A recent news report talked about troubles cyclists in Bangalore face on a daily basis. As a new mother I can relate to that. Yes, there is a connection. Have you tried pushing a pram around the city? Just around the block to a park? It is the scariest thing after having to cross road with an elderly at hand! It is no breaking news that the city’s infrastructure largely caters to able and citizens who own vehicles. Pedestrians and cyclists make up 8 and 2 per cent of the total road users in the city. But having an infant in your arms somewhat removes you from that category too.
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I don’t have exact numbers on hand but cursory glance at the population growth should give you a sense that there are many new mothers.
These days more women are out and about. But with a baby in your arms, what are your options? It is simpler if you own a car with someone to drive you around. You can take off whenever you and your child are ready. Even without a chauffeur, a baby strapped on to a car seat is still doable. But what if you don’t own a car? A two wheeler is out of question for a long time. Many women do drive two wheelers with their little ones strapped on. But safety is still an issue. Yes, scores of women carry their little ones on crowded BMTC buses, where, if one is lucky someone will offer her a seat or carry her baby for a while. But that is not comfortable, is it?
With Bangalore looking like an enormous constructions site, even walking is an issue. Take Ulsoor for example. The metro work has cut off most roads to this area. It takes a good 15 – 20 minutes to cross the road anywhere between Old Madras Road and Lido Mall. Try doing that while you are pushing a pram. The underpass construction in JP Nagar poses the same problem. And if you are an apartment owner in the outskirts of city then you have the signal-less highways to deal with. Footpaths are practically non-existent in most parts of the city and if at all there are people are driving their two-wheelers on it!
Many have argued with me that these are the “perks of motherhood” Even if I grudgingly give in to that argument, what about little things like taking the baby out to a public park or grocery shopping? The park had no ramp for the pram. Recently I braved it to do some shopping with the baby snug in a sling. But the aisles in the shop were so narrow that everyone kept bumping onto us.
Shopping poses another issue. There is no privacy for nursing mothers, even if you can afford a bigger retail chain for the space it provides. The stores have just one tiny room with just one seat. Recently I saw four mothers with wailing children waiting for their turn outside “mother’s room” at a retail store. This, despite the store dedicating an entire section for expectant mothers and infants!
The signal’s coming in very clearly; if you are a mother you cease to have claims on public space. If you are crazy enough to want one then you are on your own. Pedestrians and cyclists have formed advocacy groups over the years attempting to bring in an inclusive infrastructure policy. May be it is time young mothers stepped in too. Let’s call it MOBs Mothers and Babies. Any takers?