Saving Time

Richmond – Vauxhall – Brixton – Return

For a few years now I’ve been making regular trips out to Transport for All in Brixton. Now this should be a simple trip from Richmond to Vauxhall, then a five minute trip on the Underground to Brixton.

Only, of course it’s never that simple. Lacking a Dalek-like levitation ability I can’t use Vauxhall Underground station. A lift should have been installed over a year ago, but for reasons which remain entirely opaque, it’s still not working.

Instead, as you can see from many posts here, I’ve been going into Waterloo and taking the bus from there, adding 30 minutes or more depending on traffic to the journey. All in all I’ve probably wasted days on that bus watching the street-scape pass by.

Today I had to get creative.

I had a meeting with a very firm, fixed and immovable start time so of course things hadn’t gone well and I was running late. I considered asking the train driver to put his foot down (Is that a thing? I think trains are driven by hand) but quickly dismissed this idea as unlikely to succeed. Instead I looked at the map. Taking a bus from Vauxhall to Oval station would cut out two long sides of a triangle and save 15 minutes or more. Of course if it was that simple I could have done this long ago. Unfazed I set off.

The Richmond to Vauxhall leg is one I’ve done a lot recently heading to the Kia Oval and I was pleasantly surprised that it went smoothly with a ramp waiting for me when I arrived. The short bus ride to Oval station was a bit of a tight squeeze into a wheelchair space that wasn’t really big enough, but it did at least get me to a point where I could take a short stroll to the Brixton Road and my next connection.

Anyone who knows the top of Brixton Road will know that it has a high, double kerb. If you’re a lucky wheelchair user the bus can raise itself on it’s haunches like some snarling cat and use the extra height to get the ramp onto the pavement.

Do you think I was that lucky? Of course not.

I was of course devious. Much to the drivers bemusement I pulled my own portable ramp from it’s hiding place on the back of my chair and used that to bridge the gap.

This  is the point to this story. As a disabled person using public transport it’s not enough to have access to information, routes, timetables and the like, you also need detailed and specific knowledge. Sometimes even that is not enough. Sometimes you need your own hardware to literally fill the gaps in what the system provides.

But papering the cracks on your own just ensures the imperfect status quo persists.

What was my meeting? Interviewing for an Advice and Information Officer to help fight for our Right to Ride. Ironic?


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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