a transatlantic mommy / mummy blog – my kids say "tomato" & "to-mah-to"

Pregnant and Passive Agressive, Undeground – What do you think of the “Baby on Board” badges?

So the bump and I commute to work daily by tube. For any of you who’ve jammed yourself into the tube during rush-hour you’re aware of what it’s like. For those of you who drive to work or have never taken the London Underground, it’s a hot, steamy smelly metal tube so full of people you don’t need to hold on to anything as the carriage sways because you’re propped up in some stranger’s armpit. Seats on the tube are always a hot commodity, seats on the end of the row even more so. People like them because you have a glass partition on one side you can lean against, are close to the doors and only have to sit next to 1 person.

For me, I haven’t had too much nausea with this pregnancy, but I’ve had a lot of hip pain which makes standing for long periods difficult, and certainly my center of balance has and is continuing to change making it more likely for me to tip over as the train sways and I lose my balance.

TFL (Transport for London) has recognized the tube is a problem for Preggie Ladies, and have developed a “Baby on Board” badge.

Research shows that Londoners agree that pregnant women should be offered a seat but also reveals that men are afraid to act on their chivalrous instincts in case they give offence. The badges give pregnant women the opportunity to identify themselves to other passengers and it is hoped that they will give them the confidence to ask for a seat if they need one.

London Underground’s Elizabeth Norris said: “It is sad but true that passengers who need to sit down feel that they cannot ask fellow passengers for a seat. Priority Seats on the Tube are clearly marked and anyone who really needs to sit down, including pregnant women, should ask.

“We want to find out if pregnant women will find these badges empowering, encouraging them to ask for the seat they need. We also want to find out how their fellow Tube passengers will react when they see the badges, encouraging them to offer a seat when they know it will be appreciated.”

London Underground has conducted some preliminary research into the issue of pregnant women and seats on the Tube. The research showed:

  • 92% thought that people sitting down should offer the seat to a pregnant woman without having to be asked;
  • 85% think pregnant women should ask for a seat if she needs one;
  • 78% of currently pregnant women stated that they never ask for a seat when they need one.

The end seats I mentioned, are designated “Priority Seats” and are labelled as such with instructions to give your seat to those less able to stand and include a picture of a pregnant woman and a person with a cane.

I don’t feel comfortable just flat out asking the person already seated in those seats to get up and give it to me. I’d like them to – but what if they have some disability I can’t see, a gimpy leg, or just had a really crappy day? Maybe they need it more than me.

My “solution” therefore to try and secure a seat on the tube has been to get on of those “Baby on Board” badges from TFL. I feel like such a ridiculous dork when I wear it.According to TFL:

MUMS-to-be travelling by Tube can get a baby on board badge so passengers know they may need to sit down.

The badges, available from Transport for London (TfL), overcome the awkwardness often felt by pregnant women of having to ask someone to give up their seat.

It also means passengers in priority seats can see when they should give up their place.

But the thing is – I’ve found it only helps me get a seat about 10% of the time. It looks like a follow-up study from TFL has validated my personal experience:

The ‘Mind the Bump’ study revealed that pregnant passengers are currently made to stand for an average of five stops before being offered a seat, and 35 per cent of mums-to-be are never offered a seat.

I’ve found myself racing men to seats, they win then spend the rest of the journey trying to avoid looking at me. It’s only been women who’ve given me a seat, and those have never been one of the “Priority Seats.”  Ok, I understand men are less observent, but I wear the badge on my boobs – can I put it anywhere more likely to be viewed?? Besides, most of the time men take a seat they race me to, other women on the tube start grumbling – so it’s not like the guys can’t hear what’s going on.

This guy (pictured at left) sat in the Priority Seat for 6 stops while I stood directly in front of him, bump and badge pretty much in his face. His face got closer and closer to his paper as he studiously avoided me.

I’d like there to be a second set of badges, stating something like “I’ll give you my seat if you need it” or “Knocked up? I’ll stand!” so then I could say to those people hey, thanks I’d love your seat, thanks so much! Or what about rewarding good behaviors we want to encourage in others. When the TFL gives us the badge they should give us a coupon booklet. Anyone who stands for us and offers us a seat unsolicited gets a coupon or voucher for something.  I’ve been so grateful the few times someone’s given their seat for me – I wish I could have done something more than offer my heartfelt thanks.

What do you think of the badges? Have you worn one? Have you given up your seat for someone wearing one?

Lastly, some interesting stats from LU’s “Mind the Bump” Survey:

  • One in three (36 per cent) frequently felt they had to avoid public transport for fear of having to stand for the duration of the journey
  • One in five (20 per cent) of expectant mums in the Capital spend more than £100 on taxis and private vehicles during their pregnancy to avoid situations where they may have to stand for long periods of time on the Tube
  • London emerged as the least pregnancy-friendly place in the UK, with 45 per cent of London mums having been shocked by the lack of consideration they were shown while pregnant.  (full survey results here on TFL)

LU’s Baby on Board badges are available from the LU Customer Services Centre (0845 330 9880) For further info, or to request a badge, email TFL at babyonboard@tube.tfl.gov.uk  (and if you do get a badge and wear it – let me know what your experience with it is)

 

 

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