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September 3, 2011

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Boarding denial for old man onto bus raises debate

A debate has resurfaced after a local bus driver denied boarding to a weak old man on Thursday, fearing he could be injured during the ride.

There are more than 2 million seniors at least 65 years old in town and the numbers are expanding quickly.

Drivers, bus attendants and fleets are leery of senior riders because they are more easily hurt, such as during sudden braking. The bus company and bus drivers share the burden when paying compensation to injured riders.

The No. 751 bus driver refused the senior, about 80 years old, from boarding on Thursday about noon after finding him physically too weak.

Witnesses said they saw the man's son struggling hard to pull him up the front doorway.

"The humpbacked man was staggering slowly," a witness recalled. "When his son finally helped him get on the bus, the driver asked them to leave."

The dispute escalated quickly and the son got so irritated that he got off and blocked passage for the bus by putting his legs under the wheels, witnesses said.

Police were called to mediate the crisis, which ended with the bus management sending an empty bus to take the father and son home alone.

"We cannot afford such a luxury service each time we bump into a physically inconvenienced senior passenger," said a bus fleet official surnamed Cao.

Cao and some other bus managers interviewed by Shanghai Daily admitted that there's no law supporting drivers who refuse to pick up physically limited seniors.

"Our drivers could only try the best to slow down the driving speed and ask other passengers to pay attention to such seniors during the ride," said an official with the No. 49 bus - a route that carries lots of seniors because it passes many downtown hospitals.

The No. 49 bus fleet official also said the fare-free policy to seniors introduced in 2007 had spurred their heavy usage.

Some drivers and bus managers urged the government to introduce special bus insurance to cover compensation to seniors accidentally hurt, to ease the burdens on the bus operators.

The No. 49 Bus has encountered "many cases" in which seniors were injured accidentally during the trips, said the fleet official.

He said the drivers had to share in paying the compensation with the company, though they were often innocent. "Some weak seniors fell and got hurt only over a change of speed, but a healthier rider could handle such a situation smoothly," the official said.


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