The buzz around green roofs on bus stops

Green infrastructure is set to be a key feature of our landscapes in the future. At Fidra, we are getting excited about buzztops – green roofs on bus shelters that provide a diverse range of benefits, from making habitat for insects, to cleaning our air and reducing flooding risk, as well as connecting people and wildlife.  They could even be a vital part of our green recovery from the pandemic.

With hope of a vaccine shining light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, attention is now turning to how to rebuild our economies and societies with a green recovery. Public transport is a key part of bringing people back into town centre shops, cafes, theatres, and music venues.  But there are fears that attitudes to public transport have turned during the pandemic. It is no longer part of many people’s daily routine and those with a car report to being more attached to them than before. These new habits and attitudes may be hard to shift.

Helping the arts, hospitality and retail recover and people reconnect

To bring people back together it is crucial we make public transport and our towns and cities an attractive option. Before the pandemic public transport was already key to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, boosting health by reducing air pollution and integrating into active travel networks. Now it is an even more important route to reconnect people and rebuild economies.

How do we get people back on buses when it is safe to do so?

We need to start planning now to make both public transport and its destinations as attractive as possible. This is not only about price, frequency and ease of access, though these are critical factors. It is also about making public transport enticing and town and city centres attractive for work and leisure in our green recovery.

What is a ‘buzztop’?

One way to do all this could be through the use of green bus shelters, or ‘’buzztops’’ as we’ve been calling them here at Fidra.  These are a green roof, wall or rain garden incorporated into bus shelters, street furniture and transport hubs that you may have seen if you have been to Sheffield, Brighton or Cardiff. By incorporating plants and flowers into infrastructure we can make public transport work for people and wildlife making it an attractive option for those travelling by foot, by bus, by feather or by wing.

What difference can green infrastructure make?

Not only attractive to both people and wildlife, green infrastructure can help lower air pollution, reduce the build-up of urban heat, and if designed right, can function as a raingarden, improving drainage to reduce risk of flooding.

For the benefits to wildlife to be realised this green infrastructure can be used to connect and enhance greenspaces and other conservation initiatives. Bus stops can add to a network of ‘stepping stones’ to help species safely travel through urban and rural landscapes and reach the next biodiverse hotspot. A good example of this is Buglife’s B-lines project which aims to connect fragmented bee foraging areas.  Many species, including bats and butterflies rely on connected greenspaces to navigate and refuel when finding new food sources, shelter and a mate. Just like us wildlife needs safe travel routes, and often requires refreshment along the way.

One of the big advantages of greening bus stops is connecting people with nature during the daily routine, allowing people to experience nature even in urban areas.  Many people value the green credentials of public transport, but even if you just get the bus because it is convenient the green message can be showcased by making the bus stops themselves green. In a quirk of behavioural science the more we do to help the planet, the more we want to do. This cascade effect can be reinforced with reminders so that green behaviours are enhanced and rewarded with further green behaviours. A buzztop is perfect way to reinforce the green message. A reminder of why we are choosing to use a bus to get from “A to Bee”, to benefit nature, is rewarded by experiencing a bit of that nature on the way and in doing so make us more likely to do it again. Even small encounters with nature can make a difference.

No need to wait for a buzztop

Many cities have already invested in green bus stops and the advertising revenue and positive feedback means they are here to stay.  With 300+ bus stops in the city of Utrecht, retrofitted green roofs in Sheffield, and wildflower-topped shelters in Cardiff. But it is not just about cities, rural areas too could benefit from reduced air pollution (as farms are often big emitters), a reduction in the reliance on cars and some more spaces for wildlife after many hedgerows have been lost.  To help more buzztops come along all at once we are spreading the word about green infrastructure, highlighting examples of good practice and encouraging local authorities to consider them as part of their upgrade plans.

A Green Connection

Making bus stops green and vibrant can help make public transport more attractive and create spaces for  people to connect as a community. If you have commuted on buses for work, or used them regularly to reach family, friends or much-loved leisure activities, you perhaps already have a favourite bus route. Before all but essential travel stopped you probably noticed regulars catching up with fellow passengers. Green buzztops can make sure public transport is part of our community and daily routine again, integral to the fabric of our local areas.  In a green recovery we need places to feel close to people and wildlife.  Perhaps buzztops can help us keep connected in more ways than one.  No wonder there is a buzz about green bus stops.

To keep up to date about Buzztops sign up to our newsletter on the form at the bottom of this page or follow us on facebook and twitter @FidraTweets.

Tags: , , , , , ,