Sunday, March 13, 2016

Improving Accessibility on Public Transport

Despite London being one of the wealthiest cities in the world, many transport services remain out of bounds for its disabled and older citizens.

This is why Transport for All is calling on all the Mayoral and London Assembly candidates to sign up to five key improvements for a transport network that everyone can use. Disabled and older people want to be able to travel with the same freedom and independence as everyone else.

  1. Improve the Bus user experience for disabled and older Londoners: Incentivise bus companies through stricter penalties to enforce wheelchair priority in the wheelchair bay, and to enforce pulling right up to the bus stop, pulling into the kerb, and giving people enough time to sit down before the bus moves off. Work with passenger groups and invest in more spacious buses so that wheelchair/mobility scooter users, assistance dog users, people with walkers and buggies etc. are not put into conflict when travelling.
  2. More investment into making the Tube and railway stations fully accessible: Increase the pace of making Tube and railway stations accessible. Only a quarter of the Tube is step-free to platform, and step-free upgrades are happening too slowly.
  3. Door-to-Door transport services that meet the needs of London’s growing older population: We need reliable and affordable door-to-door services that end the postcode lottery of trips and allows disabled and older Londoners to travel further than five miles.
  4. Ensure that at least 25% of London’s minicabs (PHVs) are wheelchair/mobility scooter accessible: The new Mayor must incentivise the industry and implement measures (already introduced in other UK cities) to tackle the dearth of accessible minicabs.
  5. Nothing about us without us: Reinstate the structures at City Hall that facilitated genuine engagement and consultation including twice-yearly meetings between Transport for All and the Deputy Mayor for Transport.
Maybe you’d like to remind them when they come knocking on your door? Or ask them directly if you attend any hustings, assuming you can get there.


  1. When Mrs Knowsie worked for the BBC, she found that they had a special pool which consisted of disabled staff with a wide range of disabilities who would be called upon to vet all changes to building accessibility and other operational changes for the needs of the disabled.

    This was a flexible arrangement which enable local teams to be assembled appropriate to any planned changes.

    I can't see why this idea can't be extended to TfL and all its constituent parts plus their contractors (bus companies and the like) who are all involved in the provision and operation of their services.

    TfL's operating staff obviously have a much higher mobility overall than required by the BBC - who have blind radio presenters and a TV expert who has to conduct interviews from a wheelchair - but their are lots of office and back room staff who, if TfL and the rest are following the equal employment legislation correctly, must surely contain a fair selection of people with disabilities. Then there are the passengers - I'm sure Transport For All could organise a local team very easily, if asked.

    For example, let's take bus design. On the 167, for example, I will sit in the allocated seats immediately behind the front wheel arch on the nearside or possibly the gangway seat of the offside pair but not in the offside window seat. Why? Because the curved end of one the handrails is anchored in exactly the place that I need to put my right foot!

    On most double deckers, the allocated seats behind the nearside wheel arch are a no-no because, although there is sufficient knee room, the sweep of the wheel arch means that my knees have to bend much further than the usually can these days to accommodate my toes - this being aggravated by the very low seating position that seems to be so common these days.

    If I did sit in one of these seats I would be in excruciating agony by the time I reached my destination and it would probably need a crane to get me out!

    The point is that these buses start off life as an empty shell will fixing rails to accommodate seating in any required arrangement specified by the buyer. So, before any order is placed, why not provide a prototype bus with a team of fitters to fit and adjust the positions of a few seats while a panel assesses the choices or, perhaps, two or three buses with different layouts for assessment.

    Obviously there is a limit to how much space can be allocated to each seat because of the need to provide a reasonable number of seats within the fixed dimensions of the bus but an extra inch here, followed by a reshuffle, might make a lot of difference in the long run.

    How about raising seat heights, for example, or arranging seats in facing pairs?

    I doubt there is one solution that suits everybody but I'm quite sure that a few simple adjustments - possibly at zero additional cost* overall - could make an awful lot of difference to a great many people.

    * Such exercises would, of course, require a certain amount of expenditure to organise, evaluate and implement but now consider that cost as a percentage of the cost of a fleet of 100 double deckers at £250.000 each. How many zeroes would there be after the decimal point?

    Of course, no such exercise can be perfect, but what would be the incremental cost of tweaking it for the next batch of 100 buses ...?

  2. NeighbourhoodWatcher8:22 pm, March 21, 2016

    I recently used a 167 which I would not normally do.

    Apart from the two seats behind the driver (which were occupied on this occasion) I could not get my legs into any of the seats between the front and rear doors. They are obviously not designed for a six-foot tall person.

    Knowsie is quite right.