'Manspreaders' in San Francisco could face $500 fines

Bay Area transport director proposes fine for people who take up more than one seat on public transport

People who take up more than one seat on trains in San Francisco could be fined up to $500, in a plan that could be see 'manspreaders' targeted.

The director of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), a rail system that serves San Francisco’s Bay Area, proposed the penalties for anyone using an extra seat for a reason other than their body size or a medical condition.

Joel Keller said they should initially be fined $100, with $200 fines for their second offence - with repeat offenders facing charges of up to $500.

It follows a statement from San Francisco Municiple Transport Agency in January that promised to work on solving the rising problem of ‘manspreading’: the male practice of sitting with legs spread widely, in a position that occupies a lot of room.

 “In the past, when we had plenty of seats, it was not as serious an issue as it is today,” Mr Keller told the San Francisco Chronicle.

 “But with ridership growing and seats becoming a much more desirable commodity, we have to make sure they’re available and avoid them being taken up with backpacks, luggage or someone using two seats to lie down.”

Mr Keller stated that the proposal was not an attempt to target homeless people using the service: “this is not an effort to target or harass anyone, merely an effort to make seats available.”

The proposal needs to be voted on by a board of directors twice before the rule is put in place. 

The BART Police Citizen Advisory Committee endorsed the new rule - on the condition it was not enforced on carriages where there are plenty of empty seats available. 

It is not the first time that public transport officials have attempted to prevent ‘manspreaders’ and others who take up more than one seat on public transport. 

The Metropolitan Transport Authority in New York City launched a campaign in 2014 to ‘stop the spread’, with posters put up around the city’s Subway. 

The campaign also targeted women who take up a lot of space while applying make-up on the Subway, and people that attempt to dance on the poles.

Some men defend the practice of manspreading, saying they cannot comfortably cross their legs, or sit with their legs close together because of their physiology. 

Travellers’ reports that ‘manspreading’ is intrusive or uncomfortable to other passengers have led to campaigns against the practice, as well as the first manspread-related arrest occurring in New York last year. 

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