Yesterday I got on the bus behind a young woman with a tiny baby in a massive stroller.
The priority seating seat was already folded up to the wall, but she asked the people who were sitting on the forward facing seats to move so she could park the stroller there, and they did. After she got the monster stroller tucked in, she sat on that seat herself, with her knees jutting into the aisle. I ended up sitting way at the back of the bus, and didn’t really pay attention until glancing up to see why one stop was taking so long.
The bus had knelt to allow an elderly woman to board, but she couldn’t get past the mother with the monster stroller. Someone in a wheelchair was sitting in the priority seating spot on the other side of the bus.
I saw the woman with the walker try to get past 3 times, but the device kept catching on something and bouncing back. Finally the young mother seemed to notice there was a problem, so I thought maybe she would move out, but instead she bent down and lifted the front of the walker over so it could get past. The elderly lady struggled to the middle of the bus, where she sank into the seat beside the back door.
I can understand why a driver might not want to intervene but s/he should have.
When the bus arrived at the terminal, the young mother and her stroller got out easily. Meanwhile, the elderly woman had to wait for the people exiting at the rear to get off before she could push her walker back to the front of the bus so she could disembark.
Although my baby is college age, I well remember how much there was to learn with a new baby, so it occurred to me the young mother might not realize she had done anything wrong. So I hurried to catch up with her. I explained she should have moved her stroller to let the elderly woman sit in the priority seating.
She told me:
- she could not have moved down the aisle because her stroller wheel base was too large to fit
- she had helped the woman get past her — the other woman’s walker fit in the aisle, problem solved
- she couldn’t possibly carry the baby when she was going to be out all day
- another smaller stroller wouldn’t work because she needed to bring her stuff
- besides, what was she supposed to do, stay home?
I do remember the challenges in getting around with a baby in a stroller. Back in the day I had been given an old fashioned baby buggy for my new baby. It would have been fine to take on walks around the neighborhood, excursions to the park, and such, but it was too big to take on a bus. Twenty some odd years ago, buses didn’t kneel, but even if they had, there would have been no place for a baby buggy because back then there were no accommodations for people with mobility challenges in regular buses. I used an umbrella stroller.
I know how important it is for a young mom with a baby to get out and about. But it is just as important for people with mobility challenges. But priority seating areas are not there for strollers.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005) S.O. 2005, c. 11″ requires “Priority Seating” at the front of the bus to be reserved for people of all ages with disabilities and mobility challenges.
No one minds if a stroller takes that spot if no one with a disability or mobility challenge needs it. But when the space is needed, the able bodied are expected to move. That goes for strollers. If the stroller is too big to fit down the aisle, the only solution I see is that it needs to disembark and wait for the next bus that can accommodate it. GRT buses can only accommodate only 2 wheelchairs. If a bus has 2 passengers in wheel chairs aboard, it can’t pick a third passenger waiting at a stop in a wheelchair. That person would have to wait for a bus that can.
The accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act exists because people the person who needs a walker to walk needs a walker to walk.
A person with a baby has choices. S/he can carry the baby in arms. If s/he can’t manage that for long, there are also baby carriers parents can wear.
And while a monster stroller might cost hundreds of dollars, umbrella strollers are very inexpensive. A quick online search turned up one for $29.97 at Walmart and another on sale right now for $15.99 at Babies R Us.
If large strollers displace the passengers for whom priority seating exists, there are only 2 solutions for Grand River Transit that I can think of.
- GRT could double the capacity of the priority seating area, or
- GRT could train drivers to deal with such situations, or
- GRT could ban large strollers.
Public Transit has improved enormously over my lifetime, it is something that ought to work for everyone. But we all need to remember it is a shared space, and there are rules that need to be followed. We need to respect other passengers, so we can all get where we’re going.
Postscript: I just found the bit about strollers in the GRT rules:
Strollers must be able to fit through the front doors and down the aisles in order to board the bus. For the safety of all customers, the aisles must not be blocked.
Customers should know the dimensions of their stroller before attempting to board the bus.
Customers with strollers are required to move to the rear of the bus, lock the wheels of the stroller and remain in firm control of it at all times. If possible, strollers are to be folded when standee conditions apply.
Hold on to the stroller at all times to avoid tipping. Position the stroller so passengers can walk freely down the aisle.