Author Topic: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses  (Read 15031 times)

RSVelho

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Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« on: 02 Jul 2013 12:28PM »
Hi all!

My name is Raquel and I am a Master's student at University College London in the field of Science and Technology Studies. Currently, I am planning my Master's dissertation, and hoped it would be of interest to the OuchToo forum.

The work I am undertaking is in collaboration with the Civil, Environmental & Geomatics Engineering department of UCL, and the Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory (PAMELA). My dissertation is entitled "How to get on (with) a bus: A pilot study of wheelchair users' engagement with research on bus accessibility". My work aims to investigate how wheelchair users use the current transport system in London, both physically and socially, and how the buses may be improved. The aim of our work is to build sufficient data to justify a larger study to help design buses to be more accessible for wheelchair users.

For our research to move forward, we are looking for wheelchair users between the ages of 18 and 60 willing to volunteer. The study will take place in central London between the 16th-18th July. The session lasts approximately 1 hour. We will reimburse travel expenses within London if necessary.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in participating, please contact me via email (raquel.velho.12@ucl.ac.uk).
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to send me a message!

Thanks for your attention!

Raquel

Sunshine Meadows

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #1 on: 02 Jul 2013 01:12PM »
A quick message to members Raquel check it was okay to post this before she put it up.

I like that the research is covering both physical and social aspects of the topic  >thumbsup<

I live in the Midlands and dont use buses myself but I can see that in places like London being able to use public transport and especially buses can make the difference to what a wheelchair user can do and how they live. Being able to get a bus to work would mean less need for a car and a place to park it. In the street I live in there is residents parking only and prior to the council putting in a disabled parking bay outside my house we sometimes had to park the car down the other end of the street down a hill I could not push myself back up. If we lived in London I am not sure having a car would be practical or affordable.

One of the most common complaints I read about wheelchair users access to buses is that mothers with pushchairs feel they should have a equal priority over the space used on the bus. Also issues over kerbs being too high or too low and the wheelchair access to the bus being broken.

Hopefully members who use buses will post here about their personal experiences and there will be some interested in taking part in the research itself.

Yvette

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #2 on: 02 Jul 2013 02:22PM »
I wish you could consider mobility scooter use on buses too.  It is a nightmare.

I don't live in London (outskirts of Bristol) and I had to wait for three buses the other week.  The first one actually had a wheelchair user on board. 

The second had two buggy on board.

The third had one buggy on board and I explained to the driver that I could not get on the first two buses and had been waiting almost an hour.  Thankfully, she then refused to drive the bus any further until the unwilling mother folded up the buggy. 

The mother complained that she couldn't fold up the buggy while holding her child, so another passenger offered immediately to hold the child.  She them complained that the buggy wouldn't fold up, to which I replied that buggies *have* to fold up to fit in cars and taxis. 

By this time, all the passengers were sympathising with me and as the bus driver wouldn't move until she had folded up the buggy, she had no option but to fold it down.  Surprise, surprise, it folded down really small.

In comparison, this week, a mother with a child in a buggy started folding up the buggy before even being asked.  I thanked her profusely for her kindness.

London Buses publish a guide to what size scooter fits on their buses:

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/tfl-guide-to-approved-mobility-scooters.pdf

RSVelho

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #3 on: 02 Jul 2013 02:47PM »
Yvette, I thank you for your input. I will pass on your comments concerning mobility scooters to the rest of the team, and agree that it is a matter that should not be overlooked.

The group of engineers with which I work are primarily concerned with self-propelled wheelchairs mainly because they are worries about issues of force and its effect on elbow and shoulder joints due to using the ramps. I wonder, however, if this couldn't also be applied to battery life and the wearing out of mechanical parts on mobility scooters.

Concerning the buggies, it seems to be an extremely relevant social issue, and I wonder if you had any ideas on how to tackle it.

Sunshine, thank you for your support. Your feedback also put into words concerns I had about the utility of the bus service in London as opposed to smaller cities. I was just wondering if you had ever taken a bus in Bristol (even if only once).

Thanks again, and I hope to hear from more members!

Sunshine Meadows

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #4 on: 02 Jul 2013 03:09PM »
Quote
Sunshine, thank you for your support. Your feedback also put into words concerns I had about the utility of the bus service in London as opposed to smaller cities. I was just wondering if you had ever taken a bus in Bristol (even if only once).

I am in the Midlands and no not even once. I am 46 and grew up in the North East of England when there was little or no help for people like me. I have Cerebral Palsy and my ability to walk became much worse as I got older and I actually found it easier to cycle everywhere than to try to walk to the bus stop stand and wait for the bus and then hope there was a free seat. In my early 20 s I was diagnosed as having Menieres Disease which affects balance and causes dizziness and nausea, even prior to the diagnosis I had stopped cycling into town because it was too far, and only used the bike in a very local way. I managed my life in such a way that I went out and about less and less and got used to being mostly at home etc. Its a long story but for various reasons including a lack of family acceptance and the weight  of my first wheelchair meant I did not become an active wheelchair user until I was 35 and then I cant push myself very far and things like pavement camber mean getting to use public transport is not possible.

