Travelling By Public Transport
after a hip replacement

Travelling by Public Transport

Travelling by public transport

Will you be travelling by public transport after your hip replacement?

Are you worried about how you will manage?  Well so was I.

If public transport is your only option then its wise to mug up on the challenges you'll be facing. 

It can be a bit scary at first, so be prepared, stay safe and enjoy your new found freedom.

Top Tips for
Travelling by Public Transport

  1. Don't Rush Things
    Take your time, get used to going outside before you take on the additional challenge of public transport. Your first few outings will be focused on crossing roads, walking down crowded pavements and opening shop doors. Be patient.
  2. Take a Friend Along
    Don't do the first journey on your own. You'll need some moral and, probably, physical support. Friends are also good for carrying things which you will find difficult.<./li>
  3. The 90 Degree Rule 
    Don't think about travelling by public transport until you're okay to bend more than the 90 degree rule allows. No seats will be high enough. Straightening your operated leg whilst sitting down on a low seat is a good way to preserve the rule. But be careful as there may be insufficient room to stretch your leg out or you might get jolted about by other passengers or the vehicle moving off.
  4. Always take a stick with you. 
    If you don't have a stick don't expect someone to give up their seat for you. People need a clear message that you need to sit down and using a stick delivers that message.
  5. Face the Direction of Travel
    Whenever you're travelling by public transport there will alsways come a time when you need to stand up whilst the vehicle is moving. If you are standing sideways to the direction of movement and the vehicle breaks suddenly all your weight will be thrown onto your front hip - that hurts! The same happens if the vehicle accelerates suddenly only this time the weight will be thrown onto the other hip. If you're facing the direction of movement this shock can be absorbed by bending your knees - much better. Facing backwards is the next best option.
  6. Use the Poles and Straps
    Whenever you are standing up hang on to something tight. I like to hang on to two things to stabilise myself. With only one you can be swung about by the movement of the vehicle.
  7. Ask For Help
    If you're going to be travelling by public transport you can't afford to be shy! If you're stuck ask someone for help. I had a problem after a tube broke down and asked for help. The staff member took me through a little known short cut. Very helpful and saved me a long walk.

People like to help but they often are shy about offering.  So ask but ask for something specific.

Try "Could you put this package onto that rack for me?" rather than "Can you help me?" In the first case the person knows exactly what you want.  In the second they're being asked to say 'yes' to something vague where they've no idea what they're letting themselves in for ,and may even think you're begging!

Read on for specific information for dealing with trains, buses and tubes

Buses, Tubes and Trains

Travelling by public transport covers a variety of vehicles each with their individual issues. Buses are probably the easiest vehicles to get in and out of so let's start with those.

Buses and Trams

Nowadays most buses can lower their front entrance to allow easier access and, in my experience, drivers seem ready and willing to do this. The back exit is different and that defeated me more than once. It's hard to ask the driver to lower the floor if you have to shout down a crowded bus (one of the more embarrassing things about travelling by public transport). I found it simpler to leave by the front entrance again asking the driver to lower the floor.

Tubes, Subways or Metros

Tubes, metros or subways - call them what you will - are usually easy to get on and off though there are sometimes gaps between the train and the platform. If you are still on the platform then just move down to the next carriage. If you're on the train trying to get off either ask for help, try a different door or wait till the next stop and make your way back. A drag I know but better then a trip to hospital.

The real problem with tubes is getting to the platform in the first place. Can you manage escalators? On my first trip out I found the up escalator just about okay (take huge breath and limp very quickly) but the down escalator was too much. This meant that for the first few days I was confined to stations with a lift or (shortish) stair access. I also quickly learnt that I must take into account where I would need to change.

To change lines on the underground requires considerable knowledge of the layout of all the possible stations involved. For instance to change from the Victoria line to the Northern line at Stockwell involves a flat walk of about 15 yards. Whereas changing from the Jubilee line to the Piccadilly line at Green Park is a total nightmare. Difficult to find (and often out of service) lifts and long, long corridors. I'm sure readers from other cities must face similar problems.


Have you ever been to Clapham Junction and made the leap from train to platform? If not imagine the train doors sliding open and their being a truly huge gap that you must somehow fling yourself down and across and you'll get the picture. Okay so most stations aren't that bad (and most of CJ is okay) but be warned and think about where you will be travelling and what the station is like.

Train stations also often suffer from a total lack of lifts. I'm aware that these are slowly being installed across the network but until then be ready to clamber up and down stairs if you need to change platforms.

Another problem with some of the older trains is that boarding requires you to climb a few rather steep steps. I find them difficult.

On the plus side you can book a wheelchair and ramp to help you board a train. I don't imagine you'd want to do this on a daily basis but for a longer one-off trip the train companies will oblige. I used this a few years ago returning from Cumbria with a broken leg.

An Adventure

I had mixed feelings about travelling by public transport the first few times. The escalator at the tube was very scary and I avoided it until I was sure I could get on and off quickly enough.

I definitely wouldn't have managed without friends to help to start with but once I'd got the hang of it I was fine. It's a very freeing experience after being cooped up indoors.

Related Links: 

Preparing for Recovery 
Essential Equipment 
Waling Aids

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