The Attack on Strollers Has Begun

Family Travel on 01.24.13
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Photo: Katherine Martinko

There’s a debate raging in Toronto right now about strollers on public transit. I can understand both sides because I lived there as a single university student and as a new mother. Strollers are certainly inconvenient, delaying the bus as the driver helps the mother to load it on and blocking the aisle with big wheels that are almost impossible to pass. Add several more and suddenly a bus or subway car feels completely congested. That’s why some people are calling for action against strollers; suggestions include an extra fare, a schedule that keeps strollers away during rush hour, or an outright ban.

As a parent who didn’t have a car while living in Toronto, however, the idea of not being allowed to take my stroller on public transit is ridiculous. I would have been completely housebound, which isn’t healthy for mom or baby. Although I spent most of that first year ‘wearing’ my fussy son in a sling or carrier, there were days when I had too many things to carry and a stroller was necessary.

One CEO for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) said, “[Strollers do] cause quite an obstruction.” I find it troublesome that some people single out strollers as if they’re the only inconvenience on public transit. From the countless hours I spent crossing the city on public transit, I can think of many other obstructions that affected my daily commute, from shouting drunks and mentally ill passengers to malodourous travelers and pets, not to mention extra-large riders who take up multiple seats. I’d argue with the TTC that the public isn’t perfect, so if they choose to operate ‘public transit’ they’d better be prepared to accept the public, warts and all.

Most frustrating is how non-parents view other people’s kids as a nuisance, forgetting that they were once part of that so-called ‘obstructive’ swath of society. How do we expect our kids to grow up to be well-adjusted adults if they’re shunned from public transit, of all things, and viewed as inconvenient? Parents who leave the house understand the psychological benefits of being out and about, both for themselves and for their children’s edification. Those using public transit should be applauded for not driving their cars and for teaching their children the value of green transit from a young age. Clearly those stroller-pessimists haven’t seen the faces of old ladies who delight in interacting with a baby seated beside them.

A good compromise would be for new parents who use public transit to keep that in mind while shopping for a stroller. Rather than these mega, mini limos on wheels that I see everywhere, a small, compact stroller would be a much better option that could keep everyone happier – even the parent, who has to lug that stroller up many flights of stairs in the few subway stations without elevators. In the meantime, let’s remember that having children in our midst can be a source of tremendous joy, if we let it happen and stop obsessing over time, space, and convenience.

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