All that being said I do accept that there are psychological reasons for me not using buses (I used to get a taxi into work in Nottingham city paid for by Access to Work), the idea of getting on a bus gives me thoughts of vulnerability, worries about being motion sick and unable to stop and also I am not usually around more than a handful of people at a time. It is weird really because I would get on a plane to go to America as long as someone was there to help push me etc, but not on a bus into town. I think it is because I don't feel the effort involved would be worth it - too me.

I do think my experience and way of approaching life as a disabled person is not uncommon for people of my age who became more disabled in their teens. People who are younger and also who were able bodied and became disabled will often approach issues of independence and freedom differently.

oldtone27

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #5 on: 02 Jul 2013 03:18PM »
Whilst not a wheelchair user myself I have a friend who is a power chair user (not in London) and accessibility of buses is an issue he raises frequently. He has had experiences very similar to Yvette.

Buggies are a very frequent problem. He lives on a route which serves a large housing estate and is often full of mothers many of whom refuse to fold their buggies even when asked. Drivers are generally reluctant to force the issue.

I think the situation is not helped by the service being fairly frequent so he is often told there will be another soon. Too often that is full too. This means he has to wait for several buses before he can board. This is annoying but it could be disastrous for someone relying on a particular bus to get to work or college etc. on time.

Yvette also mentions the case where there is already a wheelchair user on board. My friend does not come up against this often but this could be a problem in some places.

My view is buses would be more flexible if the lower floor was generally fitted with tip up seating along the sides allowing full flexibility of usage of the floor area. Perhaps your engineers could design a way of easily securing a wheelchair for safety as I have never seen a bus with more than one wheelchair position.

SteveWSW

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #6 on: 02 Jul 2013 04:39PM »
Sorry for those forum chums who must be fed up of my regular moan about wheelchairs on buses and trains but it might be useful for Raquel to know that our son cannot travel on buses or trains because his wheelchair is "too big". It is about 7cm "too long" for the stupidly restrictive regulation dimensions. Those who drew up the regulations seem to think everyone in a wheelchair can sit in one of those "standard" wheelchairs. Not so. So the answer to the question is simply "cannot travel at all". The space needs to be bigger but no-one seems to care at all. The government have just prattled on in parliament about Network Rail's "accessibility to all" project and I've just written to my MP (he's never been helpful) asking him to remind the government that the project should be renamed "accessibility to most". It's ruddy hurtful to hear people saying "everyone will be able to travel on buses and trains" when it is just not true.

Steve

Danslatete

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #7 on: 02 Jul 2013 07:08PM »
Ditto, my brothers wheelchair is wider than the standard. Both electric and his manual. Its no good doing things to the standard sizes. He is not abnormally large, he has a twisted spine that means a standard width wheelchair is not able to support him properly. The ramps on some vehicles are steep and take a lot of strength to get up them, but the other thing is getting down a steep ramp, he feels less in control and scared of falling forward.

SashaQ

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #8 on: 02 Jul 2013 08:00PM »
Yes, I struggle with the ramps on London buses, too - I use a manual wheelchair and find the ramps just a bit too steep -  the top of the ramp and the join between the two segments of ramp are even steeper, so I can't keep momentum.  I always travel with a companion if I take a bus route.

Luckily my companion is good at knowing which buses to choose, and there are generally a variety of numbers, so although I have experienced problems with the space already being occupied by buggies, luggage, etc, or the ramp not working, or the bus driver otherwise not being willing to allow me on board, there is usually an available bus that comes along fairly quickly.

DarthVector

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #9 on: 03 Jul 2013 01:36AM »
My view is buses would be more flexible if the lower floor was generally fitted with tip up seating along the sides allowing full flexibility of usage of the floor area. Perhaps your engineers could design a way of easily securing a wheelchair for safety as I have never seen a bus with more than one wheelchair position.

My mobility problems are sensory rather than physical, so I'm not a wheelchair user. However, speaking as an engineer, I have wondered for quite some time why no-one has designed a bus with more flexible space.

Hmm. Writing that seemed oddly familiar...

Yes - I've been here before :) :

http://ouchtoo.org/index.php?topic=4096.msg47754#msg47754

in this thread from last year:

http://ouchtoo.org/index.php?topic=4096.0

devine63

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #10 on: 03 Jul 2013 02:16AM »
Hi

I certainly wish they would design buses with a pushchair space as well as a wheelchair space (could be used as standing room too).

Two incidents from last week (within a 10 minute time period) on one London bus:

bus 91 stopped at Upper Woburn Place / Euston Road.   At the stop were two women and a buggy.   The younger woman headed for the rear door with buggy, the older woman stepped up to ask the driver to open the rear door (her accent suggested she was British and using her first language).  The driver shook his head, but as far as I could hear from my seat, made no attempt to explain.   Older woman looked grumpy and started to stomp along the bus; younger woman was waving to ask for the door to be opened, she seemed to be shouting to the other woman that there was only one pushchair aboard (so apparently the wheelchair user immediately beside said pushchair had become invisible).   I had to say (loudly) 3x "There is a wheelchair user aboard" before the older woman understood me (she should have been able to see the chair by that point as she was standing close enough) and then she finally turned around and got off - but it was obvious they were not impressed.

