please empty your brain below

"If you need a step-free map, use TfL's step-free map - that's what it's there for"

Here here. Unfortunately, it looks as if LU bottled it.

Faced with a handful of "what good is step-free from street to platform if you then can't actually get step-free onto the train?" type complaints, it probably dawned on the powers that be that they would either have to downgrade a large number of stations previously falsely advertised as accessible, or side-step the issue by creating two subtly different definitions of "step-free".

Obviously they've gone for the latter, much to the detriment of the Tube map.

p.s. - Slight correction DG, the previous definition of the blue blob was step-free "platform to street", not train. So they've actually introduced a new white blob to mean what the old blue blob meant and taken the old blue blob and given it a new meaning. Jeez.

Still visible at the moment on pre-DLR to Stratford International maps:

I want ticks, not blobs, at stations; as Harry Beck thought.

Am almost speechless, almost.

They've actually gone a made it /worse/. Oh, my, god.

Calling Max Roberts ...

I spotted a discarded map leaflet on the floor at White City last night - and noticed that it had some new cover art. "I wonder if DG will be writing about that," I wondered.

Well yes, of course... :)

By coincidence, I've just finished the information pollution chapter of my book.

It has a sentence in it to the effect of 'things were really bad two or three years ago, but there has been some improvement since then'

Looks like I will be deleting that sentence.

Oh dear, so we now move on from "bin the bloody blue blobs" to "bin the bloody blue blobs" AND "wremove the wridiculous white wrings" (at least, until any better expression that uses words that genuinely begin with "w" can be found)

Quite, quite, ridiculous. Call in the design cops. Time to make an arrest

In any case, it won't do anything to help people who actually are disabled, except tell them the many places they can't use. A couple of years ago, when I was handicapped by a severely arthritic hip, I tried to get a bus/tube route across London avoiding too much walking and without stairs. I think it was from Angel to Pimlico. There was work being done on at least one escalator at the time, and Transport for London's website was unable to find me a route.

Christ. Look at West Ham.

I'd be interested to know how many disabled people actually use the tube anyway. I should imagine that most Londoners with a handicap know that it's more hassle than it's worth struggling through Victorian architecture to try and get anywhere and just Dial-A-Ride or take a cab. This seems like a tokenist effort that's neither use nor ornament.

And worse: think what it's going to look like once Crossrail turns up...

P.S. What's wrong with Stratford Intl on the DLR indicators?

I see Martin has beaten me to it but as soon as I read at work about the new map I thought "DG post due".

And for Z I am surprised a route from Pimlico to Angel couldn't be devised. It would be bus only but 24 to TCR and then a 73 would do the trick with a same stop interchange at any stop on Tottenham Court Rd. I can understand why a route by tube would be a tough call.

I live in Nottingham and bring my disabled 12 year-old lad down to London once or twice a year. He uses a wheelchair, although he can walk short distances, and we use the tube a fair bit.

Any access information that we can lay our hands on is an absolute godsend. That includes the standard tube map displayed at stations and elsewhere if, for any reason, I have misplaced or forgotten our printout of the proper access map.

You're saying that access to this type of information on the standard tube map should be denied to disabled people and their carers so that the map can look prettier and slightly less cluttered? That's a really disappointing attitude.

Yes we are. Read some of the links and learn why.

It was certainly from Angel, but I may be wrong about the destination. It was the walking distance that was the difficulty with the buses and the stairs on the tube, I remember that.

Richard, I'm afraid I agree with DG. The information is easily available online, and I think it's up to you not to forget your printout. When I had a disability, I planned my journeys in advance. That it was sometimes tricky was the fault of a transport system never designed for non-able-bodied people, not lack of available info.

