Parents were today urged to buy smaller, more easily foldable buggies to prevent rows with wheelchair-users over priority space on London buses.
London Assembly member Val Shawcross made the suggestion as she published a report calling on Transport for London to provide clear rules on use of the area reserved for wheelchairs and prams, and ensure bus drivers take “proactive steps to avoid conflict” between passengers.
It follows a Court of Appeal ruling last December which said disputes should be left to the “good sense” of the public to resolve. The judges in that case rejected a disabled man’s claim for damages when he was unable to board a bus in Yorkshire when a mother refused to move a pram because it could not fold and her baby was sleeping.
Labour member Ms Shawcross, who called on TfL to introduce a uniform customer rights charter across buses and Tubes and make it easier for passengers to complain, said the Court of Appeal was “wrong”.
She told the Standard: “It’s very clear that the wheelchair user should get priority. On the bus it’s the only place they can go.
“One of the most common complaints I receive as an assembly member is where wheelchair-users have been left stranded on the side of the road waiting for a bus, and the bus driver has either ignored them completely or simply refused to ask buggy users to move.
“When they are asked, on 99 per cent of occasions parents with a baby buggy will make space, but there are occasions in which bus drivers are afraid of conflict. Sometimes it’s the question of them being the referee when a passenger makes a reasonable request.
“I think this is about people’s expectations and understanding. I think that sometimes people don’t think about these issues when they’re buying baby buggies. Buying a lighter one or a foldable one makes more sense when you’re going on public transport. We have to be social and share the space.”
Mike Weston, TfL’s Director of Buses, said: “The report recognises that there is clear guidance for bus drivers that wheelchair users are to be given priority use of the dedicated space on our buses even if it is occupied by a buggy or other passengers.
“Drivers are advised to use the onboard automated announcement or public address system to make it clear when the wheelchair space is needed and, if necessary, ask buggy owners to share the space, move or fold their buggies. We will continue with our campaign to communicate this.”