Strollers on buses revisted

by DaniGirl on November 18, 2009 · 11 comments

in Life in Ottawa

Today, OC Transpo is issuing new guidelines on the management of the priority seating on buses. The guidelines will no doubt be both controversial and divisive, because the gist of the proposed guidelines include a new “stroller policy” that “limits the size and number of open strollers on board at at any one time, while encouraging customers to fold and stow upon boarding the bus. Customers are expected to be able to manage the stroller, the child any other items they have with them.”

(Please excuse me while I pause to snort, roll my eyes and recompose myself. Ahem, where were we?)

Oh yes, we didn’t get to the section about “Stroller Eligibility”:

An open stroller occupied by a child will be allowed on the bus if:
a) It is capable of being folded
b) It is capable of being safely stowed
c) It will not interfere with other passengers or with the safe movement of passengers within the transit vehicle:and
d) It can be wheeled, or (when folded) carried, through the aisle without contacting the seats.

And then it goes on to say that open strollers can only occupy the wheelchair spot on the bus, only one stroller may occupy one of the two wheelchair spots, regardless of whether a wheelchair is present or not; that double strollers are permitted but do not have to be folded; and that triple and larger strollers are not allowed at all.

The thing is, I get where they are coming from. I really do. Strollers are inconvenient, and they do take up a lot of room. Some people have really big strollers, and maybe they could consider using a smaller stroller when they know they have to take the bus. But what I said in my letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen back in October 2008 still applies here:

Stay off buses?
The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, October 09, 2008

Re: Strollers are headache for drivers, passengers, Oct. 8.

I read with interest Doloros Swallow’s letter and union leader André Cornellier’s comments in Kelly Egan’s column (”Try sitting in the bus driver’s seat”) about strollers on OC Transpo buses.

As a mother of three boys under seven and a regular user of OC Transpo, I’d like to ask these people: what else should mothers of babies do? Do you recommend they leave the strollers at home and carry their babies and toddlers everywhere? That’s not so easy with a 30-pound napping toddler.

Perhaps they should stay off the buses altogether? Isn’t one of the main tenets of public transportation supposed to be that it should be accessible to those who don’t have other means of transportation?

You might argue that there are smaller strollers available on the market. Even if you overlook the fact that umbrella-type folding strollers are not appropriate for very young babies, you should try pushing one through even the thinnest sheen of slush on Ottawa’s winter sidewalks, let alone in more than a couple of centimetres of fresh snow. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford more than one stroller — one for foul weather and one for small spaces. Many other parents are not so fortunate.

Yes, it’s difficult to manoeuvre around one or more strollers at the front of an OC Transpo bus. Yes, mothers (and other caregivers) should do what they can to take up as small a space as possible.

But I think we all have enough things to worry about right now without castigating people who are simply trying to do the very same thing you are — to get from one place to another with as little hassle and inconvenience as possible.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

I think it’s ridiculous that OC Transpo is making an actual policy out of this. How are they going to enforce it, when they don’t enforce the current priority seating? (Trust me, I’ve spent many many hours standing on buses in an extremely pregnant state, wishing the driver would suggest that someone give up a seat for me but too bashful to demand one myself.) Oh sure, I know, you can wear your baby in a backpack or a sling — but despite my own favour for it, not everybody is comfortable with babywearing. There really is a place for strollers.

And seriously, can you picture it? You’re on the bus with your baby and you’re likely carrying at least a diaper bag. Perhaps you’ve even had the temerity to buy something, and you have some packages to balance as well. You’re supposed to get on the bus, remove your baby from the stroller, fold it up, hopefully get your ass in a seat before the bus lurches away from the curb, and you’ve got to balance the folded-up stroller, the baby, and whatever other “items” you might have with you. Better hope it’s not nap time! We all know how much sleeping babies love to be woken up. God forbid you have another child, perhaps a little older than the baby but someone who still needs help to sit still or to keep from falling off the seat as the bus lurches and lunges across town. And then you’re either supposed to open the stroller, with the baby (and maybe some packages, perhaps an umbrella or a diaper bag) still in your arms no less, and put the baby back in the stroller in time for your stop. Or perhaps you’re supposed to carry the whole kit and caboodle off the bus and THEN reassemble everything?

This is so unbelievable ridiculous only a committee could have come up with it. Of all my rants against OC Transpo — and oh, how I could go on! — this one policy takes the cake. If we’re going to be regulating strollers on buses, can we do something about the size of backpacks? Because I’ve taken a few of those to the face. And what about the sound blasting out of the headphones of the guy beside me? Or the woman who douses herself in Eau de Fifi before she goes to work? Or the dude who smells like he hasn’t bathed since the Grunge era?

Shame on OC Transpo and shame on the City of Ottawa for considering this divisive, controversial and ultimately boneheaded policy.

Edited to add: Well, well, well, I have to say that I retract my last comment. Thanks to Lana for letting us know that today the city decided against the new stroller policy. Oh well, it was a good rant, and I worked myself into quite the froth writing it, so it seems a shame to take it down. Props to the City of Ottawa for making the right call on this one!


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 liz November 18, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Amen.

2 Lana November 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm
3 Meghan November 18, 2009 at 3:32 pm

or the people having long, loud personal conversations on their cell phones….

4 Jody November 18, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Well, it’s good to know that the changes aren’t going to be implemented, because I wanted to say, are you KIDDING me?

And it’s really nice to know that triplet strollers weren’t going to be allowed. Obviously brands vary, but ours was narrower than most singleton strollers now on the market, and on the two occasions when we took it on the bus (granted, in a much smaller city) it was a huge hit.

Maybe they should get those flat-bed attachments for the fronts of buses, so that people with strollers can stow them there.

Wait, that only works in places without slush….

5 Angela ( jhscrapmom) November 18, 2009 at 5:14 pm

you have got to be kidding me.

how much time did they waste on this policy that has now been dumped?

6 thordora November 18, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Come live in Moncton NB, where apparently, strollers are “an insurance risk”-and that is a direct quote from several drivers. HUGE bundle buggies, walkers or packages don’t seem to pose the same risk.

It was infuriating to have a sleeping child I had to wake up for a 5 minute ride. But then, transit here is neither helpful or useful. I used to take transit in Toronto all the time with people and strollers. Rarely ever an issue. Backpacks were more annoying.

7 Kathleen O'Grady November 18, 2009 at 8:23 pm

RT @DaniGirl: Restricting strollers on buses (revisited). The stupidest OC Transpo move yet: http://ow.ly/Dt8y

8 Rebecca S November 18, 2009 at 8:48 pm

RT @DaniGirl: [Ranting] Strollers on buses revisited: http://bit.ly/yOgOD The stupidest OC Transpo move yet.

9 Amber November 19, 2009 at 12:33 am

I’m glad you left this up, because it IS an excellent rant. And your points stand regardless of the jurisdiction. I know that this has been a hot-button issue here in Vancouver, as well. I’m glad to hear that Ottawa is making the right call, and I hope that other cities will do the same thing.

10 (mostly) Kate November 19, 2009 at 1:35 am

RT @DaniGirl: Restricting strollers on buses (revisited). The stupidest OC Transpo move yet: http://ow.ly/Dt8y

11 Nat November 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

It was another ill-conceived policy idea from the brilliant minds at OC, like the ones asking drivers to be late.

(As an aside, because OC Transpo crosses a provincial boundary, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Transportation Agency for removing undue obstacles to transportation…)

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