I love good design and beautifully simple diagrams. I for one can't work out what anyone ever finds difficult about the tube as it is. But as society becomes more aware of the needs of others, the agenda is to remove the barriers to their movement. You shouldn't have to plan online and print off your own map. You should be able to turn up at any station and have information provided for you in the same way everyone else can get their info. They shouldn't have to wait until every station is modified

yeah, sorry DG but I agree with Richard and Emma. Accessibility shouldn't be something you have to make a special effort to find out about. Maybe a compromise would be a special map without the step free symbols available on the internet for downloading by those who find wheelchair symbols bother them. The underground should be for everybody

It isnt, and shouldnt be, for 'everyone' - the majority of tube maps are too small for people with poor eyesight to read, they're useless for blind people, those who have trouble reading english, those who struggle to differentiate between different colours, and those who cant figure out how the northern line and overground work with their alternative branches. THE WHOLE POINT of the beck map was to simplify it for the masses, with geographical accuracy sacrificed - now u may as well drop that too, so you dont inconvenience people who can walk.

I'm with Max, Z and Chris. There's already a proper accessibility tube map, as has been pointed out by several people, which gives a lot more information than some arbitrary definition of 'step-free' (down to measuring the gap between platform and train in millimetres). Anybody seriously wanting to use the Tube in a wheelchair would be very ill-advised indeed to go solely by the information on the regular map, which includes a lot of things it technically shouldn't but not a lot of things it technically should.

The trouble with giving all the available information, in order to truly fulfil the dream of a fully accessible map, is that, as anybody who bothers to click on the map link (was it really just me?) will find out, is that it makes the whole thing vastly more complicated, necessitates a lot of text in the margins, and results in compromises being made to fit in the bits of line which aren't step-free (see the Victoria line at Green Park, for example).

And, as Chris rightly points out, there are a whole lot of disabled Tube users who aren't wheelchair-bound. Should the map accommodate them as well? Should, for example, every station include a Braille label as well as a regular one, and have a special symbol indicating whether or not tactile strips have been installed along the edges of the platforms and on the stairs? Should there be another symbol to show which ones have automatic audible next train announcements installed on the platform? This stuff is quite important if you're blind, you know. But, oh no, sod the blind, they can just go and order TfL's audio Tube map instead, which isn't even available online.

What about the partially sighted or colour blind? Should the map be all in black and white (you can order that as well) and in ludicrously large print (and that)? Should the 'Tube Toilet Map' (not kidding) have its content incorporated into every poster at every station for the benefit of those with weak bladder syndrome?

And while we're at it, whose idea was it to mount Tube map posters and leaflet racks four feet off the ground, anyway? Where are the diminutive supposed to get their information from? Walk about the platforms atop stilts? And we'd better have another one mounted above it to cater for those with elephantism as well. That is, if we can even fit one copy of the new, step-free, gap-measured, black-and-white, large-print, toilet-ridden, Braille-enhanced, symbol-strewn Tube map into the limited amount of height available on an average deep-level Tube platform. Oh, whoops, if it's too high then those poor old dwarfs will only be able to read the bit of the Tube map in south London, won't they? That must be a really enlightening experience. (No comments, please, speculating on whether living in south London counts as a minority to be discriminated against in itself.)

Discrimination which favours one disabled minority over another is not any less discriminating. To me, Richard's comment smacks of an unjustified sense of entitlement. One has to draw the line somewhere - there's only a certain amount of information you can realistically include within the surface area of a pocket Tube map - and I personally wish it had been drawn before we got to this point.

Oh come on, we're talking blue blobs with wheelchairs in them, not the end of civilisation as we know it...

When I travel down to London on my own, the presence of the accessibility symbols on the tube map is an extremely minor distraction and I certainly do not begrudge their existence.

I've used the tube map from when I was very young, through when I worked on Oxford Street and lived in Merton up to the present day, and personally have never had any problems using the various updated versions over the years.

I can't really comment on how disabled tube users who aren't wheelchair bound might best be assisted, as that's outside of my sphere of knowledge, but anything that encourages inclusion while being of only minor inconvenience to other users is just fine by me.

