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Gov't panel discusses baby stroller use on public transportation

40 Comments

A panel of advisers to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism met this week to discuss drawing up a set of unified rules for the use of baby strollers on buses and trains.

The panel includes representatives from bus and rail operators, as well as lobbying organizations for childcare.

During Monday's first meeting, JR East said it had already allocated more space for baby buggies in their newly modeled train cars, Fuji TV reported.

However, a few issues regarding manners of mothers with baby strollers were discussed as baby buggies are becoming bigger. For example, some commuters have complained about not being able to get on a bus when there are many strollers on board.

Also, some indicated that baby buggies are kept open even though there is no child in them, which get in the way of elderly and handicapped people trying to use priority seats.

Current rules regarding baby strollers vary between the operators of Japan’s various public transportation systems.

The transport ministry wants the panel to formulate a set of rules that will make public transport appealing to parents with small children, while minimizing disruption for other passengers.

Some operators currently request that parents use wheels locks or safety belts to secure strollers and prevent them from moving. Others request that strollers are folded during peak times. The ministry has called on all trains and buses to use symbols that will indicate priority spaces for baby carriages and strollers.

The issue goes back many years. Two years ago, JR East Japan and a consortium of railway companies in the Kanto and Kansai regions launched a joint campaign appealing to mothers who bring their baby strollers aboard public transport. The main thrust of the campaign was to discourage “kake-komi” (boarding in a rush), but the message also requested that the baby strollers be folded up, especially when the train is crowded.

The campaign received a mixed response from the public. Some women said that it isn’t simply a question of manners aboard trains. If some trains had women’s only cars, then they should arrange for a car for parents with strollers as well. According to JR East, more than 70% of the several hundred callers requested more measures to provide safe, “barrier free” facilities for baby strollers at stations. Another 15% called to express thanks to station staff who had provided assistance to help a mother negotiate steps, and so on. The remaining callers requested that folding up strollers while on board be made compulsory, or asked that announcements be made to request that other passengers move aside to make room for the strollers.

Several potentially serious mishaps with strollers have occurred. In February 2006, the front wheels of a stroller became caught in the closing door of a JR commuter train, which was dragged for 20 meters before the train could be stopped. In 2008, a more serious mishap occurred on the Nankai Line in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, where the door closed on the handle of a stroller that a mother was pulling off the train, and she was dragged 140 meters before the train halted.

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40 Comments
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Having to make rules about common courtesy suggests a greater problem.

20 ( +23 / -3 )

How about allowing bicycles on trains while they are at it?

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

The problem is that there are just seconds in which to board a train- Japan is not a country where baby strollers in any way....,

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I think it's should be our common courtesy to understand and assist mothers with young trying to navigate. Usually there are so many supplies for the child that it is not always possible to fold, and sometimes the mother struggles juggling both child and stroller.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

So if the train is crowded some would want the mother to take the child out of the stroller and fold it? With what hands? That's a bit unconsiderate, I think.

A.N. Other, bicycles are already allowed on trains. You just need a bag for it.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

A panel of advisers to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism met this week to discuss drawing up a set of unified rules for the use of baby strollers on buses and trains.

Does it really take such a governmental think tank to tackle this issue? Good grief-

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Does it really take such a governmental think tank to tackle this issue? Good grief-

Any excuse to spend the taxpayer's money will be exploited, regardless of how redundant the matter is.

The issue of strollers is not a real problem, therefore there is no need to spend a lot of money to find a solution.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Add extra women only cars and add more space for strollers in them.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

The women only cars rule is only operational during certain times of the day, specifically rush hour for women clad in their best business suits who don't usually seem to be dragging around a toddler so there isn't much point. Also, we can't simply rule out the (minority) fathers who are pushing prams.

In the future, with greater flexible working hours and better daycare facilities being available to working women in Tokyo and other business centres, adding those extra cars and spaces might be a consideration.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

there aren't enough train staff to help with strollers. what would be more useful is ordinary people offering to assist instead of keeping their heads buried into their phones. The only people to ever help my wife are older women and foreigners.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Several potentially serious mishaps with strollers have occurred

Two examples in ten years (over two trillion passenger km), and the sky's falling in.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I see no solution for the buses, but perhaps the trains could have family cars where only parents with children and strollers may use.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I take the Hibiya line sometimes which passes through foreigner friendly Hirou and Roppongi. About once a year when new expats come you see the young mother with an enormous baby stroller eyes bugging out when the 8 am rush hour train rolls up. There is just no way, even for those in wheelchairs, unless a particular car would be reserved for them. Then, I think people crammed in at 200 per cent capacity would still not follow the rules.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Oh good. You know, I really want another kid, but how am I supposed to, say, go grocery shopping if I have 2? I have to take a bus to get the groceries. I can just manage it with my toddler in the carrier and holding (fricken heavy) groceries. Lets add a baby to the mix. Baby will want to be in the carrier, toddler can't be trusted not to run off without me holding her hand so she'll need to be in the stroller, to say nothing of holding all of the groceries. Now people are trying to restrict my ability to get around. Great.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Another "panel" wasting more money.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As the population ages, there are going to be more and more wheelchairs on trains. People complaining about pushchairs should reflect that one day, it might be you....

