As a parent of multiples, twins to be exact and a 21 month old when they were born, I often had to navigate shops with a twin pushchair and a toddler on reins at my side. I can tell you it isn’t an easy feat, especially in clothes shops! These are not designed with twin pushchairs, or even wheelchairs in mind. Everything is so tightly packed together rails of clothes squashed into any space available, making moving through the space difficult even when you’re on own without having to get up close and personal to another person. Clothes shops aren’t on their own here, convenience stores also put as many aisles as possible in to little stores so they can offer as many products as possible. Which is great for the average person needing to pick up a few things, not great when you have a twin pushchair. When I used to pop to my local Co-Op I’d have to leave the twins at the front of the store (I know everyone in there) and run round and grab what I needed, now the pushchair would fit between the aisles BUT anybody else wanting to get passed would struggle, whilst we were in it, and if staff had a roll cage with products on in the aisle I wouldn’t have got passed.
And so this leads me to where we’re at now with social distancing being put in place, most of the none essential stores like clothes shops have had to close, to stop people going out unnecessarily but also no doubt because they cannot maintain the 2m distance throughout the store. I really hope when all this is over these businesses will re look at their layouts and consider a new design, one that allows people to move through the space at a sensible distance from others, lets face it it’s uncomfortable at the best of times, having to all be on top of each other, and not being able to look properly, whilst also taking into consideration people in wheelchairs and parents with double pushchairs.
I keep seeing pictures on the news of people still being out and crowding in shops, but I also wonder if most of these people can judge what a 2m distance is just by looking at someone coming towards them. The guidelines say stay 2m apart, you go out once a day for exercise and you can go out for essentials. I feel like there is a lot of grey area here, how long can you go out for a walk, bike ride, run for? etc, and until we have clear to the letter black and white guidelines, people will continue going about their day believing they are doing the right thing. I think for the vast majority of people heading to shops believe they are doing the right thing and think they are standing 2m away from the next person. I know most shops have taped squares on the floor to help people along in store, but that doesn’t help people walking in the street especially given most paths are not 2m wide.
There is a huge problem with the younger ones going out with friends and hanging around in large groups, but the onus there really lies with their parents. We do have to do our best to adhere to the guidelines and try to stop the spread. My biggest concern is what happens when lockdown is lifted? social distancing would still be in place, but what does that mean? can we visit coffee shops for instance? go and see our friends and family?
Also published on Medium.