I don't have problems using it either, but I felt the old 'you can't remove the blue blobs, that's discrimination' myth needed exploding by pointing out all the other respects in which the map discriminates against the myriad disabilities in our country, and the impractibility of fixing all of them (not to mention the limited helpfulness of the current arrangement compared to the proper wheelchair map).

Yes, blue blobs are a minor inconvenience. The white blobs are also a minor inconvenience. But that's two minor inconveniences. And, when TfL ramp up the accessibility again, as they surely will, the likely result will be three minor inconveniences. What is the numerical base of inconveniences? How long before it wraps around to one major inconvenience?

It's not like they haven't removed information pollution before, anyway. There was an outcry when they removed the zones and the river, but in that same edition they also removed a lot of other spurious, unmourned noise. Then there was a dagger massacre eighteen months later. Blue and white blobs next?

(I'm going to go and actually read that information pollution page, now. It's not my fault obscure bits of DG's archives are more tempting...)

I honestly don't understand the point of the white blobs. If you can't board the train, who on earth is going to want to get down to the platform?? Surely all you need to know is whether it's possible to get from the street onto the train (and back up again at your destination)?? So the white blobs are providing information that couldn't possibly be of use to anyone. They definately should be removed.

As for the blue blobs, I agree that the tube map looks sooooo much nicer without them. But if they are genuinely helpful then I guess I can live with them. The question is, are they actually genuinely helpful for very many people at all...

The other thing is, the map doesn't show one of the key items that would be of use to mobility-impaired users of the tube: cross-platform interchanges between different lines (usually in one direction only). Even for travellers with heavy luggage, they are a Godsend. Basically, a specialised map for those require such info, and a simple map for general usage, is what is required, not this hopeless and confusing compromise that satisfies neither set of demands.

West Ham supporters obviously need all the support they can get, but three wheelchairs? Is it Cripple Town?
Seriously, why not keep the old fashioned ticks and have blue/white dots after the station name (like the British Rail symbol)

As a matter of interest, British Rail interchanges were once represented by an interchange circle with a dot in the centre (see scans of old maps here). The present station name convention wasn't adopted until later. If that is indeed the solution TfL adopts, it has a precedent.

I feel that this information is very useful, and should be made available in an easily parseable manner. I also think TFL is misunderstanding who this information applies to, though. The people who are most likely to find step-free access to platforms useful are the carers of the city's largest wheel-bound population: mothers with children in pushchairs.

Whilst it is true that many people with disabilities will also find it useful, I suspect that there are fewer of them that find this information as beneficial. As such, I'm not convinced that a white blob with a wheelchair sign in it is the most appropriate way to signal "step-free access to platform" on a map.

As an aside, I moved to Barcelona nearly a year ago. This city used the Paralympics as an excuse to embark on a major urban renewal that made the streets much more accessible to the wheelchair bound and the blind, with the usual caveats that apply in a broad statement like that.

The metro is about 50-60% accessible for wheelchairs from street to train. However, it took my partner and I the best part of 10 months to find out where the accessibility information was for the metro network: on a list on the side of the foldout map, which included all the stations that are accessible by line. We'd almost decided it wasn't available anywhere til a helpful member of staff pointed it out, confiding that most of his colleagues didn't even know where to look. It was not particularly well signalled, no blue wheelchair sign or anything, so that may have been why we didn't catch on sooner. Since then we've discovered that some wall maps have this information hidden in plain sight, too.

The blue blobs are unsubtle, but they do make it easier for those not in the know, especially the swathes of visitors who can't speak english, to work out more quickly which stations are more likely to be accessible or not. It also makes members of staff more aware of the infrastructure they need to know about. Having recently tried to board a picadilly line train at Hammersmith with my wheelchair-using partner, I can appreciate the distinction between step-free to platform and step-free to train, and I feel that having that information distinguishable on the map is a good thing.

At some point in the future, maybe we can have a cultural change where step-free access to the tube is the norm, and the maps will have to specify instead which stations aren't as easily accessible. If you want to get rid of the blue blobs, that should possibly be your campaign. But London has a long way to go before that becomes feasible...