4 ( +4 / -0 )

As a father of a 1 year old who often uses the subway with a stroller I have a few thoughts on this.

First, fathers often push strollers too so the use of women-only cars would be really useless.

Second, even if a baby isnt in the stroller it isnt always practical to fold them up - baby`s need a ton of stuff and if you are carrying the baby it means all that stuff is in the stroller. Just a fact of life.

Third, most people are pretty polite and even give positive attention to a cute baby. But there are a minority out there who either display open hostility (usually these people are old) or just plain insensitivity (usually these are young people who sit in the priority seating, etc).

Fourth, a bigger issue for people with strollers is usually not on the train itself but in the station. You need to use an elevator to get up and down with one of those things. Some stations either don`t have them or have them in really inconvenient locations.

Also, in terms of manners nothing pisses me off more than when I have a 10 kg baby strapped to me, am pushing a heavy stroller loaded with clothes, diapers and baby food and when I get to the elevator there is a long line of able bodied young people standing in line, totally ignoring the perfectly good escalator a few steps away. Often these are the same people who sat in the priority seats on the train while I stood.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Lots of over-reaction going on here I think. I've seen many cases of parents (not just mothers) with strollers being quite inconsiderate about where/how they park them in trains. Just as lone travelers are instructed not to take up unnecessary amounts of space, people with strollers should be held to the same basic standard.

In recent weeks/months I've seen multiple (non-rush hour) cases of stroller using parents blocking doors, empty seats and aisles by parking their open strollers in awkward places. And I don't even mean in the priority area (where I don't have much right to complain), but in the general areas.

And for rush hours, I think it's generally fine to say that people who, for whatever reason, may find it difficult to navigate at rush hour, should do their best to avoid it. Or at least to plan their journeys such that the most crowded times and carriages are avoided.

nakanoguy: I don't disagree with what you said (I'm a foreigner who helps), but there do seem to be a lot of mothers here who'll refuse any offer of help. I usually offer if I see someone approaching/on a set of stairs with a stroller, but I'm honestly shocked when my offers are actually accepted. Most just say 'daijoubu desu' and tackle the stairs themselves. I respect that but maybe it's connected to why so few Japanese offer.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Agreed you can't just fold up the baby cars because they are full of bags, spare clothes, diapers, food and everything else a baby needs. Unless you want a folded up baby car and a bunch of bags all over the place then the parents trying to carry all that out of the train or bus with the child!? Not possible!

In the other end of the train (to the silver seats) remove all the seats and make it a baby car parking area.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The buses are where things get difficult. On Monday afternoon about 5 p.m., I was on a bus that stopped outside the Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza. The bus was already full and many passengers were standing, and this mother tried to get on with her baby stroller. There just wasn't enough room, so everybody ended up being squashed against each other even more to make room for the baby buggy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is an issue of priority, and once again 'priority' is being given to the wrong people. I saw a young woman just the other day with two kids, one an infant strapped to her front, and the other a toddler in a stroller, who had a hard time getting onto the crowded train. I got up to help her get onto the train when it seemed she was having trouble, but she got on just as I went to assist her. Someone took my seat when I did so, which was fine, but what was not were the oyaji standing in the area assigned for wheelchairs and/or stollers, and who did not move. So, she ended up keeping the stroller in the middle of the aisle. Didn't seem to put off by it, and she shouldn't be, but a number of people around her sure gave her the evil eye -- especially the old codgers who hogged the space she should have been given when they tried to get off and had to go around her.

As much as I love how polite people CAN be here sometimes I wish they were more aggressive as well -- like seniors shouting at young punks who take up priority seating and pretend to sleep instead of giving up seats, or with young mothers holding babies and/or strollers pushing the other people with the strollers (or nudging them) or just flat out telling them to move.

I'm sorry, but even if the trains are packed they need to make room to accommodate, or else the train and bus companies do indeed need to put on extra cars for mothers/fathers with young children, making sure that others do not board those cars, or if they do quickly asking them to move -- rush hour or not. Collapse the strollers during rush hour?? And do what with the kids, pres tel? It's not the manners of the people pushing the strollers that are the problem -- it's others.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Sorry to sound so blunt, but if institutions were more willing to teach (or even just allow) people to use common sense when growing up, these kinds of panels / studies etc wouldn't be so necessary.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I'm sorry, but even if the trains are packed they need to make room to accommodate, or else the train and bus companies do indeed need to put on extra cars for mothers/fathers with young children, making sure that others do not board those cars, or if they do quickly asking them to move -- rush hour or not. Collapse the strollers during rush hour?? And do what with the kids, pres tel? It's not the manners of the people pushing the strollers that are the problem -- it's others.

