Buggy Wars: Why Is It So Difficult To Take Public Transport With Kids?

29/03/2011 11:31 | Updated 22 May 2015

difficult to take public transport with kidsWhen I gave birth to my eldest child I was still a gung-ho city girl, used to jumping on and off public transport with ease. I was determined that having a child wouldn't cramp my style.

One or two hideous trips into London by public transport soon put me right.

Whilst it was shocking to read yesterday's tale of pram rage that left a disabled mother in hospital after a fight over buggy space on a bus, to anyone who has tried to use buses and tubes with children in tow it comes as no surprise.

Despite paying my taxes and having a fully charged up Oyster card ever since I had my children I am effectively banned from public transport as it is just so child-unfriendly it's unusable.

Buses are a sweaty struggle of trying to manhandle your buggy onboard, or attempting to fold it up whilst holding a wriggling, usually screaming, toddler under one arm; a feat that would tax the skills of Houdini. Of course this is if you can hail a bus that will allow you onboard in the first place, because if they are too full or already have mums with pushchairs on board you are out of luck.

Many was the time that I would stand in vain at a bus stop watching them sail by with a dismissive wave from the driver, which I took to mean there was no room for me inside. Once you do manage to struggle on board you are met with a barrage of hostile tuts and glares as the other passengers assume that they have more right to travel than you simply because they have no offspring. As if daring to bring a baby on board was in some way offensive or unreasonable.

You might think that travelling by tube would be more civilised, after all the trains are more spacious than a swaying double-decker. To an extent this is true, but you have to be prepared to lug your pushchair up and down steps and balance it precariously on escalators, which you can forget if, like me, you have twins or two very young children and have to use a double buggy.

Transport for London boasts that it has 60 stations (out of 268) that have 'step-free' access, but delve deeper and the situation is a little more complex. A quick look at the step free access map shows that many of these stations aren't quite as accessible as they first appear.

Take my own local station. On entry you can wheel your pushchair straight onto one platform, which is why it has won a place on the step free map. On exit, however, you have to carry your buggy up and down two steep flights of stairs. Again this is just about doable with a lightweight pushchair and no other luggage, but is out of the question with a bulky pram or double buggy.

You might think that fellow commuters would take pity on a poor mum struggling to carry her buggy up the stairs at a tube station. After all, all you are trying to do is get out and about with your child. But the milk of human kindness has run dry on the public transport network and more often than not you will be left to carry child, pushchair and bags alone, as people rush past pushing you out of the way.

When former London mayor Ken Livingstone would rail against mothers in their 4x4 cars, exhorting them to take public transport instead I wanted to scream at him that he should try getting four small children around London without the use of a car for a week, then come back to me and tell me what a good idea it was.

I for one will be sticking to my car until all four of my children are out of their buggies. I know when I am not welcome - and it's whenever we set foot and pushchair wheels onto public transport.

Do you agree or do you happily take public transport with young children?

What are the best and worst experiences you've had on public transport with small kids?


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