Disabled People’s Safety Is Being Ignored
This week we hear from our London Ambassador Tina who shares her experiences of traveling around London as a disabled person.
Twice this week I had the horrifying experience of the traffic lights changing on me while I crossed the road with buses and other vehicles proceeding ahead, blocking my access to reaching the pavement safely. The first time I was at the junction of Oxford Circus, where they have a diagonal crossing. I waited until the green man showed, as I am a person with a mobility impairment, and I walk with a crutch. I was not someone who took their chances to cross at the last minute. When the lights changed, I was in the dead centre of the Oxford Circus crossroads. This meant that it would take me twice as long to cross the road as the timings of the traffic lights currently allowed.
This shows that the timings of the traffic lights, have been set without any consideration of how long it may take a disabled person to cross the road safely. I’m sure I’m not the only person with a mobility disability who has been “caught out” crossing at traffic lights which are meant to provide a safe space for all pedestrians to cross.
Finding myself in this situation should not have been in itself problematic, as legally I still had the right of way. I’ve checked the Highway Code and it states, “drivers may proceed, but only if the crossing is completely clear.” However, a number 98 bus going eastbound drove off, ignored me and blocked my route to the safety of the pavement. I was totally in shock. Thankfully the taxi in the adjacent lane waited for me to cross, but then I was faced with a cyclist behind the bus, who shouted at me that I should not be on the road. This tells me that the bus driver’s and the cyclist’s impatience to continue their journey was put above my safety as a disabled person. It shows a total lack of empathy for disabled people and our safety and access needs, and it puts us in danger.
After the cyclist, I made it safely to the pavement, but I was in shock and feeling very shaky inside. I made my way to the bus stop and went home, but it took me most of the day to feel ok again. The following morning, I was travelling to work and the same thing happened again. The lights changed as I was crossing opposite Angel Tube Station and this time a number 38 bus, going southbound, drove off as I was still trying to cross the road. I managed to hold it together until I got to work, where I sought out one of the managers, who was lovely, and I just burst into tears.
Last night I raised it at our online Euan’s Guide Ambassadors’ meeting. I’d like to say a big thank you to each and every Ambassador who was there last night for listening, sharing and being supportive.
While I’m not surprised, I was deeply saddened to hear the other Ambassadors share their own experiences of also being put in unsafe situations from the changes in street layouts post lockdown and the lack of thought by many of the general public. Society in its impatience, to get back to normal, is putting disabled access needs on the back burner, and this is problematic as it is making many disabled people anxious about going out and is potentially putting us in danger.
I’ve submitted three complaints to Transport for London, one about the timings of the traffic lights at Oxford Circus, and two about the two bus drivers. I’ve also written to Transport for All of whom I am a member to ask them to follow this safety issue up as well. I would like to write an update to this blog in a couple of months’ time to see what action, if any, has been done to address this problem.
Please look after yourself and take care when crossing the road, especially as the winter nights are drawing in.
Thank you to Tina for sharing her story with us. This is part of our Voices of Covid blog series, where disabled people share their stories and raise awareness of topics that are important to them. Please contact us if you would like to take part or find out more.