Singapore’s low Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is a major challenge. Money and benefits are only one driver of TFR. How much society welcomes and values children is another key factor, and family-friendly public transport is an aspect of this. It may be time to re-think the policies regarding strollers on wheelchair-accessible buses.
Parenthood is made more difficult when bus companies insist that parents fold strollers and carry their children on the bus. With two young children, a bus trip becomes nearly impossible. A Google search will turn up many instances where families had to endure tough commutes made even tougher by these rigid rules.
Some bus drivers try to help parents with young children board their buses, yet all these good intentions are limited by rules barring open strollers in buses. Bus companies generally cite safety reasons for forbidding this, but there is no solid data to back this up, or explain why other cities in Europe, North America and Japan allow it.
Perhaps the status quo was from a time before wheelchair-accessible buses, but times have changed.
Young NTUC — which I volunteer with as an activist — commissioned a survey involving 100 parents of young children under three years old in July this year. The findings show that there is overwhelming support for changes to our bus transport system.
Among the respondents, 98 per cent were in favour of allowing open strollers in wheelchair spaces during off-peak hours, with priority given to the disabled, of course. More of the respondents believed that it was more dangerous to fold a stroller and carry a child in a bus than to have a child securely buckled in an open stroller.
Moreover, the safety features built into wheelchair-accessible buses greatly reduce the risk of injury compared with non-wheelchair-accessible buses.
As our bus services are bolstered by the Government’s addition of 1,000 buses to the fleet, it is time to look into providing a more inclusive ride for all, especially during non-peak periods. If a disabled person needs the space, the stroller could still be folded.
Can we not allow parents to push their young children in open strollers on board wheelchair-accessible buses for an inclusive, family-friendly environment for all?