If you are a regular user of BMTC, you would know that the commute during peak time is no picnic. One of my recent trips on a Sarjapura Road route at 5:30pm was no different. The bus driver and the conductor, were on an auto mode – shouting at the women – go inside, don’t crowd around the pillars, while driving / issuing tickets. This kamba bittu hogri (leave the pillar/support and go inside) is a refrain I’ve been hearing since I was a school student.
So why do women crowd around the three kambas in the ‘ladies’ section? One glance and you realise majority of the women barely manage to reach the overhead bars / hangers for support. You cannot really balance on your toes for the entire journey, can you? Not with the way the driver ends up applying brakes, every few minutes. And if you are balancing a child or a large bag in one hand, the kambas are simply much more convenient.
They also refuse to go inside, because then one is at risk of being groped, if you end up close to the ‘men’s’ section. Not many women may admit but this is practically an everyday story. Irrespective of the woman’s age or clothing.
I do believe that if they could travel without harassment, more women would use public transport, even if it is crowded. A 17-year-old college girl once told me "I can’t wait to be 18 and get my driving licence. Then I don’t have to fight off these men every day."
Talking of large bags, if you are traveling the towards KR Market, Shivaji Nagar or Majestic in the early mornings or early evenings, you will see both men and women with large bags and baskets. These are construction workers, flower or vegetable vendors carrying their wares and tools. They along with school children with their large school bags are considered a nuisance by both BMTC staff and other commuters.
But no one has thought of creating a space in the buses for them to keep their baggages. So far only the air travellers using Vayu Vajra, have that privilege. Yes, agree that these ‘tin boxes’ as they are infamously referred to, barely have enough space to accommodate commuters, but why isn’t this thought of?
Another design ‘idea’ that irks me to no end is some of the seats that face each other. This again is in the women’s section. It makes most women uncomfortable, because they end up facing the men at the back. Considering, BMTC is a fertile ground for harassment, their discomfort is completely justified. Most women end up turning sideways staring out of the window or at the crowd inside the bus, the whole commute.
Women, who can afford to, tend to use the air conditioned buses because ‘they are brighter, more spacious and there is lesser harassment.’ But this is an expensive affair and not every woman can afford it.
Many of the tin boxes also don’t have low floors or steps to get into the bus, making it difficult for mothers with children, pregnant women and older women and men to climb in ‘quickly.’ And if you are disabled, you cannot negotiate these buses without help. Some of the newer buses and all the air conditioned ones, do have low floors and the ease is obvious.
It is obvious that the number of buses plying the city’s roads are simply not enough. But it is imperative that they do think about these design aspects, because when you design for the women, you do include a larger section of people – children, older men and the disabled, and not just for able-bodied men.⊕