Hypocrisy, Parking and Pregnancy

OK, I admit it. I am a hypocrite. Before I had a child, I used to curse mothers. As I drove around car parks searching fruitlessly for a parking space within a mile of where I was going, I could never understand why so much space had to be reserved for them. After all, didn’t they all have buggies or pushchairs to take the strain? They could even hang their shopping from them – no bags to carry, wheeled transport for their ungrateful offspring… why should they get the spaces right by the door? And did they have to take up so much room? Oh how I grumbled.

And then I had a baby. Suddenly, my perspective changed.

You see, car seats are not small. Babies wriggle. Toddlers are like a cross between a miniature Houdini and a landed fish, thrashing wildly to be released. If you have more than one child things are even harder, and once one of them is walking, even a very short distance can seem to stretch on like the London Marathon. I have seen the light. And now my plea has changed.

We need more of them.

Recently I found myself with a moral dilemma. There I was, in a massive rush at the supermarket, for once child-free. I had guests arriving within half an hour and I had clearly suffered some sort of mental breakdown on my last trip to the shops, having bought none of the essentials that I needed. Another side-effect of motherhood, perhaps. So there I was, circling the car park with an increasing sense of panic. And there it was, a shining beacon in front of me. An empty Mother and Baby space. I had a car seat in the back, who would know? I headed towards it – then then turned away, and drove to the other end of the car park and found a hideously small space. But as I squirmed my way out of the impossibly narrow gap between my door and the adjacent car, I knew I had made the right decision. I could not have lived with myself.

So why do so many people seem to think it’s OK to use these spaces? Every time I visit the supermarket (an inefficiently frequent event) I see cars and vans parked in the spaces that clearly have never had a child in them. Car seats, as I have mentioned before, are not small things, and as children these days are required to use one until they’ve practically left school, it is immediately apparent which cars are breaching this law of trust.

In a moment of uncharacteristic bravery, I reproached a couple today, climbing out of their van in the space next to me. Yes, there was a car seat in the front. No, there was no child. I asked why they had parked there when they had no children with them. “We do have a son, actually” replied the woman, angrily. “But not with you,” I replied, surprised at the fury they were failing to conceal. “If there aren’t parent spaces we normally park over there,” she continued, pointing to the disabled parking area, “So why don’t you do the same?” (This last was delivered in a tone that suggested what she’d actually done was told me to go to hell – or similar) “That doesn’t exactly solve the problem, does it?” I asked, pointlessly. “We’re picking him up in 5 minutes, we don’t have time.” Strange that they were still there 45 minutes later when I left after my own weekly shop…

Vast swathes of disabled parking spaces create deceptive areas of peace and quiet in these car parks. Yet mother and baby spaces are often limited to a mere handful. How many times have you walked around a supermarket or shopping centre and seen a mum or dad with a young child? Too many times to count. For every annoying cry or scream that you, the non-parent, hears in the aisles, for every raised eyebrow and disapproving expression, there is a stressed out parent trying hard to maintain a fragile grasp on their own sanity. And every single one of them needs that parking space. Parent parking spaces are significantly outnumbered by disabled spaces – and why? Because of the negative press any store would receive in the unlikely event that a disabled driver was unable to find a suitable space. Parents, it would seem, do not create so much PR.

There is no legal obligation, it transpires, to provide parent child spaces. There is a set percentage required for disabled drivers, but all the major supermarkets stated that they provide these spaces out of consideration for their customers. Few have the resources or inclination to police their spaces, trusting to signs threatening fines for improper use. You can hardly blame them. And it’s probably not such a big deal – really, there are plenty of bigger issues in the world. But when you’re 8 months pregnant and carrying a crying toddler towards the trolleys through the rain because you can’t park within 200 metres of the shop – it damn well feels like it’s important.