I'd far rather have a more cluttered map than one which disabled people struggle to use. It's not a sense of "entitlement", it's wanting to be treated the same - i.e. not having to bring their own special map along but being able to access this information at a station whenever they can.

Some of the comments sound like the Daily Mail with their portrayel of disabled people as inconviencies. If you were unable to use most of the Underground stations you might feel a bit more strongly that your life should be made as easy as possible, especially as it's not an easy life being disabled in Britain in the 21st century. People don't use wheelchairs and have crutches just to annoy you, you know.

If Tfl had a large amount of step-free maps on offer at each station and a step-free map on a large board, then I might have some more sympathy. As it is, I'm on the side of my namesake on this one.

Oh and Max, your reply to Richard was patronising and rude. He was fully aware of your argument before he posted, he just disagrees. Your implication that he has no idea of your argument is daft.

Richard the Second, currently blind people also have to bring along their own maps, and can't access information at any station. They're just as covered by the DDA - hence all the on-train and platform audio announcements people keep complaining about.

By law, mobility-impaired people have the right to be treated the same as everybody else. Within the definition of "everybody else" is included all those for whom the Tube map does not currently meet their very real needs, who have equal protection under that same law. Do you think the wheelchair-bound have more rights than the blind, the partially-sighted, the colour-blind, the diminutive, the deaf, and all the others?

Blue blobs, and white blobs, may make life easier, but they only make life easier for a small section of the disabled, and then not as much easier as it could be (cross-platform interchanges, for example). They're no solution to discrimination - they just make it even worse, and the fact that they're ugly and impractical is at best of tangential relevance. The dream of a fully-accessible Tube map, at least until paper becomes obsolete and everybody gets information beamed into chips in their brains, will have, by physical necessity, to remain a dream.

One potential compromise which has already been discussed is replacing the two varieties with a glyph in the text, much as once happened with the British Rail symbol. This would still only be a sticking plaster and no replacement, however much you might want one, for carrying a special map, but it would at least be less intrusive while still being obvious.

And, yes, I do agree with your point that the various accessible maps ought to be available at stations, especially with all those moribund leaflet racks everywhere. If only TfL had put some money into that instead we might not be in this mess...

Step-free maps to be freely available at stations? Excellent idea. In fact I suspect they already are, but only if you ask for one.

But the godawful mess at West Ham convinces me that TfL's current step-free solution satisfies nobody.

TfL website still shows Stratford International opening "Summer 2011", no sign it's opening in 7 hours...

Actually, despite some media reports to the contrary, I now get this!

Interesting however, as I was expecting the "First Train" to be at midday so Boris doesn't have to get up early!

Oh dear Angrys of Angryville! The tube map isn't for you people. You know it inside out and back to front- all your comments are merely trying to preserve something for some higher historical purpose. Nice but not what the map is about.

Beck was a pioneer- he'd probably have risen to the challenge of how to make the tube more accessible in a pioneering way, which would have included this map.

Either that or he'd be a purist dinosaur resting on his (admitedly wonderful) laurels.

Go progress...

I don't get it. When people tidy up web sites by removing useful information, you don't like it. But you want to make the tube map look nicer at the expense of information which disabled people say they find useful - including my Mum!

Lack of information is as big a deterrent to travel as poor access. If mobility impaired people know what options are available they are more likely to use them.

The comment that people should use taxis is insuting as most disabled people aren't only isolated they are relatively less well off.

Pedant alert. All (I think) Victoria Line stations have had accessibility humps added to their platforms to allow step-free access to trains. But only some stations are step-free accessible and some (like Finsbury Park with its short staircases) are unlikley ever to have lifts installed.

Probably a LOT cheaper to provide disabled with personal taxis rather than all these ramps and lifts..
Loved the subtle joke about Pudding Mill Lane station!
Very Monkhousian I thought... They laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian... Well, they're not laughing now.
All done- Brain emptied.

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