From Victoria to Oxford Circus
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“For a developed country, London is the least accessible city in the world,” says Karl*, who concedes that maybe Paris might be marginally worse.
Karl has a C5 complete injury and is tetraplegic, requiring an assistant’s help with his day-to-day tasks. Living near Victoria station, he finds his commute from Victoria station to Oxford Circus relatively straightforward.
But, with Oxford Circus station being inaccessible to wheelchair users, even this simpler journey has its issues. Karl has to take a bus from Victoria and then transfer 160 metres to get to his destination near the Oxford Circus/Regent Street junction. In contrast, an able-bodied passenger can simply take the Victoria line for two stops before exiting (via steps) at Oxford Circus station’s Exit 4.
The TFL journey planner suggests that it takes an able-bodied passenger just four minutes to complete this commute. In contrast, passengers using the fully step-free access option on the journey planner are told they’d take four and a half times longer to complete the journey – working out at 22 minutes.
The difficulties of planning a journey
Frustratingly, there aren’t any bus stops near the Oxford Circus/Regent Street junction for Karl to get off at. It takes him an exhausting ten extra minutes, in a manual wheelchair, to get to his destination. What’s even more regrettable is that this unnecessarily difficult journey is one of the simplest we tested.
“But taking this journey via the underground network would’ve been even more complicated,” says Karl. “I usually use Citymapper to plan my journeys,” he adds, “but I tend not to rely on it.” Despite a new ‘step-free route’ being introduced on Citymapper, Karl finds that his own knowledge of London’s transport often trumps the suggestions by apps and planners.
“While the routes do work, they often miss out other options that might be quicker or easier to navigate,” he explains. “Of course, you’d need to travel in London regularly to know how to be more creative with the routes.”