Blind riders see discrimination in relocation of Victoria bus stops from curb to middle of road

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      A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has rejected an application to dismiss a complaint filed on behalf of the blind.

      The complaint is in connection with the relocation of bus stops on a City of Victoria street from the curb the middle of the road.

      The so-called “floating bus stops” were installed along Pandora Avenue between Cook and Store streets, when the road was redesigned to put a protected bike lane.

      Bus riders now have to cross the bike lane to get to the new bus stops.

      That’s not a problem for people who are not blind, according to the representative complained filed by Oriano Belusic on behalf of the Canadian Federation of the Blind.

      It’s a different story for visually-impaired bus riders.

      The complaint alleged that blind people are in danger of getting hit by bikes.

      The blind are therefore denied a service customarily available to all because of their disability, which is a violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code, according to the complaint.

      Named respondents were the City of Victoria and BC Transit.

      BC Transit applied to have the complaint dismissed on grounds that it has no reasonable chances of succeeding.

      This was rejected by tribunal member Norman Trerise.

      Recapping BC Transit’s position, Trerise wrote in his reasons for decision that the transportation authority “disputes that it has a duty to accommodate the members of the Class including ensuring safety and access to and from the Floating Stop to the sidewalk”.

      BC Transit also argued that it had “no role to play in the City’s decision to utilize Floating Stops or Crosswalks”.

      The complaint asserted that “by servicing the Floating Stops Transit became a party to the City’s discrimination by virtue of their denial of meaningful access to public bus transportation by blind persons”.

      In his reasons for decision issued Wednesday (May 20), Trerise stated that the issue in this case is “whether the Class has experienced an adverse impact from Transit’s service of the Floating Stops”.

      “The discrimination which is complained of is that the members of the Class are unable to reach the doors of the bus due to the danger presented by cyclists who do not reliably stop for pedestrians at the Stop Crosswalks,” Trerise noted.

      A “second potential incident of discrimination for members of the Class is that they are prevented from leaving the Floating Stops and accessing the curb for the same reason,” according to the tribunal member.

      Based on Trerise’s review of videos, a “substantial minority of cyclists filmed approach the Crosswalks at a pace significantly too quick to allow them to safely stop for a pedestrian stepping into the Crosswalks”.

      “For a sightless person such as a member of the Class it seems unlikely that they could reliably determine when it is safe to step into the Crosswalk as a cyclist approaches – assuming that they would even know that a cyclist was approaching,” according to Trerise.

      The protected bike lane was launched in May 2017.

      On its website, the City of Victoria states that transit users have “raised crosswalks to access the ‘floating bus stops’”.

      Trerise is “satisfied that the evidence suggests the members of the Class are adversely impacted by the use of the Floating Stops because they are effectively prevented access to the Floating Stops or from such Floating Stops to the curb”.

      “As a result, they are denied bus service along the relevant length of Pandora Street,” Trerise noted.

      With the dismissal of BC Transit’s application, the complaint is headed to a hearing by the tribunal.