Transport for All member Jeff Harvey spent an afternoon travelling on six different buses with DfT official Ben Jones, a policy advisor on bus and taxi access.
The journey aimed to highlight the need for access to be considered in the design and route commissioning of buses.
Twice on the journey, Jeff found the access ramp was too steep to ascend independently, necessitating the assistance of the driver.
A ramp on the number 2 bus jammed and refused to extend, leaving Jeff unable to get off the bus, although the driver made it extend after restarting the engine. Later, on the 24 bus, a driver left the stop without extending the ramp after Jeff had pressed the bell, leaving him on the bus until the next stop.
The journey took included a trip on a Mercedes-Benz Citaro on route 507. Here, the wheelchair could easily share the bus with buggy users and people with luggage.
Jeff also tried the New Routemaster, which was found to have a disappointingly small wheelchair bay, with larger wheelchairs struggling to get into the space. All Transport for London buses give priority to wheelchair users over buggy users but on the New Routemaster, if there is already a buggy user in the space, it cannot be shared, creating conflict.
Transport for All is calling for buses with short, steep ramps have new ramps retrofitted, so that wheelchair users can always enter the bus independently and be confident that they will not tip backwards.
The body is also calling for a change in DfT’s Best Practice guidelines on bus access to encourage bus operators to go beyond the legal minimum size of the wheelchair bay.