LIKE any commuter, I’ve dealt with my fair share of pushy, crushy bus passengers over the years, but usually suffered in silence.

However, that could all change, thanks to the “Pop-up personal space protector”.

The wacky invention, designed by Blackrod art student Lauren Taylor, is a brightly coloured disk placed on the ground to mark your territory at the bus stop.

But how effective is it? When I was asked to put the idea to the test, my first thought was that I would rather jump out of the window than stand on a neon mat in Bolton town centre.

However, times are hard, and a few hours later I was doing exactly that.

Armed with a bright orange cardboard mat, I set off to discover how the people of Bolton feel about personal space.

I approached the bus stop feeling nervous. Joining the queue, I carefully rolled out my space protector and stepped onto it.

The chit-chat died immediately as everybody turned to stare at me. Prete- nding not to notice, I took out a paper. Still nobody spoke.

I turned a page, and the silence got louder. What seemed like an eternity passed, and not a single person asked what I was doing.

Perhaps they thought I was mad? Some edged away from me. Most had started to politely ignore me. When the bus eventually arrived, every single person practically ran onto it.

I explained the situation to the one woman brave enough to wait at the bus stop, Lisa Clarkson, from Horwich.

She confessed: “I thought you were crazy. You were definitely getting some strange looks.” Repeats of the experiment brought exactly the same reaction.

Children mocked me, pensioners muttered suspiciously about “some sort of art”. But most people just steered clear of me, and were clearly relieved when I eventually told them what I was doing.

So is Bolton ready for the space protector? General feedback would suggest not just yet.

“It is quite out there,” admits Lauren. “Especially for England.”

A fantastic idea, but for now, I think I’ll just go back to suffering in silence on the daily commute.