What does the Tube map look like if you're in a wheelchair?

Nothing like this. Image: TfL.

London's public transport is great. It lets you go pretty much anywhere via a seamless combination of buses, trains and even the occasional ferry.

It's less great, though, if you aren't able to get on any of it in the first place. Much of London's Underground system is old, and deep under the ground; this, if you're a wheelchair user or are otherwise restricted in your movement, is not good news.

Buses are a lot better: most can crank down to the level of the pavement, and there are designated spots where you can park your chair on board. But in a city the size of London, buses aren't really enough.

TfL released its latest "step-free guide" to the London Underground in 2015, and it basically does what it says on the tin: it shows those stations without big flights of non-escalator staircases, which would pose a problem for anyone in a wheelchair or others with mobility issues.TfL greys out the unusable stations, but we've erased them in the map below to make things  a bit clearer:

Click on image to see a larger size. Image: TfL, modified by CityMetric.

If you squint, it all looks prety straighforward: loads of stations have disappeared, but you can still take a fair few on the District and Circle lines, plus a good chunk fo the Overground and the whole DLR. Most of central London is off the cards, unless you happen to be travelling from Ealing Broadway to Oxford Circus (lucky you!).

But all those coloured symbols on the map mean different things for your ability to access trains at that station. Just because a station doesn't have a flight of stairs, doesn't mean there aren't other things standing in your way. 

  • An "R" in a green box means you need to call ahead to get a ramp set up.
  • The green and red circles indicate the gap between train and platform (more on that later).
  • Little red notes and exclamation points indicate stations where certain interchanges do involve stairs, or where you have to access the station through a certain entrance to avoid them.

The map actually comes with all this supplementary material, explaining certain stations' quirks: mini flights of stairs, say, or stairlifts which will carry your manual wheelchair, but not a motorised one:

Essentially: planning Tube journey when you have reduced mobility is a bit like running a small military operation.You need to research every leg of the journey beforehand, and probably need to call ahead, especially as TfL advises that you check the lifts are running if you need them. (To its credit, TfL does provide taxis if lifts are out of order.)

If you're in a wheelchair and can't do escalators, the map gets even simpler – and your journey gets even more complicated.

This map shows all the stations which have lift service (they're marked by a blue ring around a green circle), or stations where the platform is level with the street (green ring around a green circle). It's taken from TfL's "Avoiding Stairs" guide, but we've removed the stations which only have escalator service:

More caveats:

  • Notes in red indicate where this only applies to one direction.
  • Stations still on the map but with an open circle mean you can interchange, but not exit or enter the station.
  • Little numbers inside the circle mean there are that there are a handful of steps along your route in the station.
  • An exclamation mark means you need to check the supplementary material for more information.

I thought about redrawing the map with just the stations which have straightforwad, full access for wheelchair users, but I'm not sure it'd look like much of a map.

One last one: those letters on stations indicate the gap you need to bridge between the platform and train. A green "A" means TfL reckons wheelchair users shouldn't have any trouble getting across it: the gap is less than 50mm high and less than 85mm wide.

This map shows only those station with this designation, or where station staff can set up a ramp:

If you were a wheelchair user who needed to use a lift, and wasn't confident of bridging larger gaps to board trains, you'd need to cross-reference the above two maps (whose information is provided separately by TfL) to figure out if your journey is plausible. Spoiler alert: for most journeys on the Underground, it probably isn't.

We're much better off than Paris – we wrote last June about the fact that the map for wheelchair users there is basically a single line but accesibility in newer networks around the world, like those in many Asian cities, leave ours in their dust. Our network may be old and difficult to upgrade, but what use is public transport if a chunk of the public can't actually get on it?


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Seven climate change myths put about by big oil companies

Oil is good for you! Image: Getty.

Since the start of this year, major players within the fossil fuel industry – “big oil” – have made some big announcements regarding climate change. BP revealed plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by acquiring additional renewable energy companies. Royal Dutch Shell defended its $1-$2bn green energy annual budget. Even ExxonMobil, until recently relatively dismissive of the basic science behind climate change, included a section dedicated to reducing emissions in its yearly outlook for energy report.

But this idea of a “green” oil company producing “clean” fossil fuels is one that I would call a dangerous myth. Such myths obscure the irreconcilability between burning fossil fuels and environmental protection – yet they continue to be perpetuated to the detriment of our planet.

Myth 1: Climate change can be solved with the same thinking that created it

Measures put in place now to address climate change must be sustainable in the long run. A hasty, sticking plaster approach based on quick fixes and repurposed ideas will not suffice.

