The Pushchair Problem

21 year old Martina, living in London, tells me how she faces problems traveling to university in the morning, because people do not like her having a buggy on the bus.

Martina Shaw is studying geography at UCL and travels to university for 9am on most days to attend lectures or get to the library. Like most other people she squashes onto the bus with her bag full of books, hating the morning rush hour. However, unlike most other people, she continually gets tutted at, with people sending her harrowing looks and rolling theirs eyes when they see her struggling to get onto the bus.

“People stare at me on the bus, thinking, why is she here? She is clearly not going to work; she has a baby with her. She doesn’t need to travel at rush hour.”

Martina is a student parent. She is in her third year, studying Geography. Her daughter Steph is now 5 months old, and Martina has to take her into university with her everyday.

“All my family live in Newcastle, and so while my mum offers to look after her, I don’t want my daughter to be half way across the country from me. Being a student, I can’t afford a nanny. Her father, while we’re still friends, doesn’t want to look after her and so I have no choice but to take her with me everyday. I don’t mind. But other people seem to!”

Martina constantly faces problems traveling to university in the morning with a pushchair. She tells me how people do not think you can be studying or working and have a baby at the same time.

“When the bus is packed, and then you get on with a pushchair, people think you’re an idiot. They don’t think I could be a student. They assume I’m a stay-at-home Mum and that I could get on the bus anytime I like and I’m just doing it to be awkward or something and it’s just not true!”

Martina also faces other problems. Only two pushchairs can be on one bus at the same time for health and safety reasons, and so often she will have to wait for another bus if parents are already on it. Many times she has been late for university because the bus driver has refused to let her on the bus.

In a consultation paper released by the Department for Transport last year, the DfT said they were going to crackdown on buggies on buses, to improve passenger experiences. In the paper it said parents would be expected to hold the children and fold the buggy up so it takes up less space on the bus. DfT said it was not about ‘penalising parents,’ but preventing buggies from taking priority over disabled passengers.

There have also been cases where parents with buggies have been attacked on buses in London. In April, a couple attacked a 23-year old mother after she accidentally nudged them with her pushchair. You can read all about it on the Evening Standard website:

Martina says she can understand why people get annoyed, and perhaps it is more important that disabled people have a space on the bus than mothers with buggies. But she does say, “What people don’t understand is that the bus is a service for us too. When I have all my university books, how am I supposed to hold Steph and fold up the buggy in the cramped bus space? Nobody offers to help either. It is yet another example of how student parents are not considered.”


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