London Public Buses

This review of the wheelchair accessibility of London public buses is from Summer 2023.

Few things are as iconic as the red double-decker buses roaming London.  They are well-used by tourists and locals alike, run frequently, and stop often.  And Google Maps accurately lists their timetable and stop locations. They are also wheelchair accessible via an automatic power ramp, offer a smooth ride, and are a great way to get around the city (while seeing the sights). I used them as my primary means of transportation, and relied on taxis only when buses were not an option.

Wheelchair Accessibility of the Bus Stop

The bus stops are on sidewalks, and thus were wheelchair accessible. The waiting area is a free-standing structure with a post that lists all of the buses that service the stop. The structure offers some protection from weather, but there were many times I had to wait in the rain due to space.

At the stop, I want the bus driver to see me so they can stop the bus where the ramp can be deployed without incident.  As such, I tend to sit at the curb and/or just before the crowd of people looking to get on the bus.  As the driver of my bus approaches, I will do a friendly wave at them and make eye contact until they nod or otherwise signal that they have seen me. 

Process of Loading and Parking Wheelchair on the Bus

Once parked, the driver will open the middle door to let people off. The driver will then unfold the power ramp, and I can drive my scooter into the wheelchair space.  There are no tie downs, but the wheelchair space has a metal frame with a padded back that helps prevent the wheelchair from sliding (back and sideways, at least).  Once the wheelchair user is in place, the bus driver will open the front door and let everyone else onboard. 

The only place to pay is at the front of the bus. Usually my companion will take care of tapping on with our two credit cards—the bus won’t let one card pay for two people.  If I’m riding by myself, I ask the driver to take my card for me.  They don’t always do it, which then means I ride for free.

To exit, there is a blue signal button by the wheelchair space. I press that button as we leave the stop right before my stop, which gives the driver a heads up that I am going to disembark at the next stop. I will also push it again as we approach the next stop as a friendly reminder.  This usually works, but I have had a couple of drivers not open the door, and then I have to *gently* inform them I need to get off and then ride to the next stop and back track. 

Not-So-Funny Anecdote/Cautionary Tale

Overall, the wheelchair accessibility of London public buses is above average. They are clean, comfortable and generally convenient.

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