Yet this is precisely what some fossil fuel companies intend to do. To address climate change, major oil and gas companies are mostly doing what they have historically excelled at – more technology, more efficiency, and producing more fossil fuels.

But like the irresponsible gambler that cannot stop doubling down during a losing streak, the industry’s bet on more, more, more only means more ecological destruction. Irrespective of how efficient fossil fuel production becomes, that the industry’s core product can be 100 per cent environmentally sustainable is an illusion.

A potential glimmer of hope is carbon capture and storage (CCS), a process that sucks carbon out of the air and sends it back underground. But despite being praised by big oil as a silver bullet solution for climate change, CCS is yet another sticking plaster approach. Even CCS advocates suggest that it cannot currently be employed on a global, mass scale.

Myth 2: Climate change won’t spell the end of the fossil fuel industry

According to a recent report, climate change is one factor among several that has resulted in the end of big oil’s golden years – a time when oil was plenty, money quick, and the men at the top celebrated as cowboy capitalists.

Now, to ensure we do not surpass the dangerous 2°C threshold, we must realise that there is simply no place for “producers” of fossil fuels. After all, as scientists, financial experts, and activists have warned, if we want to avoid dangerous climate change, the proven reserves of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies cannot be consumed.

Myth 3: Renewables investment means oil companies are seriously tackling climate change

Compared to overall capital expenditures, oil companies renewables’ investment is a miniscule drop in the barrel. Even then, as companies such as BP have demonstrated before, they will divest from renewables as soon as market conditions change.

Big oil companies’ green investments only produce tiny reductions in their overall greenhouse gas emissions. BP calls these effects “real sustainable reductions” – but they accounted for only 0.3 per cent of their total emissions reductions in 2016, 0.1 per cent in 2015, 0.1 per cent in 2014, and so on.


Myth 4: Hard climate regulation is not an option

One of the oil industry’s biggest fears regarding climate change is regulation. It is of such importance that BP recently hinted at big oil’s exodus from the EU if climate regulation took effect. Let’s be clear, we are talking about “command-and-control” regulation here, such as pollution limits, and not business-friendly tools such as carbon pricing or market-based quota systems.

There are many commercial reasons why the fossil fuel industry would prefer the latter over the former. Notably, regulation may result in a direct impact on the bottom line of fossil fuel companies given incurred costs. But climate regulation is – in combination with market-based mechanisms – required to address climate change. This is a widely accepted proposition advocated by mainstream economists, NGOs and most governments.

Myth 5: Without cheap fossil fuels, the developing world will stop

Total’s ex-CEO, the late Christoph de Margerie, once remarked: “Without access to energy, there is no development.” Although this is probably true, that this energy must come from fossil fuels is not. Consider, for example, how for 300 days last year Costa Rica relied entirely on renewable energy for its electricity needs. Even China, the world’s biggest polluter, is simultaneously the biggest investor in domestic renewables projects.

As the World Bank has highlighted, in contrast to big oil’s claims about producing more fossil fuels to end poverty, the sad truth is that by burning even the current fossil fuel stockpile, climate change will place millions of people back into poverty. The UN concurs, signalling that climate change will result in reduced crop yields, more waterborne diseases, higher food prices and greater civil unrest in developing parts of the world.

Myth 6: Big oil must be involved in climate policy-making

Fossil fuel companies insist that their involvement in climate policy-making is necessary, so much so that they have become part of the wallpaper at international environmental conferences. This neglects that fossil fuels are, in fact, a pretty large part of the problem. Big oil attends international environmental conferences for two reasons: lobbying and self-promotion.

Some UN organisations already recognise the risk of corporations hijacking the policy-making process. The World Health Organisation, for instance, forbids the tobacco industry from attending its conferences. The UN’s climate change arm, the UNFCCC, should take note.

Myth 7: Nature can and must be “tamed” to address climate change

If you mess with mother nature, she bites back. As scientists reiterate, natural systems are complex, unpredictable, and even hostile when disrupted.

Climate change is a prime example. Small changes in the chemical makeup of the atmosphere may have drastic implications for Earth’s inhabitants.

The ConversationFossil fuel companies reject that natural systems are fragile – as evidenced by their expansive operations in ecologically vulnerable areas such as the Arctic. The “wild” aspect of nature is considered something to be controlled and dominated. This myth merely serves as a way to boost egos. As independent scientist James Lovelock wrote, “The idea that humans are yet intelligent enough to serve as stewards of the Earth is among the most hubristic ever.”

George Ferns, Lecturer in Management, Employment and Organisation, Cardiff University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.