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Protected Bike Lanes with Mid-Block Bus Stops Now Proven to be a Danger to Blind Bus Riders

By Linda Bartram


In the two articles “Protected Bike Lanes Endanger Blind Bus Riders” and “More Protected Bike Lanes Threaten to Endanger Blind Bus Riders” published in issue 17 of the Equalizer, July 2023, I outlined the history of the island platform (floating) bus stop issue in Victoria. In today’s article, I will report on a recent study conducted by TransLink and the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and the shocking results.


In January of 2023, I contacted the Active Transportation department of MOTI with my concerns that the Active Design Guide included mid-block floating bus stops as a design option as long as the mitigation measures outlined in the Human Rights Tribunal (HRT) decision were also installed. Remember that the HRT decision in 2020 found Victoria to have discriminated against blind persons, but that measures (not tested or agreed to by blind persons) were sufficient to mitigate the barrier. 


I was pleased to see that MOTI, along with TransLink, was planning consultations regarding this issue, having heard concerns from several blind individuals. I was optimistic when the consultations began as there seemed to be a sincere desire to listen. As things progressed however, my optimism began to waver. By the time the five pilot locations were announced in the fall of 2023, I did not hold out much hope that we were truly being heard.


The pilots (I attended three of the five) demonstrated several accessibility treatments. TWSI and tactile signage did make the mid-block bus stops easier to find and identify, and TWSI and edge treatments ensured that once on the island platform, it was easier to know where to stand to catch the bus and ensure that you did not step into the bike lane by mistake. But no treatments were found that enabled the blind pilot participants to make an informed decision as to when to cross the bike lane. The sound of cyclists riding over rumble strips could not be heard and AIRA technology was not reliable. In addition, measures to inform cyclists and modify their behaviour were not consistently effective and blind participants reported that they did not feel these gave them confidence that a cyclist would stop and communicate that they had done so.


The final Design Guide for Bus Stops Adjacent to Cycling Infrastructure released on April 15, 2024, reported all these findings and stated that further research was needed. It also advised planners to consider a hierarchy of design options for bus stops on protected cycle routes, and to include persons with lived experience in planning decisions.


It was a shock therefore, when it became apparent that the mid-block design option although the last one that should be considered in the hierarchy, was still nevertheless an option. So even though it was proven that blind persons cannot use such a bus stop safely and independently, it can still be built, according to the guide, as long as “core” measures listed earlier, are put in place. These measures are presumed to be enough even though we once again told them, and their research confirmed, that they are not. Are we supposed to be happy that we can now find the bus stop but can’t use it safely and independently? Are sighted individuals once again telling us that we need to be pleased that some accessibility treatments are now being recommended even though we can’t use this vital means of transportation?


If this design guide is published on the MOTI Active Transportation website and made available to municipalities, some planners may decide to do the right thing and not consider mid-block island platform bus stops, but some inevitably will decide on this option, choosing to continue to discriminate against blind persons. It is not known yet if MOTI plans to post this design guide as a supplement to the Active Transportation Design Guide on their website. Perhaps if they hear from enough of us, urging a moratorium on mid-block bus stops, until an effective mitigation measure is found, there is still a chance that they won’t post it as it reads right now.


Write to Active Transportation at ActiveTransportation@gov.bc.ca. Urge them ideally not to post the design guide or at least to recommend a moratorium on the building of mid-block bus stops until bus passengers who are blind can cross the bike lane safely and independently. Remind them that this design was found to be discriminatory by the BC Human Rights Tribunal in 2020 and that mitigation measures suggested at the time, have now been proven to be ineffective.


I had hoped that this article would be the last in the series, but the issue remains with us so stay posted for further developments.


IMAGE ALT TEXT: Photo of bike lines next to a mid-block floating bus stop.

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