A brand new supermarket in our local town is installing licence plate recognition technology to ensure that no driver leaves their car parked for more than the permissable three hours. Yet there is no plan to monitor the parents spaces, according to a staff member, nor impose any punishment on drivers using the spaces undeservedly. It’s a shame such a measure is remotely necessary – a shame, but by no means a surprise. It would be nice to help maintain the sanity and reason of parents, by far their biggest demographic. After all – every little helps.

 

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~ by DelightingintheDetail on January 24, 2011.

4 Responses to “Hypocrisy, Parking and Pregnancy”

  1. “Parent parking spaces are significantly outnumbered by disabled spaces – and why? Because of the negative press any store would receive in the unlikely event that a disabled driver was unable to find a suitable space.”

    I don’t think that’s the reason, A! Disabled parking spaces are a legal requirement, whereas parent/child spaces are provided as a courtesy. I appreciate your frustration, but ultimately parent/child spaces aren’t actually necessary. Compare a wheelchair or zimmer frame user with a parent and child. The disabled user physically can’t get out of the car without extra space either side. A parent can leave their child strapped into his/her seat while they set up the buggy behind the car, then unstrap the child and carry it to the buggy. No, it’s not easy, but it is possible. Equally, a parent *can* get across the width of a carpark in foul weather, much as they might dread it. An elderly person with walking difficulties can’t.

    The real problem, therefore, as you’ve pointed out, is people being inconsiderate and parking in spaces which are designated disabled or parent/child when they are not entitled to. On that point I’m right there with you in being irate. Would that people were just a little more thoughtful of others’ needs – we can but dream …

  2. Yes I know, I wasn’t really trying to suggest that is the only reason, (and did also mention the legal requirement thing) I was merely being cynical. Also well aware that having parent spaces at all is something to be grateful for – mostly because of the safety issues to be honest, much less to do with the distance from the shop (they could be the far end of the car park for all I care, it really is the width of them that’s helpful!) It was written quite tongue in cheek for the most part, though I guess with my altercation yesterday in mind it possibly sounded a little more bitter than it was intended to! It started off as an article (hence speaking to all the supermarkets about legal vs voluntary provisions) but never did anything with it so after yesterday, combined with the nagging feeling of not having posted a blog for *ages* I just chucked it up there. But in all seriousness, I do realise the importance of disabled spaces, fear not! Thanks for reading, muchly appreciated! x

  3. I have the very same gripe. I remember one day seeing someone turn up in their little convertible and parked it in a mother and baby spot… all worried I presume it would get scratched.

    Now my children are older, I do try not to use them, as I don’t have pushchairs (and I do have sliding back doors! God send!) however, when I was pregnant with my second son, I was extremely worried to return to my car and wouldn’t be able to get in the driving seat because I was so big, and someone would have parked so close to me.

    I did write to the council too… arguing that demographically, there must be more women with children, then there are disabled, so why were only 13 spaces allocated to mother and baby, and pretty much a whole floor to disabled in their multi-storey. (In fact another gripe of mine is disabled badges parking on double yellow lines – why should they be exempt from paying for parking, and why is it safe for a car with a disabled badge to park on a double yellow, but not a normal car? Hmmm… Where is the logic in that?)

    In a multi-storey it doesn’t matter where the spaces are, we’ll use the lift anyway, because mother’s who need those spots, usually have a pushchair or a pram. I argued there should be at least a few on each floor!

    Yes, I too appreciate the need for disabled spaces… I just wish they’d use them 😉

  4. Teresa, in answer to your question about disabled badge holders being exempt from double yellow parking restrictions: the answer is that they’re not entirely. They can park for up to 3 hours, PROVIDED that there are no available adjacent parking spaces and that they park considerately. My cousin is a wheelchair user and has, at times in London, been forced to park illegally due to a lack of disabled spaces. (This has, on more than one occasion, been because an able-bodied user has parked in the disabled space, but that’s beside the point.) She has been ticketed just the same as anyone else would be.

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