TFL have launched a consultation into their updated Accessible Bus Stop Design Guidance document. The process is open to the general public and will last until the 31st October 2014. Bus stop maintenance is the responsibility of TfL and of London boroughs. We have always maintained that there is little point in having accessible buses unless bus stops too are accessible. . Disabled bus passengers are best placed to understand how bus stops can be made more accessible. We have heard from many of our members who find they cannot get onto the bus at certain stops due to either poor design or the placement of street furniture such as posts or bins. There are also other factors such as kerb height, the size of the bus clearway and bus stop seating which can create access difficulties. For example, if a kerb is too high, the bus ramp may not operate there. If it’s too low, the bus ramp may be very steep, which means that wheelchair users risk falling backwards off it. If the clearway is not large enough, it means that cars may park in the way, making it impossible for buses to pull right into the kerb so that passengers have to step down into the road or have a big gap to step to get on the bus – which may be impossible for mobility impaired and older people. It’s also crucial that the pavement next to the bus stop is wide enough – if it isn’t, it can be very difficult for wheelchair users rolling on or off a ramp to have enough space to turn. We have been raising concerns about these issues for a number of years.
One of our main concerns we will be raising in our survey response is about the accessibility of floating bus stops. TfL say that ‘consideration should be given to the …safety of vulnerable bus passengers’ at these stops, and say they are researching their effectiveness. However, our visually impaired members say that they have no idea how they can safely cross a cycle lane that has priority for cyclists to get to the bus stop, stepping into moving and virtually silent cycle traffic.
We will also be calling for the removal of all double ‘Kassel’ kerbs at bus stops. Two years ago we held a protest outside Parliament at the Abingdon Street bus stop where a Kassel kerb makes it impossible for wheelchair ramps to operate. TfL’s draft bus stop guidance document states ‘
It is recommended that where locations are served by more than 25-30 buses per hour (bph), bus stops should be split, where sufficient space is available.’ We support bus stops which are served by many bus routes being split into two or three bus stops, At the moment, older and disabled people frequently are frustrated when buses ‘queue’ at the stop, one behind the other, rather than pulling up to the stop. People see that their bus is stopped two or three buses behind, and are not sure whether to rush down to try to board or to wait to see whether the driver will come all the way up to the stop.
Taking action for accessible bus stops
Just last year our Newham Transport action group met at a bus stop outside Plaistow Station to discuss with council and TFL representatives way to improve bus stops . The bus stop in question had a bin placed at the exact point where the bus back door opens, meaning that there is no space for a wheelchair ramp to come out, and that blind and visually impaired people risk walking off the bus straight into a bin. There are similar problems with street furniture at bus stops throughout London. Our action in Newham was successful, resulting in the moving of the bin to the benefit of local disabled residents.
We are pleased that the updated guidance that TfL have produced contains a new chapter on ‘Interaction of bus stops with other street facilities’. Street furniture is often something that has been forgotten when considering the accessibility of bus stops. Luke Baily, a volunteer with TfA and a wheelchair user has encountered problems with street furniture at bus stops:
“The bus stop in the centre of my local high street is impossible to access, there is both a bin and a bench to one side of the bus shelter. The bus has a limited area in which to stop due to the road layout. There is nowhere for the ramp to deploy. This bus stop is next to my local supermarket and because I cannot use it, I have to either walk or drive to the shops. It would not take much thought to improve this bus stop. .”
The consultation process provides the opportunity for disabled bus users to put forward suggestions in a survey. There are certain aspects of bus stop design that may be overlooked when it comes to accessibility. Chris, also a volunteer with TfA, has already filled out the survey and expressed concern about the design of bus stop seating:
“Paragraph ’Bus Passenger Shelter’ mentions seating within the bus shelter to assist ambulant disabled and older passengers. What it does not mention is the type of seating. Most London bus shelters have a red plastic bench with a sharp forward slope. This slope makes it almost impossible for many older or ambulant disabled passengers to sit in a safe, comfortable and stable way. The surface of the seat should be redesigned to be flat, parallel with the ground.”
TFL’s ambition is that 95% of bus stops should be accessible by December 2016. They say they are making good progress, although there is some variation between boroughs. This consultation is a positive sign that they are working hard to achieve their goal. Having the input of disabled bus passengers is vital in ensuring that TfL’s design guidance reflects their needs.
You can read the updated bus stop design guidance document and fill out the consultation survey by clicking here;
Know of a bus stop that’s inaccessible? Contact our advice and advocacy line.