Agreed

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As a daily commuter in Tokyo, sorry to say but I just don't see it being feasible. All the power to mums with strollers, but Tokyo trains are no place for families. At times I wish families would really just buy a car instead of bringing everything but the kitchen sink onto the train. This is where Tokyo trains are incredibly convenient, but sometimes to the point of the privilege being "abused".

In other words, if you decide to have a family, buy a car. The train system can't handle it. I'm specifically talking about Tokyo here.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Parents with strollers are doing the best they can. If they find a seat they can fold the stroller but in no other situation can this be possible. No extra rules of courtesy should be asked of them but from passengers sharing the same car.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@sighclops

My building only has 3 parking spaces for 20 different apartments. They're all taken, and even then it's 35,000 per month just to rent the parking space. Not to mention the price of the car, insurance, etc. Also, for example, it takes about 8 minutes to get to the closest mall from where I live by train, but at least 30 minutes by car. As a parent, I would rather take that money and put it in our savings... maybe for our daughters education, maybe for if one of us (god forbid) gets gravely ill. But I guess I see your point. It would be better to blow that money on an unnecessary car because you feel inconvenienced by my kid's stroller. Makes complete sense.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@savethegaijin

My point being Tokyo trains have to deal with 36 MILLION commuters daily. You're but one case who chose that particular set of circumstances. Again, I was referring to Tokyo trains specifically. Of course all accommodations should be made for mums & prams on networks outside of Tokyo. It's a feasibility issue.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

@savethegaijin

Exactly my thoughts. Between this and the article on the pregnant woman who was demoted for seeking a lighter workload, no wonder women aren't having kids. When society deems every aspect of pregnancy and motherhood a burden, might as well not have them. It's not the government-proposed benefits and tax relief that will boost the birth rate but rather a changed and supportive attitude toward maternity and womanhood.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I think having one car on the train with little to no seats and using that car as the designated baby stroller/ wheelchair accessible/large luggage car would be a great idea! Also I noticed that there has been an ongoing trend to buy foreign made strollers as fashion or status symbols. Nice if you can get them but if you buy the super road warrior buggy built for jogging or other such activities and then try to roll yourself into a Tokyo subway things could get troublesome! I saw a young mother pushing one of those gargantuan fancy foreign strollers with a baby that couldn't have been older than two months in it. When she pushed the buggy into the elevator she and the buggy took up three quarters of the space. Maybe getting a more compact stroller for those days when you know you'll be out all day or travelling during rush hour might make things easier for everyone? A few of my friends who are mommies have done the same. Some even avoid traveling during rush hour because they know that most Tokyo commuters have little sympathy for those with kids...feel so sorry for them. Not everyone can afford to buy and keep a car in this city.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@sighclops

But... I live in Tokyo. I have to use these lines. I have no choice in that. If I know I'll only be shopping a little bit or gone for only a short amount of time I won't even bring the stroller.

But heres an example. Couple weeks ago my vacuum cleaner needed to be fixed. I wrapped it back up in its box, strapped my 12kg toddler to my chest in the carrier. Put all of the usual stuff (diaper bag, snacks, drinks, some toys, change of clothes just in case) in a crazy heavy backpack, strapped that on. Put the giant vacuum box on the stroller and had to go all the way to Akihabara to get it fixed, using, you guessed it, Tokyo trains. If I didn't use the stroller, I couldn't have gone I simply don't have enough arms, let alone the strength. I don't know how else to please you people. This is life. We live in a society. You are not entitled to live free of inconvenience from your fellow humans. Do you see what I'm saying? You see a parent holding a child, with an open stroller piled with (probably) baby's things and that days groceries, and all you see is someone who is inconveniencing you? My family, my daughter.... we're part of the same society you live in. To make life in Tokyo even remotely workable for parents they need to take trains, and they sometimes absolutely need to have the stroller open on the train. They're not doing it to inconvenience you, they're doing it so that they can make their already difficult lives even microscopically less difficult and exhausting, and just for that one tiny moment. It might be easy for you to think it's a good idea to limit the use of strollers on public transportation, but I'm telling you it will make my life, my children's life (and i'm guessing the majority of parents/kids who live in the Tokyo metro area) immeasurably more difficult. All because you find it inconvenient. Why does you being temporary slightly inconvenienced warrant making life exponentially more difficult for these families with children?

