Thursday, 18 July 2013

New Bus for London - an emblem of Boris Johnson's contempt for disabled people?

The New Bus for London / New Routemaster has been chugging around selected London routes, boiling its top-deck passengers and irritating me every time I see one.

I loved the old Routemasters, but I also appreciated that they'd done their job and needed to be retired. They weren't comfortable to travel on, and if you had luggage / shopping / a buggy / were a wheelchair users / had impaired mobility / long legs... etc etc they were either less than ideal or totally inaccessible.

As a bus designed from scratch, the New Bus for London could have been designed with all of London's passengers in mind. Instead it seems to be a step backwards in accessibility terms. Design choices have been made that are active barriers for some disabled people.

The wheelchair user's space has been designed with, seemingly, only smaller manual wheelchair users in mind. Handrails have been put in awkward spaces, and it's just not big enough for larger powerchair users.

The destination blinds are in white-on-black, which goes against TfL's own standards for legibility.  When I asked about this choice, I got the following response:

"Black and white blinds were chosen when designing the New Bus for London as these are in keeping with the traditions of the original iconic Routemaster bus, which partly inspired the design of the bus and its front and rear profile. They provide information in a format that is clear and legible for passengers, particularly at night when it is back lit.

As it meets legibility standards for contrast and visibility, no consultation was required" (my highlighting)

Most guidance I can find on legibility says yellow text on black provides best contrast for visually impaired readers, and the response from TfL contradicts the earlier information on TfL's legibility standards.

To me, this seems like a backsliding of access provision - a choice of style over readability for a wider group of people, and as such is a discriminatory choice.

This, combined with the decisions around the space for wheelchair users being less than ideal (and again, worse than existing spaces on other buses) makes me feel like the design team for this bus and Boris Johnson as the figurehead of this project, don't care about disabled people being able to travel around London, and are happy to actively place barriers in people's way.


Dave H said...

I know its probably asking a bit much given your profile, but ever taken any pictures of the wheelchair space on board and how to use it?

Robin said...

Hi Dave,

That's actually a very good idea.

I'll be up town in the near future, I'll remember to take my camera to take some photos.

Anonymous said...

Well I would like to praise the decision to introduce Black/White blinds on the NBFL, as I think they are far more legible than those awful old luminescent yellow things!