Parents Need to Use Lothian Buses Too
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Lothian Buses has launched its new fleet of 100-seat double-decker buses to maximize passenger capacity. Yet in doing so it has moved backwards in terms of access and inclusion. Until now many of the operator’s buses in Edinburgh have been child-friendly – with both a dedicated wheelchair space and an additional pram/buggy space provided. However, the new fleet has only one available space for either a wheelchair or (if unoccupied) a pram/buggy or other users, for example, people using walking aids or accompanied by guide dogs.
While parents with young babies have no specific protection under the law, Lothian Buses’ decision in this case shows a lack of commitment to ensuring access for all members of the community – including parents or carers with children. Parents and carers need to get to the GP; to support groups; to breast-feeding clinics; to nursery; to work. If these single spaces are full, these passengers must either wait for another bus, or fold up their pram and carry their child on board. Multiple complaints have been made to the operator about long waits for buses with available spaces – waits that parents and carers can often ill afford. Nor can passengers predict which type of bus will arrive and whether it will have available space on it. Moreover, in some of the new models, an unfolded pram blocks one or two of the three available side-facing seats, meaning that there is often only space for one seated passenger to sit next to a buggy, which is a downgrade compared to the two seats available in some of the operator’s previous models.
Folding a pram/buggy, meanwhile, is not as straightforward as it seems. Foldable forward-facing pushchairs are unsuitable for babies under six months old, as they do not provide sufficient spinal support and may compromise breathing. Nor is folding a pram/buggy always practical – indeed, those who suggest that it is ‘easy’ should be required to spend a day boarding a busy (and often moving) bus whilst trying to hold a baby or a toddler in one hand, and folding a pram with the other. For example, a parent travelling to/from work with two children (of which one is in a pram) may potentially have to juggle holding onto a changing bag, a work bag, a toddler and a baby while folding a pram. Moreover, much of the new fleet has very little luggage or storage space for a folded pram/buggy – calling into question yet again the extent to which parents and carers have been considered in the design and requisition process.
This lack of access is particularly important given many of the routes used by these new buses are heavily trafficked, making it more likely that passengers will need access to both wheelchair and pram spots. Neither disabled passengers nor parents/carers benefit from a reduction in accessible bus space. This also has environmental implications, highlighting the contradictions of the work Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government/Parliament are doing to combat climate change whilst the bus company owned by the council is driving parents and carers away from public transport (and towards car ownership).
We therefore call on Lothian Buses to do the following:
- Commit to a review of its conditions of carriage with regards to pram space, and provide a commitment to a designated pram/buggy space in addition to a dedicated wheelchair space on all buses in the fleet;
- Modify the 100-seat buses with only one wheelchair/pram space to add another bay area that can be used for prams/buggies (for example, by removing some existing seats);
- Modify the bus tracking system and app with clear information about whether buses are pram/buggy-friendly, and (if possible) whether the accessible spaces are occupied.
- Establish a parent/carer service user consultation group or experience forum that should be included in discussions on future design and service changes.
Photo courtesy of Lothian.
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