From the start of July, the city of Chengdu in China’s southwestern Sichuan province will be providing a women-and-children-only bus route.
|The driver of the No.905 gets the Dinoprostone suppositories ready|
The No.905 from Xiyu Street to Chengdu’s Central Hospital for Gynecology and Pediatrics will cost 2 kuai (19p) and will run every 45 minutes from 7am until 4.45pm. Like the designated bus-stops, the two buses on the 905 route are to be rose-pink, and have the charming slogan “All for the Women and Children” on their flanks. They do that thing where the bus lowers itself to make it easy to get on and off when you’re about to sprog, and have free, on-board mineral-water dispensers. The drivers are female, which is expected to make it easier for them to help passengers in need. The 38 seats are all upholstered, and there are more of them than there are in your average Chinese bus.
Having on many occasions seen pregnant women practically trampled under foot by crowds of commuters desperate to get a seat on what are invariably suffocatingly overcrowded public transport services, the idea of a dedicated route seems a stroke of genius. Buses in Taiwan have for years had seats set aside at the front (just as we have “elderly and disabled” seats in Britain) called the Bo’ai Zuo 博爱座 or “Universal Love Seats” (“Universal love” is a concept that can be traced back in traditional Chinese philosophy to the Confucian and Mohist thought of the Warring States period before China was even unified). Elsewhere on the mainland today you find a sign reserving seats for “old, weak, sick, disabled or pregnant” passengers, but then sixty years of communism have left most of the population so obsessed with their own personal gain that there’s normally a young, strong, healthy man sitting in them.