Last week, this story made some waves in Ottawa. A man and his two-year-old brother, who was in a stroller, were forced to get off a downtown OC Transpo bus in -20s weather to make room for a wheelchair.
It raised the questions of whether large strollers should be allowed on public transit and whether the spaces at the front of the bus should be first come, first serve.
A similar debate is happening in Toronto, where the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is planning on examining the issue after someone complained about large strollers at a recent TTC meeting.
This blog is about parenting in downtown Ottawa and many downtown Ottawa parents use public transit, so here’s my take…
I think that everyone, whenever possible, needs to show a little more consideration.
For the folks that think big stroller don’t belong on the bus…
You don’t have a right to a stroller-free commute.
No parent wants to travel on a busy bus with a stroller. It’s not fun. They’re doing it because they have to.
Before you get annoyed with that mom with the “SUV stroller” consider that often these bigger strollers are the cheaper ones and that you don’t know the whole story…
Maybe the childcare pickup arrangements fell apart and suddenly brother, who doesn’t have a car to put that big stroller into, has to do the pickup.
Maybe the more compact stroller or baby carrier got left at grandma’s.
Maybe mom got that big stroller as a gift, needs to take the bus and can’t afford anything else.
Maybe dad was planning on walking but it started to rain.
Maybe mom is exhausted because the kid is a terrible sleeper and will only nap when out in that big stroller.
Maybe that kid is younger than he looks, is a late walker or is not yet good on his feet.
Maybe that baby isn’t big enough for an umbrella stroller and mom has some back pain that makes a carrier impossible or maybe she simply needs her body and that stroller basket to carry groceries.
For the parents with the big strollers…
If you often take the bus and have the physical, financial and/or circumstantial means, consider transporting your child in a way that is a little more compact.
A small umbrella stroller is less than $20. For babies, check Kijii for a carrier. For toddlers and preschoolers, let them walk or use a light plastic sled during the winter. Carry your stuff in a backpack.
Yes, you and your child have the right to take the bus, but you don’t have the right to take up more space than you really need. There needs to be room for wheelchairs, pregnant women and the moms that don’t have other options.
The bus should be accessible to everyone, and we should all do what we can to make it that way.
So what should happen if a big stroller is on the bus leaving no room for the woman in a wheelchair who wants to get on?
OC Transpo says that wheelchairs have priority and that it’s up to the driver which passengers can board, taking into consideration time of day, scheduling, weather, bus stop location, etc. Apparently, a driver can ask a passenger to leave a bus temporarily to make room for a wheelchair, but the passenger should be allowed to re-board.
I wasn’t on the bus with Ottawa guy and his little bro so I’m not going to comment on what should have or shouldn’t have happened. OC Transpo is looking into the incident because certainly a toddler shouldn’t be forced out into the cold.
That being said…If public transit is to be accessible to everyone, that means that sometimes, someone – a parent with a stroller, a 25-year-old university student or a 65-year-old man coming back from the grocery story – is going to have to wait/feel squished/move/take the next bus/get off.
Plan accordingly and accept that sometimes, taking the bus plain sucks.
- Ease up, stroller warriors, and try a little tenderness (theglobeandmail.com)
- OC Transpo driver leaves man, toddler in the cold (cbc.ca)
- OC Transpo drivers decide who gets on full buses; wheelchairs get on over strollers (ottawasun.com)
- OC Transpo seating a ‘first-come-first-serve gamble’ (metronews.ca)
- Toronto’s TTC looking at limiting strollers on buses, streetcars (ctvnews.ca)