The pedestrian environment - the Achilies Heel of travel by low floor bus?


I Lavery
S Davey

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

policy - environment, mode - bus, mode - pedestrian


Achilles was one of the great heroes of Greek mythology, a person of outstanding martial powers who only had one weakness. Soon after Achilles' birth his mother Thetis, a sea nymph, dipped him into the River Styx to protect his body from harm. However, the water did not touch the heel by which Thetis held him, leaving him with one vulnerable spot. Thus, in the closing stages of the Trojan War as Achilles forced his way through the Skaian Gate, an arrow from the bow of Paris struck him in his heel, causing him to spin around and a second arrow struck him a fatal blow in the chest. However, one might wonder what this has to do with public transport ? To put it succinctly, this paper asks two basic questions; Has a myth has been created as to the potential of mainstream accessible public transport for improving the actual travel of mobility impaired people.'? ; and Will built environment barriers be the Achilles Heel that will reduce the potential for increased patronage of low floor buses by mobility impaired people? The use of low floor vehicles for mainstream public transport services is a major step forward and there appears to be great expectations that more mobility impaired people will access public transport. However, a great deal of caution must be exercised, and much more data obtained, before we can say that it will increase the number of actual journeys made by mobility impaired people on public transport. In the opinion of the authors there is a danger that exaggerated claims for the potential of improving the lifestyle of mobility impaired people might deflect attention from barriers that prevent the potential being realised. It is too early in the operation of public transport low floor buses to reach any firm conclusions, but it would seem that incautious claims have been made in the past as to the alleged benefits to mobility impaired people in the inception of such services. These claims might raise expectations that may not be met and that could be to the disadvantage of both operators and potential passengers. This paper is, therefore, in two parts. The first preliminary part asks if a myth has arisen as to the benefits that low floor vehicles will give mobility impaired people, and the main part will describe a research project, the results of which indicate that Built Environment Barriers might be the Achilles' Heel which negates the potential of low floor buses for mobility impaired people.


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.