Would you give up your seat for a pregnant woman?

Click above to see a larger image.

Elizabeth Carey Smith recently gave birth and during the last four months of her pregnancy, she carefully tracked how often other passengers on the New York City subway volunteered to surrender their seat so that she could sit down.

A graphic designer by trade, Smith made the above poster to graphically show how often her fellow passengers showed a measure of graciousness. The good news: in 88 out of 108 subway rides, someone did offer to give up their seat — and men did it in equal numbers to women.

Here’s a good post about Smith’s project at the Wall Street Journal’s Metropolis blog, including an interview with Smith. And here’s Smith’s website with a digital copy of the poster available for download.

As for Metro, I just searched metro.net for the word “pregnant” and didn’t find anything about policies governing pregnant riders — although of course there are notices on buses and trains asking riders to volunteer their seats to elderly and disabled patrons. So let’s poll this one:

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10 replies

  1. Depends on where I’m sitting. If I’m sitting on seats which are facing the aisle, it’d be easier to stand up and give her the seat.

    But most seats on LA’s trains are forward facing which makes it harder to do. Moreso if I’m sitting on the window side. Even if I’m willing to give up my seat, if there’s a seatmate next to me, I’d have to say “Excuse me, I’d like to give my seat to her” squeeze out of the seat and etc. I’d like to be nice, but it’s too much of a hassle.

    Plus, I don’t even know why trains in LA are forward facing anyway. It’d be better if they just faced the aisle so there’s more standing room space. Makes it much easier to get on and off.

  2. It’s a complicated concern owing to many of the perspectives offered above.

    I find that a bit of eye contact with someone who might appreciate a seat near the door of a bus or train, tends to work.

    Whether it is a person or couple with a baby (I understand having a toddler is quite a campaign) or very young child, a pregnant woman, a blind man, an elderly person, or even the not too infrequent guide with a couple or more disabled kids, a quick visual acknowledgment tends to convey a quick social agreement that requires little effort. The subtle respect shown, should the person prefer to not have the concern announced, is quickly reciprocated with either a move to sit down, or some signal appreciating the gesture and politely declining. (One may then return to reading.)

    On the other hand, I do witness too many incidents whereby the gross lack of courtesy by those who plop down their able bodies in the easiest seats not only deny a seat to those who clearly need one, but with out-stretched legs or sleeping positions impede ingress to those merely boarding the bus. Then it becomes a challenge, and as a 6’3″ white guy and former New Yorker, I try to be diplomatic when I feel that there needs to be some courtesy exhibited.

    When that fails, I pull out my camera and film the incident. (I have filmed all of the above examples.) I am wont to do more, especially when the potential public humiliation of being recorded as a schmuck tends to fail to compel folk to not be a schmuck, but I stop there.

    I am sad to see that this is even a concern, let alone something that requires so much discussion in the second largest city in the United States.

    However, for those who want to make mass transit amenable, lemme reiterate that a bit of quick eye contact tends to work best. Those who implicitly expect a seat owing to their condition, will anticipate and appreciate it regardless of whether they oblige it.

  3. I see people not giving up their seats all the time. They’ll even look at these elderly, disabled, and pregnant people and stay in their seats (really ticks me off). I always give up my seat for them. I keep my mouth shut, but I always want to say is “Have some respect!”.

  4. Another thing is if you want to make your transit system respectful of pregnant women, you’ll have to do something about all of the bus stops with no seats and all of the bus routes with infrequent service.

  5. Seems like there are two issues.

    1) Whether people offer seats to pregnant women.

    2) Whether people give up seats when asked.

    People should definitely do #2. I’m not so sure about #1 though. How do I know whether or not a pregnant woman wants to sit down unless she asks for a seat?

    You could argue from a feminist perspective that you shouldn’t assume that women are weak (need a seat, need your help) just because they’re pregnant.

    On the other hand if they want it and express that, they should get it.

  6. i ride the blue and red line everyday and i always see people giving up their seats for elders, handicaps, and etc. of course, there are a few that don’t, but most of the time they do. and i noticed that the blue rail is usually empty at the end of the tail, so that’s the best place to sit, even if it means i have to walk up to get there.

  7. Strange, it must vary quite a bit by line.

    I take the 733 every morning. I start at Union Station so there’s always a ton of seats. As soon as it starts getting full, I stand up. And I constantly see others do the same, or at least give up their seat for elders.

  8. I am partially disabled and ride the blue and red lines and busses/dash daily to commute to work. In my experience it is rare for anyone to give up their seat for me, even if they are sitting in the obviously labeled handicapped/elderly seating.

  9. It would be interesting to poll what populations gave up their seats or did not give them up: Women to women, Men to Women, teen girls to teen mothers, teen girls to older pregnant women, etc. I see a lot of young teen males & females who do not give up their seats to obviously older people, pregnant or not, disabled or not, etc.