Strollers on buses – my letter to the editor

by DaniGirl on October 9, 2008 · 17 comments

in Life in Ottawa, Rants and rambles

Every couple of years, I get my knickers in enough of a twist to fire off a letter to the editor of our local paper. I’ve got a pretty good record of getting them published. I’ve got another one published this morning.

The back story has to do with a mother of a two-year old and a baby who was trying on the weekend to get onto an OCTranspo (city) bus at a stop with another mom pushing a stroller also waiting. The driver got into a spat and ended up denying access to the two moms and strollers. Except, the two-year old daughter of one of the mothers had already boarded the bus. He drove a short distance away, and then stopped when the other passengers either (a) screamed in horror or (b) informed him that the two-year old was on the bus, depending on whose version of the story you believe.

Regardless, the ensuing shitstorm has been all over the media, and has brought the anti-stroller lobby out of the woodwork. It was to these kind souls, who think that mothers with strollers have no place on public transit, that my letter was addressed.

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

Ha, now that I think about it, my last published letter to the editor was about public transit as well!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mar October 9, 2008 at 7:22 am

Well written response Danielle. I must be living under a rock because I just heard about this last night from my girlfriend. I was horrified that the poor 2 year old boarded the bus and then the mother got denied access. As a mom with 2 young kids, this could have easily been me (except taking the bus with my kids scares me)

I wonder what would have happened if he denied a wheelchair bound person?

2 No Mother Earth October 9, 2008 at 9:14 am

Thank you for writing a letter! Situations like this make me so angry I get nauseous. Parenting is hard enough without being thrown to the wolves because you use a stroller.

3 Mad Hatter October 9, 2008 at 9:31 am

This world will never cease to amaze me and disappoint me. I hadn’t heard this story and now I am spouting fire.

Ha! Captcha id “cruelties 91”

4 Meghan October 9, 2008 at 9:55 am

Good Stuff! It’s like its not already hard enough to get around with two kids under two. Then not to be “permitted” on the bus. Unbelievable.

5 Rebecca October 9, 2008 at 10:03 am

Very well written! I couldn’t agree more! I’ve never been in that particular situation, living in a small town where public transport isn’t available, but I can only imagine how difficult it is. And the very idea that the 2-yr old got on the bus, the mother was denied access, then the bus began to LEAVE makes me just sick!! What else are people supposed to do?

6 Virtually There October 9, 2008 at 11:12 am

It bothered me so much that as of yesterday the blame was being placed on the mother for letting her two-year-old board the bus without her. What are we supposed to do? Climb aboard with our toddlers while our infants sit on the sidewalk alone? I’d like one of these opinion holders to tell me what they would do?

7 Nadine/Scarbiedoll October 9, 2008 at 2:07 pm

In Toronto we have these buses that lower on hydraulics to let wheelchairs and strollers on. Also seats that lift up to make room for people with wheels without blocking the centre of the bus. They are fairly new. But you still get the odd stink eye with a big stroller.

Good for you for taking a stand.

8 colleen October 9, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Well done!

9 Natalie October 9, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Well said! I’ve been fuming myself over all of this nonsense.

10 Batman October 9, 2008 at 5:39 pm

I’m on your side.

I believe this may be a case of discrimination based on family status. I wonder if OCTranspo has considered the cost and potential impact of litigation in this regard. There was a very good paper put out by the Ontario Human Rights Commission entitled, “Policy and Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Family Status.”

The introduction to the policy makes it quite clear that service providers must respect the dignity and worth of every member of society. It further notes that those who bear children and benefit society as a whole should not be economically or socially disadvantaged. The policy also seems to indicate that there is a required duty to accommodate on the part of OCTranspo. I’m not sure if that was addressed in the papers. Hopefully someone is giving it some thought.

Nice article by the way.

11 daysgoby October 9, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Wow! I love well-written, well thought out letters to the editor – this was a nice change from the ‘God and cats’ old ladies brigade that populate the letters to the editor page here…

12 Marianne October 9, 2008 at 7:24 pm

I read your letter in the paper this morning, (not realising it was you) and agreed with it.

I’d also like ot point out that, in the photo of the woman and her daughter that accompanied the article, she was using an Avalon umbrella stroller (I noticed becuase it’s the same as mine), which is about as compact as you can get — certainly narrower from side to side than a walker or wheelchair. But on the other hand, her children are old enough she probably could have folded the stroller and held the younger one while the older sat beside her. If it had been a giant side-by-side double stroller, it would have been a different matter.

Oh, and Ottawa does have quite a few of the low-floor buses in service, but this particular bus happened to be one of the older style with steps at the doors, narrower aisles, and no seats that fold up to make room for wheelchairs and strollers.

13 Jerri Ann October 10, 2008 at 9:04 am

You go girl!

14 XUP October 10, 2008 at 6:50 pm

This whole stroller issue has been a sore point with me as well. The whole point of public transportation is that it’s for the public and the public comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and with a variety of accessories — from strollers to walkers to electric wheelchairs to shopping carts to a dining room table from IKEA (disassembled in one of their handy flat boxes). If we’re going to start kicking people off for taking up too much room, then we’ll have to get rid of the really fat man and the old people who walk too slowly and the guy with the cane that rests in the walkway.

And, I’m saying this as someone who travels without accessories. I’ll look out for your letter!!

15 ewe_are_here October 11, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Great letter.

It’s so sad that people are so mean spirited and petty about having to take two seconds to manoeuvre around a stroller on a public bus. Probably the same people who grumble about wheelchair users and the fact that the front of the bus seating (prime seating in their view) goes to the elderly and disabled first.

16 Sue October 12, 2008 at 7:28 pm

Great letter Dani! Way to tell them!.

17 Lisa October 13, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Do they really think it’s FUN for the mom? Good for you for speaking out.

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