Monday, November 20, 2006


An article in yesterday's Telegraph Online about the difficulties of using public transport with a babby buggy started me thinking about the design of buses here. There is no space whatsoever for buggies or wheelchairs, no lowering floor and the steps are incredibly steep. The only way you could get a buggy on would be to fold it up and then you would have to get up and down the precarious steps whilst carrying a baby. The only times I have seen women attempt it have been when they have been accompanied by friends or family to help them and even then the manoeuvres have been difficult for them. I don't know how the town gets away with this virtual denial of public transport access to some of its citizens and there is a similar problem of disabled access at tourist sites as many of the churches are perched at the top of high flights of steps. I have, as yet, seen no ramps. This surprises me as you would think there would be, at the very least, an EU directive on the issue.

When a new bus design is thought up, matters do not improve as one or two buses here lately have a different configuration and it is, if anything, worse: the steps are even steeper, the machine where you validate your ticket is next to the driver's seat so there is nothing for you to hold on to as you do it [whilst the bus is taking some hair-raising bends] and the door by which you are meant to leave the bus is very narrow, at the back, and marked "Vietato uscire" [= "no exit"]! This last worried me, being law-abiding and British, but in the end I just followed everyone else out. But I was amused, the other day, to see a lady refuse to use that door. Even I could tell, from her attire and her accent, that she was from the mainland and she wasn't going to be told what to do by a provincial bus driver, oh, no! When she made to exit by the front door [by which a crowd of people were already entering] and he asked her to use the back, she said she wouldn't as "No exit" was written there, that she wasn't going to disobey the notice - words which warmed the cockles of my British heart - and then she waited till all the new passengers had entered and calmly left via the front door, causing everyone but me to raise their arms in the air and utter - you guessed it! - "pazienza".

A few months ago I was getting off a bus, laden with shopping bags, and was half-way down the steps when the driver, obviously out of pazienza that day, closed the door on me and made off, trapping my arm and some of my bags still inside! I was pulled along for what could only have been a few seconds, though it was quite terrifying, and then luckily some students came along and shouted to alert the driver. OK, the driver had been careless and had not checked in his mirror that all the passengers were off but the design of the bus didn't help, either. The incident has made me a bit nervous and Linda says if I've got a load of bags that are going to slow me down again, I should yell, "Un attimo, mentre scendo!" [= "Just a minute, while I get off!"] and I have a couple of times, but it's so un-British to draw attention to yourself in that way!

As I have remarked so many times on other people's blogs when public transport is discussed, it seems to me that, wherever you are, the trouble is that the people who plan, design and oversee it don't have to use it on a regular basis.


Anonymous said...

That's very true. Although most people have cars today, we are encouraged to use park and ride in the cities and I remember all those difficulties - a baby in the buggy, a young toddler, armfuls of shopping bags etc, thankfully those days are behind me now.

Liz Hinds said...

I'm sure there must be an EU directive on disabled access. Or perhaps they're too busy demanding straight bananas and specifying sausage content.

I hate geting off buses even though I am (I was going to say fully abled but I've remembered the word now!) able-bodied. I start to panic at least two stops before about when I should stand up, and whether anyone is going to be sitting next to me and how much time I should allow, and whether I will have to squeeze past people standing, and whether I should ring the bell (I hate to make a fuss too) and if the driver will be impatient if I wait for the bus to stop completely before I dismount.

Good grief, I'm sweating just thinking about it!!! And I must have confirmed any opinion of me as a complete neurotic! I'm not really. You just caught me on a favourite anxiety-topic.

Anonymous said...

That was a close call. Glad you were okay.


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