Blind Londoners in danger over ‘floating bus stops’

By Jacob Phillips, Local Democracy Reporter

A blind Londoner can’t get to hospital for her eye appointments as she has to cross a cycle lane to get on the bus.

Hyacinth Malcolm can’t travel to St Thomas’ Hospital or to nearby shops in Tooting and Balham because bus stops are separated from the pavement by a cycle lane.

Blind Londoners have been left terrified by near misses with quiet bikes and e-scooters as they try to step across roads to reach bus stops.

Hyacinth used to travel alone on the bus to appointments at the hospital, but since floating bus stops appeared across the city during the pandemic she has been forced to take a taxi or wait for up to six hours for the hospital to drop her home.

Hyacinth Malcolm walks arm-in-arm with a fried through London (Picture: Sarah Gayton)

Hyacinth said: “The stop where I used to get off to go to the shops now has a cycle lane. I shouldn’t have to rely on someone to help me.

“It’s ridiculous. I don’t know whose idea it was. I used to go to the hospital on my own but I can’t do that now. I don’t know how people with wheelchairs will be able to use them, too.”

Hyacinth is now avoiding the bus altogether as she does not know if the stop she needs to get off at will be a floating bus stop.

A petition, led by the National Federation for the Blind (NFBUK) and signed by more than 150 organisations, has now been handed into Downing Street to ban floating bus stops.

Hyacinth Malcolm with NFBUK campaigners (Picture: Sarah Gayton)

NFBUK campaigns manager Sarah Gayton said: “We are extremely worried about the safety and accessibility of bus stops in the UK and we have set up a petition on this issue.

“We strongly believe older people, blind people and people who are visually impaired or disabled should not have to cross cycle lanes or step into a cycle lane to get on and off a bus.

“Many people are also now using e-bikes, e-scooters and other e-devices which are too fast and add further danger at the bus stops.”

In 2020, a human rights ruling found floating bus stops in the Canadian town of Victoria discriminated against blind people as they could not hear the sound of oncoming bikes over nearby traffic.

Helen Cansick, Transport for London’s (TfL) Head of Healthy Streets Investment, said: “Keeping everyone travelling in the capital safe is our top priority and the needs of blind and partially sighted people are always taken into consideration when designing cycle lanes, including bus stop bypasses.

“All new bus stop bypasses are built with raised zebra crossings to make it clear to people cycling that they must stop to allow people to cross between the bus stop and the pavement, with more than 40 also retrofitted with this feature across the network so far.

“We welcome all feedback on our cycle routes and will continue to work with disabled people and accessibility groups, taking people’s concerns into account to ensure that changes to our roads work for everyone.” 

Pictured top: Hyacinth Malcolm, left, has to cross a cycle lane to reach the bus stop (Picture: Sarah Gayton)

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