Richmond – Clapham Junction – Victoria – Kensington
This fairly simple trip went pretty well, in that everything ran to the scheduled timetable and all the assistance I needed, ramps and the like, turned up on time and in the right place. In fact it went as well as I, as a disabled traveller, can expect.
And there’s the rub – ‘as a disabled traveller’
Kensington is a significant cultural destination in London, with The Royal Albert Hall, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and much more besides. But all of the underground stations are inaccessible to me as a wheelchair user. I’ve been through many of them, I just can’t get on or off.
So I could choose to walk (or wheel) which is fine when the weather is good. Most of the pavements from Clapham, Victoria or West Brompton, the closest accessible stations, are acceptable, but it’s 30-40 minutes to cover the distance, and sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
So bus it is. Except my current wheelchair won’t allow me to use the bus without being violently thrown around which is at best uncomfortable and at worst injurious. Of course buses, having to fight for road space with cars, vans and lorries, are much slower than the subterranean alternatives.
So the pecking order of transport reaches the cab. Quick(ish), cheap(ish) but very convenient. Except you can’t get a wheelchair in a Toyota Prius. There are accessible cabs, but finding one in a new area of London is like locating rocking horse shit. The city wide companies, like Addison Lee, don’t have enough to guarantee availability. Short, wheelchair cab journeys just aren’t practical.
So I’m left with the ubiquitous Black Taxi. I’m a huge advocate and supporter of Black Taxis. They are, rightly, highly regulated, but for that you get a reliable, safe and knowledgeable (and accessible) service. It’s true they’re a bit pricey, but like any product you pay for a premium service, and unlike cabs you know you’ll get to your destination without getting lost, having an accident, being attacked, ripped off, or having to tell the driver where to go. They’re facing competition on an uneven playing field from a number of sources, and that needs fixing. We’ll miss them if they disappear… but I digress.
My problem with Black Taxis is that they’re part of a choice of transport options. Except for me as a wheelchair using disabled traveller, where they’re the only viable choice.