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Agree 100 percent with savethegaijin.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Just yesterday, a woman was boarding a train on the Oedo Line at about 4PM -- not even rush hour, plenty of room -- and the open disdain with which she was looked upon by fellow commuters was truly shocking. It was open, naked comtempt.

In a country where everyone pays lip service to reversing negative population growth and supporting families, it seems those sentiments invariably come with the caveat: "I'm all for it, just so long as it doesn't personally affect me."

Selfish, myopic twits.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

sighclops: "The train system can't handle it. I'm specifically talking about Tokyo here."

If the system can't handle it, fix the system! As I said before, change your priorities -- ESPECIALLY when you have entire careers and panels being formed to deal with the problem of depopulation and young families not having any or enough children, and when in many cases they cannot really choose where they live. There is no way, and you have ZERO right, to be telling people not to live somewhere that they need to be but that they should have kids to help you and yours now and in the future! THAT is not feasible.

2 ( +6 / -3 )

It is not an inconvenience to help a mother and young child, or anyone else who appears to need help, when it comes to trains. In fact, it's an opportunity to smile and enjoy the return of one.

@savethegaijin, your last comment was poignancy at its best.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Basically what SavetheGaijin said; Nobody with a baby buggy has it just to hold a kid.

As a father I fully support being able to keep buggies open on public transit. I get there's not a lot of space, and I am sorry to be a burden, but if that baby buggy isn't holding a kid it is most certainly holding a diaper bag, a random toy or my own backpack. It is never just sitting there empty. I suggest: remove some seats from the bus/trains and make them "parking" specifically for wheel chairs, baby buggies and those granny-buggies.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

clairedelune:

A change in attitude is indeed needed. However, Western Europe is much more family friendly yet still facing low birth rates, except from recent immigrants. First world countries have a lower birth rate than third world countries. Many reasons, despite many govts offering child stipends, maternity and paternity leave, and tax credits.

On another issue, I agree there should be separate cars for strollers, but also a women-only (for those afraid of groping), men-only (for those afraid of being accused of groping), and elderly/disabled cars (for disabled, not that the car itself is malfunctioning ;) ).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You need to use an elevator to get up and down with one of those things. Some stations either don`t have them or have them in really inconvenient locations.

I definitely agree with this sentiment. Japan has gotten better about equipping stations with elevators and escalators in the last 5 or 6 years from what I have experienced, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before we will be finished here.

Yes some of the placement of these items makes me wonder if there are just not enough good civil engineers here.

when I get to the elevator there is a long line of able bodied young people standing in line, totally ignoring the perfectly good escalator a few steps away. Often these are the same people who sat in the priority seats on the train while I stood.

Yes this also bothers me and as a person who hopes to join the father ranks in the next few years I imagine this will become more of an issue for me. This is one of those things that a train company and a ministry can either fix by enforcing it harshly, or people just need to be more considerate.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Humanity needs children in order for the human race to continue. Children require strollers (anyone who doesn't think so has never raised a child). Trains transport people, and babies are people. Anyone who has a problem with strollers on trains is an irresponsible member of society.

As for the idea that families in Tokyo should buy a car, well isn't that a nice sentiment. It entirely ignores the fact that owning a car in Tokyo is prohibitively expensive for most people, and that adding more cars to the mix just adds more CO2 to the air, hurting our environment even further. Suggesting that all families in Tokyo buy a car instead of riding the train is an irresponsible comment made by an irresponsible member of society.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Whatever happened to the doting obaasan stranger giving both mother and baby those protective smiles?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

First of all, sorry about the mishaps, but thankfully only two reported in the last decade, neither of them fatal.

Next, as some commentators noted, not all parents with kids in strollers are mothers. I am a father of twins, and usually do the (stroller) driving. We have learned to navigate Tokyo's public transportation system, and know to avoid peak times on the Yamanote line unless it's unavoidable. When we have to, we know to ask people to move out of the way. Usually they do, most travellers want to help, they are just too busy with their chat, phones or whatever to even notice until you ask. Some older guys or rock'n'roll construction workers won't move out of the wheelchair/stroller area for us, but most passengers do. And sorry, but most of the times that people offer to help, by holding open lift doors or lifting up strollers, they are making it worse.

I do not think the size of strollers, or the need to fold them, is a big deal. We have twins strollers, one a very compact folding model and one a bicycle trailer, plus two single-seat jogging strollers. The biggest danger to other passengers is when we fold up the compact twins stroller and I carry it.

Finally, to "Sighclops", using a car in Tokyo is not the answer. In fact even if it were possible, it would only make matters worse. What planet are you from?

One more thing: when my wife was pregnant, we never, ever had a Tokyo JR or subway line passenger offer her a seat, even in the "Priority Passenger" areas.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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