Disabled and dismayed by rude bus drivers

MICHELLE DUFF
Last updated 05:00 28/11/2013
Max Richards

'I HATE CATCHING THE BUS': Paraplegic Max Richards has seen drivers fail to stop, roll their eyes, and throw temper tantrums when he tries to get on board.

Genevieve McLachlan
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
LEFT OUT IN THE COLD: Upper Hutt woman Genevieve McLachlan and her dog Pedro.
Iona Pannett
MATT DUNCAN
SAFETY WORRIES: Iona Pannett with her children Oliver, 4, and Amelie, 2.

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A bus driver has been accused of closing the door on a cerebral palsy sufferer and her guide dog as she tried to board his bus.

Other people had to bang on the door to get the Valley Flyer driver to open it again so Genevieve McLachlan could get on. He then told her: "This is the last time you get on my bus."

McLachlan, who is also visually impaired, is now joining other wheelchair users in protest against the way they are treated on public transport.

Their complaints come after a heavily pregnant woman was told by a Wellington driver this week that she was not welcome on his bus with her stroller.

IT professional McLachlan was waiting for the Valley Flyer outside Queensgate Mall on Tuesday. As the bus pulled up, other passengers got on but the driver, who had been reluctant to help her before, closed the door when he saw her.

After others persuaded him to reopen it, he threw down the ramp, narrowly missing her guide dog, Pedro, and then said: "This is the last time you'll get on my bus."

She said she had encountered recurring problems with rude drivers but she refused to back down. "If I stop catching the bus it's like they've won."

Paraplegic Max Richards said he had seen drivers fail to stop, roll their eyes, and throw temper tantrums when he tried to get on board.

"I hate catching the bus. Last year I bought a full waterproof motorcycle suit so I didn't have to catch the bus, I just rolled to work in the rain. People would see me in a howling northerly wheeling around the waterfront."

Last Wednesday, three buses zoomed past him in 45 minutes as he waited on Lambton Quay at 1.10pm to catch a bus to a work appointment. He called NZ Bus, which said it would ensure the next bus stopped. It did so, but too far away from the kerb.

When Richards said the ramp was still unstable, the driver jumped up and down on it and yelled at him that it was safe, he said. "At that point I said, ‘I'm not getting on the bus with you, you're too aggressive'."

Rachel Drew, chief operating officer for NZ Bus in Wellington, said ensuring access for disabled passengers was a high priority.

Latest feedback from an accessibility advisory group was positive, noting improvements since wheelchair ramp training for all drivers this year.

"It's important to us that we do provide the facilities, so if people are having issues they can get in contact with us and we will follow up the individual drivers."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the council's transport and urban development committee had raised the matter "informally" during a meeting with Mana Coach Services and NZ Bus yesterday.

A Greater Wellington Regional Council spokeswoman said all bus drivers, ferry and train staff had clear guidelines about accessibility that should be followed.

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ROUGH JOURNEY

Wellington city councillor Iona Pannett will meet NZ Bus chief operating officer Rachel Drew today after her daughter, Amelie, 2, was thrown to the floor of a bus last week.

Pannett says she was stowing her pushchair when the driver "took off" without giving her enough time to sit down.

"I assumed he would wait until at least I could hold her [Amelie's] hand, but she just fell . . . I yelled at him, 'Stop the bus!' because he clearly had no intention of doing that," she said.

"We should be able to ride safely on the city's buses, and I know a lot of parents don't take the bus because it can be an awful experience."

- Fairfax Media

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