Yesterday I travelled solo on the bus into town with my 4 month old in his pushchair. No big deal hey… Actually, it was a pretty big deal for me. Readers will recall that back in May I wrote a post about my ambitions to be a “multi modal mom”. Well, the baby arrived and at various points over the last four months I’ve reflected on that blog post and on our travel choices.
Our travel reality:
My first admission is that I had completely underestimated the shear effort just to get out of the house with a baby in tow – especially if you have a set time you need to be somewhere. It gradually becomes a little easier but I now know to leave an extra 15 minutes at least for an unexpected nappy change or demand for food.
My second admission is that we mostly travel by car. I had hoped to keep our car use low but the realities of having a newborn soon kicked in and the car is currently our primary means of getting around. Even this isn’t always particularly easy though.
The next easiest option is to walk. I’m lucky to have basic amenities – small supermarket, doctors, library etc – within easy walking distance. I’ll usually take the baby in the pram but occasionally in the baby carrier.
So public transport is definitely lacking in our modal mix. We have only used the bus very occasionally. This is why our trip into the centre of Edinburgh yesterday was such a big deal – taking a pushchair on the bus fills me with fear! OK, fear may be a slight exaggeration but I certainly worried about it and spent time working out some contingency plans which included taking a bus earlier than I really needed to just in case I couldn’t get on the first one or two with the pushchair.
In the end the journey there and back was fine – I got shouted at by one man who claimed he’d nearly tripped over the pushchair but shortly after I had a nice chat with another mom after I made space so she could also wedge her pushchair into the rather small space allocated on the new and ‘improved’ buses. The little one cried momentarily but that’s something in getting used to although I still feel a little uncomfortable when he does cry when we’re out and about.
I’ve only used public transport a handful of times and, in all honesty, it has been fine. However, I feel that luck has been on my side so far and might just run out on the next trip. If I could use the carrier for all my trips then it wouldnt be too problematic, but even at only 4 months old, I would struggle to carry the little man for much more than an hour. As such, I’d usually need to take the pushchair on the bus. To date the pushchair space has been available, or I’ve been travelling with other people who could help if we needed to collapse the pushchair.
So what could be done differently to make us use the bus more? It’s a tricky one and there probably isn’t an easy fix. Here are my initial thoughts:
- Bus design is an important factor. There needs to be suitable, and multiple, spaces for pushchairs in addition to wheelchairs among with easy access and boarding.
- A clear welcome to families and babies onboard. An equivalent experience I can give here is that I know I can breastfeed almost anywhere but I still feel much more comfortable feeding where there are clear indications (usually stickers or posters) that breastfeeding is welcomed. Could bus companies show their support for young travellers in a similarly transparent manner?
- Sharing tips. New parents are already turning to other parents about all sorts of topics – breastfeeding, baby classes, nappies etc. I have, however, never seen public transport discussed in these peer-to-peer forum.
- Using technology. Currently you have to wait until the bus pulls up at your stop to see if there is already another pushchair in the allocated space. This doesn’t give you very long to get baby out of pushchair and collapse it if you decide to get on board. Could there be an early warning system so you could get prepared before the bus arrives? It would be even better if it told you if there was a space on the next bus (but I can’t quite work out how this could function on a service where you don’t need to book a seat).
Do you have other ideas?