Sunday morning 9.50 am.
A bus pulls in and despite my companion pushing the wheelchair button on the side of the bus, it inexplicably drives off again.
Another bus pulls up, with my destination on the front. My friend tells the driver that I want to get on. The lady driver says ‘ no, but there’s another bus behind that he can catch’.
The bus behind pauses, and then pulls off again, going around the bus in front. I wheel over and ask the driver to please open the door, as she is effectively the third bus that would be ignoring me, for no apparent reason. She then opens the doors and the wheelchair ramp slides out onto the pavement. There is a pram in the wheelchair bay, and a lady sat next to it. She looks at me, and I at her, and I gesture politely that she move the pram so that I may wheel into the designated wheelchair space. She gets up and does so.
I enter the bus and park in the wheelchair space, it being clearly signed as such, with 2 notices saying that ‘ if a wheelchair enters the bus, then a buggy must be removed to allow the wheelchair access. The wheelchair user has priority ‘
I smile and thank the lady, presumably the mother of the child in the buggy. The buggy is now in the aisle of the bus, and the driver calls back to say that the lady must move the buggy, or take the child out and fold up The buggy. The mother then says that it’s ridiculous that the bus can’t just drive on until the next stop ( about 200 metres ) where she is getting off anyway. At that point I’m wondering why she just doesn’t get off the bus and push the pram the 200 metres, as that’s what I would do in her situation. I don’t say anything though. The mother refuses to move her pram from the aisle and says that it’s not right that she has to make way for a wheelchair anyway. I say that there are 2 signs that say that, and that is the rule on London buses. I’ve been on dozens of buses before, where a pram is moved and folded by the parent/ minder and invariably is accompanied by a smile, returned by myself.
The mother says that she’s not moving. The driver says that she can’t drive off until the mother does as she’s asked. The mother tells me that she’s never had to move for a wheelchair before and doesn’t know why she has to now. I ask her to read the signs for the reason why.. that it’s the Transport for London policy, otherwise wheelchair users would be severely at a disadvantage, there being so many buggies travelling around London on buses, and only ONE wheelchair space per bus.
The mother refuses to move. The driver refuses to drive. Other passengers are shouting. One is saying that the mother and I are both acting like children, another is saying that it’s because the mother is black, and that this would never happen to a white woman… the person saying that repeatedly is a black woman. The mother lifts up her right leg high and says that she was in a wheelchair for a bit and had a scar on her leg to prove it. She shows me the scar, which is on her shin, and is indeed a fine scar. She says that there’s nothing wrong with me and that I shouldn’t even be in a wheelchair. I tell her that I’m paralysed. It doesn’t alter her stance; she isn’t moving, and doesn’t think she should have to, and doesn’t know why she should. I point out the 2 signs again and tell her to read them, it telling her why she has to act. She says she doesn’t care what the signs say. Other passengers start getting off the bus. My friend says that maybe we should too. I decline to move too, as I’m simply the rightful occupent of the designated wheelchair space. The mother is shouting into my face, that it’s just unfair on her….
I say that I’m calling the police ( as I really don’t want to get into a repetitive argument, on the way to see the Cenotaph ceremony in Westminster, that being a rather more significant affair than someone moving her pram, and relatively speaking, the bus thing isn’t worth getting worked up about ) I speak to the police, within earshot of the mother, and explain the circumstances. I say aloud that the police are on the way. The mother says that she doesn’t care, and won’t move, but a minute later pushes her pram off the bus and walks down the road. The bus pulls off and we get to Hammersmith. On thé way thé lady driver is shouting to me that I shouldn’t be on the bus, as my wheelchair ( the iBot ) is too big. I tell her that I’m not responsible for the design of my wheelchair, which actually isn’t a lot bigger than a normal chair, and certainly smaller than a mobility scooter, which are also allowed onto buses.
( ‘Mobility scooters finally permitted on London buses. After many years of lobbying for change, Transport for All welcomes the new regulations that will finally see mobility scooters allowed to ride on London’s buses. Recent years have seen a huge rise in people using mobility scooters to get around.’)
When I get off the bus, I wheel to the front and ask the driver her name. She declines to tell me, and I ask for her driver number. She tells me to just take the bus number. I take a picture- see image, if it’s on here.
On Thursday the police are interviewing me to establish the reason I called them from the bus. I’ll obviously tell them exactly what happened.
Jenny and I were late for the 11 o’clock start to The Remembrance Service, sadly, because of the delay on the bus, but I’m still glad to have gone, having not been before.
Next year I’ll go again, but leave a lot earlier, just in case I am unexpectedly held up again…