Tube restores age of chivalry with 'baby on board' badges

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The Independent Online

In a more chivalrous time, men would not have thought twice before giving up their life for a woman's honour - now, it seems,giving up a train seat is too much to ask of them.

In a more chivalrous time, men would not have thought twice before giving up their life for a woman's honour - now, it seems,giving up a train seat is too much to ask of them.

Spurred by a perceived lack of courtesy shown to pregnant passengers, London Underground has introduced a badge system to encourage more people to offer mothers-to-be a seat during busy times.

The "baby on board" badges will be given to expectant mothers so fellow passengers who are lucky enough to be sitting down can easily identify them and do the honourable thing.

Research by Transport for London has shown that most people believe pregnant women should have priority access to seats on the Tube, but that many feel uncomfortable about making the offer for fear of causing offence.

A spokesman said: "We know that some people have a bit of a problem communicating with each other on the Underground. Pregnant women can feel uncomfortable about asking people to give up a seat, while some men have told us that they have offered their place to someone they thought was pregnant, only to discover they have got the wrong end of the stick, which ends up in them feeling very embarrassed.

"These badges are designed to make it a little easier for everyone - women may feel more confident about asking for a seat, while men should feel less nervous about offering one up."

The badges, which will have the Underground logo and the words "baby on board", are being used on a trial basis and, if successful, will be permanent.

Last year, Janice Norman lost her unborn child after being accidentally hit in the stomach by a commuter as she stood on a packed London mainline train.The case prompted Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP, to call for a campaign to encourage courtesy for vulnerable passengers.

Charles Mosley, editor-in-chief of Debrett's, publishers of manuals on modern manners, said: "There has been a down-turn in courtesy of this kind towards women. One of the problems is that women have fought for equality so fiercely that men feel rather nervous and alarmed or reluctant about making these gestures. Some women even see it as an insult of they are offered a seat by a man."

When asked if she would wear the badge, Andrea Varney, 32, from south London, who is six months' pregnant, said: "If it meant I was able to sit down more, I suppose I would, but I like the idea that someone is offering me a seat out of chivalry, not because I am wearing a badge telling them to."

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