise to walk down the permanent way of an Underground railway tube with your eyes shut, and so on. And taking it all in all, the public has benefited considerably by these American methods of reminding US that the danger arising from modern traffic conditions, even controlled and regulated as they are by the public authorities, can be minimized to an extraordinary extent if common sense be given a lead. The "Safety First" campaign has, I should imagine, been an unqualified success. I have no statistics before me as I write to show to what extent such success has been achieved. but I imagine that the casualties and mishaps due to public traffic have been kept well in hand in spite of the exceptional war-time conditions under which our highway traffic is to be conducted.
Granted this great success and the novelty of the methods, admitted that-the public has been taught to avoid, if possible, getting itself killed, it does not seem an unreasonable suggestion to make that these same powerful and intelligent authorities should embark on a similar campaign in the endeavour to enforce some slight measure of -universal courtesy from its servants towards the public, who are, after all, the customers of the public traffic corporations--the people whose pennies provide their dividends.
I have never been in America, and I am perhaps one of the few people who never want to be. I do not know therefore, whether it is customary to secure control of passengers by systematic discourtesy, by bellowing and bullying. I do know that in this country, and particularly in the Metropolis, the methods of hustle unsoftened by tact or courtesy, are proving increase ingly irritating to the public at large. One must necessarily make allowance for the trying conditions under which traffic is conducted nowadays. One must realize that public traffic companies' servants have nerves which are strained, perhaps, more severely every hour of the day than are our own. There may be some excuse for impatience and intolerance on their part, but there is no excuse whatever for deliberate and unneceasary_rudeness, for the presumption, on the part of 'some uniformed youngster, that because a man wants to know something or other , about the route he is to travel or is seeking other ins B45 formation of that kind, he should be treated as a fool, a knave or a vagabond. Undoubtedly, the worst offenders in this direction are the employees of the Underground group whose work lies on the tubes. The training schools of the L.G.O.C. have most certainly paid for themselves. The women c4nductors particularly are noteworthy for their courtesy and patience, while as to the drivers, as a rule the public have little complaint to make. In fact, it is not going too far to say that, as a rule, they constitute the most considerate section of the traffic.
The "Safety First" campaign, however, is a success as a whole for all the groups together. The same policy produced the same result. There can be no possible reason why a similar and equally wellthought-out campaign should. not secure for the customers of the Underground group some approach to civility. The trams, the electric trains and the tubes are far and away the worst offenders, and they are worse in London than in any other city in this country, so far as my own experience goes, and I travel-a good deal. The chorus of cat-calling execration and confusing and meaningless threats indulged in, particularly by the youthful amateurs on the platforms of the tubes, is a source of wonderment to the men from Overseas, with whom they are brought into contact nowadays. It is nothing to be proud. of. A lot of the overcrowding trouble on the tubes would be avoided if the officials who had the dealing with it were trained to handle crowds with courtesy, tact and 'firmness and with as little exhibition of the swollen head of overpaid youthfulness as may be necessary.
I hold no brief, of course, for the Underground interests, but the whole of London's traffac is so inextricably related that I offer no apology for linking
Up my thoughts on this subject on the score that the L.G.O.C.'s successful education of the man in the street might quite easily be-imitated to advantage by a similar campaign to enforce courtesy on the part of employees of the whole of the Underground group. There are some instances in the provinces where the same lesson might be taught. It is all to be desired that the public traffic services of this country should be embelliSliedin this fashion.
May I conclude by an extract from a. printed exhortation to be found on the time-tables and about the premises of a certain railway company in America. It runs : "This railroad deals in courtesy. It expects its officers and employees to be courteous in all their dealings with passengers and one another. It asks that they in turn be treated courteously. Courtesy is catching. Courtesy makes the rough places much easier and helps to smooth life's little difficulties. Courtesy is an asset, a gain, and never a loss. Life is not so short but there is always time for courtesy." Were the Underground authorities in London to say that same thing in their own special way to the millions of people who are their customers., and to the many thousands of their own employees, the conditions, of travel in this fourth year of war would be a little less trying than they are at present. This would be a public service of no mean value.Conditions are rquite unpleasant enough without artificial aggravation by the discourtesy of those who, "dressed in a little brief authority," exaggerate their right to coerce and dictate. Following such action, one of these days someone will be shot, and if there be a bishop in it it will be made a penal offence for the boy official of 16 years of age to yell and shriek at a car_ load Of sardine-packed passengers remarks that are hardly intelligible but are always intentionally insolent.