A Change Is As Good As A Rest

5/10/15

Lincoln Eastgate – Riseholme – Return

Spending the vast majority of my time in London it’s easy to see all the faults that public transport here has for disabled people, and boy it has a lot. The other thing is that it’s consistent across the city, thanks to TfL and the Mayor. Specifically all of the buses are basically the same shape and size, with two doors, a wheelchair space and an automatic ramp. It’s sometimes easy to forget that this isn’t the only way to address the issues.

I’d been to Lincoln not too long ago and was frankly shocked to discover the buses on the routes I needed to use weren’t accessible to me. It was good to find on this trip that now the buses seemed to be low floor access, at least all the ones I tried were. What I did find interesting was the different approach to solving the problems of access.

Before the bus even arrived I could tell this wasn’t London. At the bus stop, and in fact all stops in the city, the pavement has been raised, exactly like the platform humps at underground stations. This is an interesting idea which rather failed at the first hurdle. The bus, you see, had a fold out ramp built into the entrance floor. The driver climbed out of his cab to unfold it, but unfortunately the ramp was slightly lower than the kerb, leaving it angled skywards as though waiting to propel a motorcycle stuntman into the blue yonder. This would have stopped many wheelies from using it, but I am made of sterner stuff. In an Ealing comedy like display of coordination I took a run towards the ramp just as the driver leapt athletically onto the ramp end, throwing his full weight down and lowering it just enough for me to get on the ramp and on the bus.

Having flown almost full tilt onto the ramp I then had to break sharply to stop myself careening headlong into the side wall in front of me. Unlike on London buses the entrance was extremely narrow, certainly not suitable for a scooter or a chair much wider than mine. The cabin itself was a different matter. I actually had the luxury of a choice where to sit, left or right side, as both sides had a space for numerous wheelchairs, buggies and when not in use 8 or 10 fold down seats. This copious space made manoeuvring and positioning myself extremely simple. The driver was also extremely considerate and made sure I was settled and secure before pulling away, something which London drivers are not so good at, despite what the Red Book says. I was interested that he extended the same courtesy to all the other passengers too.

Getting off at the other end had the same problem with the ramp, but as I was driving up it I was able to use my own weight to apply the pressure so that it was only a small step onto the pavement.

The return trip threw up an interesting variation. Again the pavement was raised and the bus, this time a single decker, also had a manual ramp. The driver however took a different approach, pulling very carefully up to the kerb, so close in fact that there was no appreciable gap or step. It was a simple matter to roll onto the bus, sans ramp, navigate the tight turn and settle myself in the cavernous seating space. Again the driver took care to ensure I was comfortable before setting off. This kind of behaviour is clearly a habit in the city.

So a new city has a different feel. Certainly full marks for driver behaviour and space on the bus. Very low marks for the cramped entrances common on buses throughout the country. As for the raised pavements and folding ramps I think the jury’s still out on that one.

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About Alan

I'm an Economist, Geek, Campaigner & wheelchair user who's been using all forms of public transport for 20+ years.
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