I live in Boston, I am from London, and I am in the travel business.
I watch the endless flotilla of sightseeing buses in their various forms trundle through the streets and main thoroughfares of all of the major cities. I actually love the double decker buses in London and the hop on/hop offs that have taken over most of the cities of the world. They truly serve a vital and useful function. When people arrive in a city, they need an overview just to get their bearings. While it is not my cup of tea to get stuck in a traffic jam, I sort of like the views and it’s a lazy way of a getting a history lesson.
Most of the time, guided sightseeing tours are brilliant.
The guides are local and with their peculiar accents and personalities they shine. They are great communicators, energizers, and perspective givers. They have their arsenal of anecdotes, their funny stories, and they are often our first impression when we arrive in a major city. God forbid the poor tour group who gets the unbrilliant guide reciting date after date, detail after detail in the most hopeless way. These are “the Memorizers” – fear them because they are out there and they will take the wind right out of your enthusiastic sails!
Most importantly, to be able to guide at the highest level, to recite history and communicate it effectively, and to move and change the narrative depending on the ebb and flow of traffic, requires concentration. A guide should never be the driver of the vehicle. That would detract from guiding and driving. The other day there was a tragic accident in Boston with a “Duck Boat.” The “Duck Boats” in Boston are a fun tourist attraction – old amphibious military vehicles restored so that they can drive down the streets of Boston and then on into the Charles River. It is an incredibly successful concept that has been replicated in other cities where tidal barriers permit.
But there is one problem and it’s a big problem.
The driver, situated about 15 feet above pedestrians on the street, is doing two separate things at the same time; each requiring their own expertise. Drivers need to have good vision of everything around them, they need to solve short term problems, and they must stay alert to everything on the road and the sidewalks. In addition, they have to read traffic signs, respond to hazards, and be aware of their spatial significance. They are essentially driving a tank through narrow and busy streets.
In addition, they are tour guides. They have to provide commentary, anticipate what they are going to see, and move their commentary around as the traffic changes its pattern. So how can you do two things at the same time? Texting and telephoning while driving in most states is forbidden.
Yet these guys drive around with blind spots everywhere, high above pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter drivers and they are expected to be 100% alert to the changing driving conditions.
It’s impossible. The tragic accident that happened the other day was proof of this.
What is the city going to do about this? It looks at the moment like nothing and why….because Boston Duck Tours brings important revenue to the city of Boston. Shame on you Boston and shame on the Boston Duck Tours. Add a separate driver to each vehicle; a second set of eyes to help watch for pedestrians and other vehicles on the road. It cost someone their life the other day and that is too big a price to pay for profit and gain and tourist dollars.