Minutes later the bus reached Euston and as I was leaving by the rear door I saw a wheelchair user heading for the rear door - so I said "I'm sorry sir, there is already a wheelchair user aboard" so he stopped.   In the 7+ years since I moved to London I have used the buses nearly every day, wheelchair users use my routes quite often, but that is the first time I can recall 2 wheelchair users needing the same bus at the same time.   

Another problem for wheelchair users on the bus: their brakes are sometimes not strong enough to hold still on the slippery floor and there is no means of securing the chair to the bus.
regards, Deb




Yvette

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #11 on: 03 Jul 2013 08:25AM »
Concerning the buggies, it seems to be an extremely relevant social issue.

Absolutely.  Parents with buggies appear to feel they have a*right* not to fold up their buggy and expect disabled people to have to wait for the next bus, or the one after that or the one after that. 

And eventually give up and go home.

As Dic said, drivers are generally reluctant to force the issue, which just exacerbates the issue of parents with buggies believing they have a right not to have to fold up the buggy.


oldtone27

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #12 on: 03 Jul 2013 12:44PM »
I met my friend this morning and once again he had to wait for the second bus. He is not sure why as the first did not stop so it might have just been full.

I don't know about London buses but our local ones (both companies) have a vertical padded board which wheelchairs are backed up against  and prevents them sliding if the bus brakes hard.

This would be the main problem with increased flexibility as wheelchairs need securing otherwise they would be very dangerous. However good their brakes they can still slide. They do not have good grip.

RSVelho

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #13 on: 03 Jul 2013 12:57PM »
Dear all,
Thanks so much for all the comments. The feedback you have given me is invaluable. If that's ok, I'm answering each of you in turn.

Sunshine: thank you for clearing that up. I realise how complicated it is to group "wheelchair users" into one single category, as I can imagine how different sources of disability may result in different approaches to transport, etc. I hope that with further research this can be refined.

Oldtone: I have passed on your comments concerning flexibility. Thank you, it does seem like a very logical solution and I wonder how applicable it would be. I have also just read your newest comment, and agree on issues of securing the wheelchair. This needs to be closely investigated.

Steve: thank you for your comment. Being a newcomer to the world of wheelchairs, I had no idea a 7cm difference could cause such difficulty. I will take it up with the engineers.

Danslatete: The steepness of ramps is indeed the very thing we are looking into at this point in the research (though we hope to be guided towards problems that are felt by the users themselves). Thank you for the feedback.

Sasha: also thank you for the comment. Are you London-based? We are currently working eith a standard TfL bus, and it would be extremely helpful if you would be willing to come in for a session to tell us more.

Darth: thank you for directing me to that thread, it was an interesting read. As an engineer, do you see other things which might be changed in buses for better accessibility?

Devine/Deb: thank you for those stories. They seem to be extremely common, and the idea of making bus space more flexible looks like a direction to take. I had not realised brakes were also a problem. Are you London-based. If so, would you be willing to have a session with us for more insight? Thanks again.

Yvette: I do wonder how to get around this issue. London buses have signs telling parents/guardians that wheelchair users have priority over that area, yet it seems that without enforcement they simply won't listen. This may lead to awkward and unwanted situations, which I hope we can get around to solving.

Again, thanks all for the feedback!!

Meridi

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Re: Wheelchair accessibility on London buses
« Reply #14 on: 03 Jul 2013 01:35PM »
I live in London, am electric wheelie user, tried TFL travel mentoring to see if buses would be accessible for me.

bear in mind most electric wheelchair users have pain, so jolting around does not help.

Anyway even with travel mentor we experienced;
-Buses not stopping if I was only person at bus stop

-Mums with buggies refusing to move to make room for wheelchair

Ramps broken on several buses which meant bus load of people had to be ejected and wait for next bus, guess who they blamed? the driver? TFL? no, Me Yes!!

After this happened several times I just felt I could not cope with such harassment when just wanting to get from a to b.

Every bus has differing space for wheelchair, in most I have to reverse into space which means having turning room, so many passengers standing have to move out of way, they get irritated.

Its barrier after barrier, let alone the actual journeys when buses seem to have drivers who like slamming on brakes causing loads of painful jolts.

Disability hate crime is serious issue on buses too, harassment by drivers who do not care, don't stop, or don't check ramp actually works before leaving depot.
Harassment by passengers who perceive wheelchair users as irritations on buses, causing time delays at least, mums refusing to fold up buggies, or leaving space for wheelchair user,

So not good experiences and after two buses after another having broken ramps and passengers blaming me for bus having to return to depot to use buses