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.© Japan Today