Not All Drivers Are Bad Or Their Vehicles Evil

Background Reading

Summary

A wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) can make a great difference for disabled drivers and passengers. Travelling in your wheelchair means you don’t need to transfer in and out, or stow it in the boot, so you can travel more freely. If you have someone who helps you, it can save them from injuring themselves by lifting you or your wheelchair. If your wheelchair has a specialist seating system, you can benefit from the support or pressure relief it gives you in the car too.

There are a lot of things to think about when you are choosing a WAV. This guide will help you decide what you need. We look at what WAVs are, the standards and regulations that apply to them and the various types that are available.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles range in size from ones that will take just the wheelchair user and one other person, to those that will accommodate several other passengers as well. Other vehicles, such as wheelchair accessible vans or minivans that have room for more than one wheelchair passenger, are generally used as taxis or minibuses.

WAVs are fitted with ramps or lifts to allow the wheelchair user to get in. You are either pushed into the vehicle or you propel yourself. Some WAVs that have wheelchair access by a ramp may also be fitted with winches as an aid or a safety measure if your helper is frail or insecure. Once inside, the wheelchair is fixed in place using a tie-down system and you have a restraint system like a regular seat belt. Wheelchair tie-downs consist of straps that need to be clipped onto the wheelchair by hand, or fully automatic docking systems that lock on to a plate or spigot attached to the wheelchair.

Drive-from-wheelchair WAVs allow you to be completely independent. These are likely to be heavily adapted and built around you and your wheelchair. They need to have automatic doors, ramps and docking systems to enable the driver to be fully independent.

As a guide, new passenger WAVs cost from £12,000 but can often cost £20,000-£45,000 depending on size and type. Drive-from-wheelchair WAVs cost from £26,000 but can cost over £40,000. For second-hand WAVs, there are a number of dealers or you can buy privately.

For information on companies that make, equip or sell WAVs, see our Useful contacts, which gives names and addresses of suppliers and fitters, and details of the services they provide.


TakeAways

The other day we were doing grocery shopping at our local Jewel-Osco. We first shop at the Whole Foods store and then head over to this one. Two people came out of the store and I automatically assumed they were a couple doing their weekly shopping together.

He was ahead of her in his wheelchair. She was close behind pushing a heavily laden shopping cart. In his mouth his teeth were clamping down on a clear plastic bag with some small items.

I was parked facing another vehicle (head-to-head). It turned out that the couple was not together. He made a right turn in his wheelchair to approach the driver’s side door of the vehicle facing me. She continued down the line of parked automobiles to her vehicle.

I sat watching the man in the wheelchair as he first unlocked his driver’s side door and opened it. Because he was seated he was no longer visible to me. His vehicle was an SUV and thus his doors ‘sat‘ higher than they would have were he driving a sedan.

He slowly hoisted himself using his arms from his wheelchair into the drivers seat. It was pretty painful to watch since his wheelchair seat was nearly a foot lower than that of his driver’s seat.

Then he leaned out of the vehicle and did something to his chair which I could not actually see. Suddenly he pulled up one of the wheels released from the chair and lodged it between the behind the passenger’s seat. He repeated this action with the second wheel.

These were well-made wheels with plenty of spokes and thick, wide tires. I would have guessed them to be from Schwalbe, probably the Marathon Plus type. Then he hoisted up the wheelchair (sans wheels) and settled it into the passenger’s seat leaning it against the dashboard.

I sat in wonder at the patience he must have had to develop to live a life without the use of his legs. But I suddenly understood better than ever before that this man was blessed at having a vehicle that gave him the freedom to go where he wanted when he needed to without having to rely on family or friends. That would have been a blessing that countless wheelchair bound individuals of a generation ago would perhaps not have known.

The Cyclist Narrative Concerning Automobiles

When we do a ride like the Ride of Silence we are perhaps aware of making a statement about automobiles in general. And when we urge that parking and other acts of accommodation to motorists be limited if not altogether denied it seems to those looking at us from the outside that we are waging a ‘War On Cars‘.

There is a certain amount of hypocrisy in all of this. Most cyclists (not all) hate the idea of cigarette smoking. We frame our opposition to this habit as a stand against the disease and disability that science tells us follows the users of tobacco. What we do not however admit is that alcohol can be as deadly as tobacco.

