Monday, 23 June 2014

Pushchair bans - Is our society anti-child?

Recently I saw a story that got my goat. A cafe bar in Leeds has imposed a ban on customers bringing in pushchairs, citing health and safety reasons. But this isn't what has got me annoyed - no, it's the comments from Joe Public commending the cafe for their actions, and even saying pushchairs should be banned from buses.

Yes, you read that right. There are people who think PUSHCHAIRS SHOULD BE BANNED FROM BUSES.

I'll come back to the hideousness of that point later. But even the comments that restrained themselves to merely discussing the horrors of buggies in eating establishments also tended to rail against the noise of crying and screaming from the children. So even if the parent had used a sling, or carried baby in using a car seat, this would still not have met with the approval of these miseries. This is the revealing part of these reactions: the pushchairs aren't the problem. It's the children.

There seems to be a surprising number of people who see children as an inconvenience. Never mind the old adage about children being seen and never heard - these people don't even want to see a child. They apparently think that parents should stay at home and raise their offspring behind closed doors, so that they don't get in the way of the oh-so-important grown ups.

Back to the bus point. Imagine this - you're a mum of two small children. You don't have a car. You need to get somewhere that isn't in walking distance - perhaps you need to go to a particular shop, or you have a medical appointment. Now, it's conceivable that if you had one child you could pop them in a carrier, but if you've got two, unless you're really adept at tandem carrying then your only real option is a buggy of some kind, and to take that on the bus.

But what if that wasn't an option? What if these perpetual moaners got their way, and buses banned pushchairs? What would you do then?

Being a parent can be a very isolating experience. Suddenly just getting out of the house is tough. If you have no car, getting anywhere further than you can walk is a battle. And yet there are people in our society who want to isolate parents even more, to cut off their access to public transport. There are still more that feel aggrieved by parents who dare to try and have a nice lunch out, or even just a coffee, with their children in tow to break up the monotony of the day or to have some much-needed time with friends.

It makes me fume. Children, and by extension their parents, are increasingly treated as irritants. In one of the playgroups I go to, the version of 'Wheels on the Bus' they sing contains the line, "The children on the bus make too much noise." Yes, that's it, tell them they're noisy and annoying from infancy. That'll really help their sense of self-worth and belonging.

The trouble is, a baby who is kept indoors for fear of offending others, a toddler who is taught that they are inherently bothersome, a child who is made to feel unwelcome in public places becomes a young person who is disengaged and disrespectful. Because why should they engage in a society which has been putting them in the wrong since birth? Why should they show respect for people when they haven't been shown any themselves?

Perhaps if we all accepted children as part of our society, wholeheartedly and with open arms, then we would be able to maintain a more harmonious relationship with young adults. Just a hunch. And wouldn't that be worth walking around a buggy for?


  1. Totally agree, we don't have a car and are reliant on public transport. We also live in a small village with no GP surgery and no decent food shop so we need to use public transport a lot. I tend to favour the train as it's cheaper and quicker up here but if we were still living in Edinburgh we'd use the bus more (there was a massive hoo-hah about buggies on buses there a few years ago, they did try and ban them). I think to anyone who wants buggies banned from buses, know this, you might be a bit annoyed by my child but I am pretty sure I am finding the whole experience way more stressful than you. I once overheard someone saying buggies should be banned on the train at rush hour 'so that hard working people like us have more room'. Made me so angry, like anyone would choose to take a buggy on the train at that time if they didn't have to. And parenting is hard work, on my work commute days I gladly give my seat and space up to parents! grrrrr!

  2. I have seen the opposite - buggies permitted on buses at the expense of wheelchair users. Buggies certainly shouldn't be banned but the expectation should be that they are folded at busy times and definitely if a wheelchair user needs the space.

    1. I absolutely agree, wheelchair users should always take priority.

  3. I haven't heard people saying buggies should be banned but we should definitely remember that buses don't (in general) have buggy spaces, they have wheelchair spaces that are used by buggies when no wheelchair user is around........ people who refuse to move or fold a buggy for a wheelchair user are despicable in my opinion (as well as breaking the law). I have to say almost no one I see with a buggy on a bus has two children with them - so the carrier option is a valid one (I always use a carrier when going on public transport) - but if you don't like a carrier or find it uncomfortable, take a buggy and fold it!

    1. Yes absolutely, wheelchair users should take priority. I think there are two separate issues here. This post is a few years old but there has definitely been talk (even idly) of banning pushchairs from buses, which could contribute to feelings of isolation in new parents. Equally, there have been cases of wheelchair users being refused access to public transport due to buggies already present on the bus - which of course isn't acceptable, but actually, I wonder in how many of those cases did the bus driver even ask the parent to fold the buggy? I'm sure most parents would happily do so if asked, although there will of course be the occasional exception. I think both issues are important if we're trying to achieve an inclusive society.