Greenwich Transport Forum – easy read

Inside of a bus garage with a number of red double decker buses parked.London Vision was back at the Clockhouse Community Centre on Wednesday 8 June. This was to hold the first Greenwich Transport Forum.
We want to know more about transport and transport infrastructure in Greenwich. We especially want to know how blind and partially sighted people experience transport. This forum will help inform London Vision’s work in the future.
This forum focussed on buses and public transport infrastructure in Greenwich. Andrew Burton attended the meeting; he is the Head of Highways for Greenwich Council. Rob Varney also attended. Rob Varney is the Local Community and Partnerships Lead for Transport for London. The social group Blind in Greenwich came to the meeting, as did other local residents. We also welcomed other local residents and stakeholders to the meeting.

Experiences of travelling on buses in the area

The first half of the forum focussed on bus travel. The second half examined transport infrastructure. This includes the built environment, such as dropped kerbs and tactile paving.
We invited attendees to put their concerns to Andrew Burton and Rob Varney. Some of the specific issues raised were:

Audible announcements on the bus

Audible announcements on buses often are too quiet. An attendee asked if the volume of the announcements can increase to help people hear better. Another attendee asked whether the driver of the bus can control the volume of the audio. Some buses have incorrect audio announcements. Sometimes the announcements tell passengers wrong information about the bus stop. This is a problem when passengers need to know when there is a cycle lane at the bus stop.

Bus diversions

When the bus route has a diversion, the announcements are not clear enough. There sometimes aren’t enough announcements made on the bus about the change of route. When a diverted bus stops in an unfamiliar place, blind passengers don’t know where they are. This makes it hard for blind passengers to continue their onward journeys.

Driver training

London bus drivers must read a training manual called the Big Red Book. This book is a guide for bus drivers on the Transport for London network. It tells drivers to stop and announce the number of the bus when they see a person with a cane or guide dog at a bus stop. Sometimes the drivers don’t do this for blind passengers.
Bus drivers now have a plastic barrier screen around their driver cab on the buses. This is because of the Coronavirus pandemic. This barrier can make it harder to ask the driver questions, or hear the driver’s answer. Sometimes bus drivers nod their heads in answer to questions. Blind and partially sighted passengers will struggle to see a driver nod their head as an answer. Attendees at the meeting said that bus drivers are much more helpful than they were in the past. This is due to good driver training, and the rules and policies set out in the Big Red Book.

Road and bus infrastructure

The second half of the meeting focussed on travel infrastructure in Greenwich.

Bus stops

Many bus stops in Greenwich have a bus countdown display. This shows you how long to wait until the next bus will arrive. This countdown is visual, so blind and partially sighted travellers can’t see it. Attendees asked if this countdown can be audible as well as visual. This could help blind and partially sighted passengers know when the next bus will come.

Traffic lights

Some crossings in Greenwich that use traffic lights feel dangerous for disabled pedestrians. One crossing on Beresford Road, outside Woolwich station, feels dangerous for blind people. The green man signal is lit for 18 seconds when people are crossing. This is three times longer than normal traffic light pedestrian crossings. But blind and partially sighted pedestrians still find this too short. This is because pedestrians have to cross four lanes of traffic.
There is a refuge area in the middle of the four lanes. But this refuge is confusing because there is no kerb or traffic light button. Andrew Burton from Greenwich Council said that this is not a pedestrian refuge. This is because pedestrians should cross all four lanes in one crossing. This is why it has no kerbs or traffic light button. Old style crossings used to make pedestrians cross in two stages, and make them wait at a refuge halfway. This old style of crossing makes pedestrians subservient to traffic. The new style means that drivers are more subservient to pedestrians instead.
Crossing four lanes of traffic is hard for blind and partially sighted pedestrians. They can veer off track when there aren’t audio signals or tactile markers. This happens more often on longer distances or when a crossing is silent. The crossing at Beresford Road is silent, and also across four lanes, so quite long.
Attendees asked TfL and Greenwich to investigate putting audio signals on this crossing. Audio signals can help blind and partially sighted pedestrians get from one side to the other. Audible cues could also help pedestrians know when the lights were likely to change.

Tactile paving

Sometimes there isn’t enough tactile or blister paving in Greenwich, or it is in the wrong place. Some dropped kerbs are missing tactile paving. This means that blind and partially sighted people don’t know if they are stepping into the road. Knowing when a footpath becomes a carriageway is important for blind pedestrians.
Some shared spaces in Greenwich don’t have enough tactile paving. In some shared spaces, cycle paths are not marked. More tactile paving can help blind people know where cycle paths are and not walk into them. Tactile paving makes the built environment safer for blind and partially sighted people.

Next steps

The attendees at the meeting raised lots of issues and problems with buses and infrastructure in Greenwich. Andrew Burton and Rob Varney agreed to actions from the meeting. A member of Blind in Greenwich agreed to be Rob Varney and Andrew Burton’s contact in Greenwich. They can now send information about consultations and future work to this contact. This was the first forum. We agreed to hold the next one in 3 months time. If major work or consultations happen in Greenwich before this time, we will arrange a forum.
Would you like to attend the next forum? Get in touch with Bhavini Makwana on