Transit priority seating pits baby strollers against wheelchairs
Lyle Attfield couldn’t just sit by and watch. As he tells it, he was sitting on a bus when the driver denied service to a man in a wheelchair waiting at a stop.
The priority seating was full, taken up by parents with strollers.
“(The bus driver) didn’t want to ask the strollers to move and technically, that’s in their mandate,” said Attfield, who has been lobbying B.C. Transit to enforce its rules for years. “If you keep pushing the disabled out, they stay inside and the suicide rate goes up. It all comes down to human rights.”
On this day, however, Attfield took matters into his own hands.
After arguing with the driver, he got off the bus and sat down on the front bumper in protest. Eventually a police officer ended the standoff and gave Attfield a $115 ticket for disrupting bus travel.
On June 21, a provincial traffic court judge upheld the ticket, but Attfield plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“This has got to stop,” said Attfield, who has a disability but does not use a wheelchair.
B.C. Transit’s policy suggests wheelchair users have priority.
“Strollers must be collapsible,” according to information posted on its website. “When the wheelchair positions are required by another customer using a wheelchair or scooter: the customer should fold the stroller, move to another available seat and store the stroller between the seats.”
Compliance with the policy, however, is left to the discretion of the customer.
“As a public service, we cannot deny service to customers that in are in compliance with our rules,” according to information from the public relations department.
“Transit operates on first-come, first-served basis. In reality, we have found that most of our customers are willing to offer their seats for people with disabilities or mobility challenges.”
Joanne Neubauer, however, thinks enforcement of the stroller-folding recommendation is needed.
“We think the bus drivers need to be doing their job,” she said.
As vice-president of the Action Committee of People with Disabilities, Neubauer uses a wheelchair and relies on the bus to go everywhere. She’s also been left waiting at the curb many times when strollers are parked in the priority seating.