Forget Brexit, what about Buggy Exit?
It’s not just Brexit that the Supreme Court has been thinking about and just a couple of weeks before it was a very different leave or remain debate that was exercising their minds. In this case the ‘remainer’ was on a bus in Wetherby in Yorkshire with her baby snoozing peacefully in the pushchair. The ‘leaver’, Doug Paulley, was in his wheelchair on the pavement trying to get on the crowded bus. A referendum was held by the driver but with only 2 votes cast and a 50/50 split stalemate ensued. The mum wouldn’t fold the buggy to make space as that would have woken the baby and so poor old Doug was left on the pavement as the bus drove off.
The buggy was taking up space in a designated wheelchair space and Leeds County Court awarded Doug £5,500 in damages. But the appeal court overturned that ruling and the whole thing ended up in the supreme court who decided, mostly, in Doug’s favour. The baby slept through the whole thing.
But some solid innovation could have prevented this rather mushy outcome. We’ve all used buggies at some point or other and we’ve all got suggestions for how to make them better.
One of the first designers I ever employed got inspired by Lord Dyson’s early reinvention of the wheel barrow by putting a basketball where the front wheel used to be to increase manoeuvrability and make less ruts in the lawn. In fact, it was watching one of the manufacturing processes for this barrow that gave the Lord his idea for a cyclonic bag less vacuum cleaner. My young designer put the ball on the front of a buggy creating an off-road style that would be perfect for those mums looking to get in shape.
In 2009 15 families took legal action against Maclaren amid allegations that the firm already knew that its products were injuring children. In fact Maclaren had already recalled a million buggies in the US after a dozen children had parts of their fingers cut off. Maclaren filed for bankruptcy in the US and that is proof of how important it is to make products safe.
Sure, I get the need to have a buggy fold up and have spent many unhappy hours trying to shoe horn it into the boot of my mid-size family saloon. But what’s the root cause?
A baby buggy is several times larger than its occupant whereas a wheel chair is much more appropriately sized relatively speaking. The reason the buggies have become so big is more to do with the 101 other things the parent must do apart from just transporting the baby – after all you’ve just got to have those cup holders to hold the vat of frothy warm milk disguised as coffee! And if you can’t fit 8 bags of groceries underneath whilst pushing and texting at the same time then it’s clearly deficient.
I’m not suggesting following the African example of carrying the child in a sling around your neck even though that has many advantages, not least that you can stuff this ‘buggy’ in your pocket. But there are many things on the planet that can convert from large to small without chopping fingers off in the process – how about a life raft or pop up tent? No chance of losing a finger in one of them.
It is a difficult one but a fresh look is certainly needed and I just love the idea of a semi rigid inflatable baby buggy. The kids would just love it!
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, or forward your thoughts to us.