The big difference between these two poisons are the methods by which they kill and maim. Tobacco causes the body to respond to develop tumors and to disrupt the functioning of the lungs. People die over time from its use.

Alcohol is a good deal more subtle in its larceny. Bicycle riders drink like fish (when they choose to). But unless they loose their ability to safely navigate their way home, they seldom encounter major injury or death. But should a driver come along with the same level of intoxication that is customary in the bloodstreams of most cyclists the speed at which the vehicle being driven by this individual has a direct affect on the length of time it takes to react to unpredictable behavior from an inebriated cyclists or pedestrian and suddenly a collision occurs.

Alcohol is certainly a major cause of automobile (and probably bicycle) collisions. But since most of us are fortunate enough to have avoided collisions that left us dead or severely injured, we are less concerned by our predilection to drink and then attempt to operate a vehicle on the roadways.

We give lots of lip service to the notion of Vision Zero. But in practice we fail every time we decide to hoist a glass or toke a joint and then step behind a steering wheel or handlebars.

But setting aside the question of drinking for the moment, the fact remains that in the eyes of cyclists motorcars and their drivers are dangerous. And whether we admit it or not (or even understand our bias) we are ‘at war‘ with the automobile and its drivers.

The Ride of Silence does not visit those sites where the victim is not a cyclist. Or to be more precise, it does not visit the ghost bike locations of people riding bikes a the time of the collision that ended their lives. In fact one of the least pleasant things about the Ride of Silence is that it by definition ignores a pilgrimage to any of the locations where a cyclist (sober or otherwise) has managed to hit and kill a pedestrian. There are instances where cyclists have killed other cyclists (usually on trails) and I doubt whether those deaths are commemorated either.

Getting To Understand Who Drives And The Value Of Automobiles

Not every cyclist that decides to blow a red light or run a stop sign is as much of a jerk as they seem. But they do have a way of ‘coloring‘ the vision that the average non-cyclist has of the group as a whole. The same this is true in reverse. Cyclists whether they want to or not end up disclosing a pretty strong bias against drivers of automobiles.

In fact the nightmares of cyclists are probably heavily populated with remembrances of ‘near misses‘. I would go so far as to venture to believe that the dislike of these two groups is essentially mutual and probably indistinguishable from the sentiments exposed when we disclose racist views of our fellow human beings. It is too pretty clear that cyclists and motorists behave towards one another as some straights do towards members of the LGBT community or some males towards females.

None of us cares to admit that we are capable of being arrogant, rude and dismissive of people we do not even know because we judge them to be members of a class that we dislike. It accounts for the distinct dislike that people of Liberal and Conservative biases have for one another.

What A Stranger In A Wheel Chair Taught Me

My view of the automobile (and I am a daily driver) is far too shallow. This is more than a convenience. It is for some folks the only means they have of true freedom. They are trapped in bodies that make walking impossible. They choose to live in places where mass transit is very limited. So in my town getting from the downtown housing to the local Jewel-Osco cannot easily (if at all) be done by riding a bus. That is a simple fact.

When I look at the transportation choices of others I need to take into account that their circumstances are likely unknown to me. I see them behind the wheel of a car but have no real idea of what their lives are like. A single person trying to get from DuPage County to Madison Wisconsin might not be able to support themselves were it not for the automobile.

I might have some notion of how cities should be designed. And it might be that high on the list of things I want are ‘walkability‘. But what if the person cannot walk. What if getting to the other side of town is nearly impossible without an automobile? Maybe my ideas are to focused on a vision that is not broad enough to accommodate the needs of people I have never met?

We need to stop dividing the world up into groups of human beings based on their religion, modes of transportation, sexual preferences, skin color, gender, smoking, drinking or body type. We do these sorts of harmful things all the time. I know that I do. But I am guessing that somewhere in our evolutionary development we learned these behaviors as a way of staying alive (or at least that is what or parents told us).

Now is the time for us to re-evalutate where we stand on how others live their lives. We cyclists keep saying that we want more bike lanes to encourage others to bike to work. But did we ever ask the question, who is it we are attempting to invite into those bike lanes? My guess is that to bring about a substantive change in the cycling behaviors of the general populous most of these newcomers to cycling would have to be motorists.

How do we expect to seem welcoming if we continue to task actions and use rhetoric that connotes a ‘War On Cars‘?