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‘Happy bus driver’ calm over road closures

52-year-old says he welcomes Town Hall’s controversial attempts to make the streets safer for cyclists

15 January, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Patrick Lawson: ‘Buses are a big part of helping to keep London moving – getting workers, nurses, cleaners to the areas they need to be’ PHOTO: Kimi Gill

A BUS driver labelled “London’s happiest” after turning his life around says he supports Islington’s new roadmap.

While protests have been staged outside the Town Hall over a series of road closures forming the council’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods policy, Patrick Lawson, 52, said he welcomes the attempts to make the streets safer for cyclists.

“When I’ve got a Zip car to get from A to B there are back streets I would have normally taken and now they are dead ends,” he said.

“I could see from a ­driver’s perspective it could be frustrating but I learned meditation five years ago which I do nearly every day. I did my deep breathing then I just thought to myself there is a reason they are doing this.”

Islington has come up with a series of measures aimed at stopping rat-running in residential streets and discouraging people from turning to their cars as use of public transport drops during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a fierce debate played out all through last year, critics say this just creates gridlocked traffic on all the main roads.

Mr Lawson used to sleep rough and spent time in Pentonville after finding himself on the wrong path earlier in life. But since 2012 he has lived in Finsbury Park and brightens up his passengers’ day with cheery announcements on his bus.

He started driving the route 26 going through Hackney three years ago and in 2019 he was crowned London’s happiest bus driver.

“I realised I had to change and I changed gear and switched routes,” he said.

“The bigger the bus is the better. I just love it. Even a single decker is good. I want other bus drivers to not just see it as a job but to see it doing a positive thing in the community. Especially now in these difficult days of Covid-19 when businesses are shutting down, people are losing their jobs – buses are a big part of helping to keep London moving, getting workers, nurses, cleaners to the areas they need to be.

“It’s about helping people, helping Londoners. Even though we wear face coverings now I still talk to my customers through the tannoy system.”

When Mr Lawson hit rock bottom he was suicidal, addicted to drugs and homeless – but he said he realised he had to change his behaviour if he was to enjoy life again.

He read books such as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and took up meditation – a practice he says helped him remain calm when stuck in a traffic jam in Essex Road as a result of the road closures.

He said: “I understand what the council are doing to keep cyclists, pedestrians and road users safe. I’ve realised this is great because it is safer. The council are trying their best and I am not going to knock them.

“At the end of the day I have lived a mad life and spent years knocking things, so I have learnt now to trust the process. They don’t have all the answers but at least they are trying something.”

Mr Lawson works part time as a bus driver and is working on setting up a housing business. He is also an ambassador for More Than My Past, delivering recovery workshops in prisons.

Groups such as Ludicrous Road Closures and Keep Highbury Moving have sprung up across the borough in response to the council’s changes and are continuing to challenge them.

The schemes, also known as People Friendly Streets, are implemented using temporary traffic orders made possible due to emergency coronavirus legislation and the council says a public consultation will take place on each one after a year.

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