There is nothing more annoying than a pram in a busy city. It bites at heels and monopolises pavements, buses, trains and supermarket isles. That was my opinion before I became a parent and it still is my opinion! The ideals enveloped in the notion of pram etiquette could go a long way to appeasing frustrated commuters.
Wheeling a pram around London, in as non-invasive a manner as possible requires some serious skill and a little consideration from both pram-pusher and public. Everybody has to navigate their way around this city and tolerance (not always easy to come by) should be the name of the commuting game.
Most trains on the London Underground, as well as buses, have allocated pram areas. The problem associated with tube travel is that passengers often don’t realise that the area housing the two seats that fold up, is a priority pram area.
In my commuting experience, if those seats are occupied I often have to ask the occupiers if they would mind moving. If you don’t ask and seat occupiers don’t allow you to park your pram in the allocated spot (usually because they haven’t realised that it is a pram bay) you will just have to park your pram wherever and that’s when non-baby-wielding travellers get annoyed as your bulky pram hogs their standing space – particularly at peak travel times.
I once caught the tube on a week day at 6pm from Tottenham Court Road Station, with my pram. Predictably, it was manic… not my tube ride but rather getting to the platform. Once I had navigated my way through the masses, I just made sure that I was on the last train coach where there was bound to be far more room to accommodate me and my invasive pram.
It was certainly roomier than the middle coaches; where commuters tend to congregate as the result of a last ditch attempt to board a train that is seconds away from departing. Travelling on the Underground alone with a pram is a challenge although there are always people who are willing to help you if you are struggling, which makes things a great deal easier. As for me, I have developed biceps and lats of an Amazonian woman after some serious pram hauling through the London Underground. I am prepared to do it for the sake of speedy travel.
Catching a bus with a pram is easier than using the Underground travel system mainly because of the lack of stairs. Buses work on the same principle as the Underground trains: there is an allocated pram area that is far more obvious to spot than on the tube.
People are thus inclined to move out of the pram’s way without being asked. The most annoying thing about travelling on a bus with a pram is that on many of the London buses there is a pole that stands in the centre of the allocated pram area, which hampers pram manoeuvrability. If your pram is the one stuck behind said pole, the pram arriving after yours will cage you in and you can only get your pram out if the pram next to you removes itself from its locked position.
Painful! The worst is when you get on a bus with your pram and another pram is occupying the spot free from pole entrapment, and instead of the occupying pram moving over as is the logical move to make, it reverses out so that you have to occupy the pole entrapping position. This annoyance is not directed at the pram-pusher but rather at a poorly designed bus. Remove the pole and all will be well.
It seems likely that plans for pedestrian lanes on Oxford Street are to go ahead: a fast lane for city dwellers and workers, and a slow lane for tourists – perhaps a pram lane would be a good idea?
However, if people refrain from stopping idly in the middle of the pavement and prams kept to one side allowing people to pass, these lanes would probably not be necessary. One of the biggest problems with prams hogging space is that over time they become a device on which shopping, never mind baby paraphernalia, is draped.
The width of a pram is thus massively increased and irritatingly so. I am often guilty of ‘shopping drapage’ but I will concede that if that is my aim I try and keep as inconspicuously to one side of the pavement as possible.
In the mad hustle and bustle of city living, being aware of others is seldom a priority but a little consideration would certainly go a long way to relieving the stress often involved with commuting around the city.
Everyone has places to go and people to see and everyone is entitled to make use of public transport at any time (within the guidelines stipulated by the city of London) including tourists with luggage, pram users, residents and workers. Tolerance, awareness and manners will make a happy commuter!