As the mom of a young child, I know the struggle of getting around the city with a baby in tow. Kids require a remarkable amount of stuff — more than you can ever imagine before you have a child and realize that their belongings take up more space in your home than your own. Traveling with a kid means packing a diaper bag, blankets, changes of clothes, bottles, small toys, diapers, wipes—not to mention my own things, like a wallet, cellphone and house keys. It’s a lot, and each parent only has two hands to juggle all that stuff.
The fact that moms and dads manage to get out of the house at all is straight-up miraculous. Doing it on public transit is even harder because of all the reasons SEPTA is annoying to everyone: The schedules are unpredictable, the vehicles are uncomfortable and space-challenged, and sometimes the people aren’t nice.
I was surprised to learn that up to 10 people a month, presumably parents, complain about having to fold up strollers when riding the bus. And the 7,000 people had signed a petition to lobby SEPTA for a change. I understand how convenient a stroller can be when transporting a child, but have these people ever ridden a bus before?
SEPTA is bending to these complaints by revising its policy: Beginning in January, strollers will have to be folded only during rush hours, roughly from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., as long as they are not blocking an aisle.
Many commenters on Philly.com and social media called this issue a “first-world problem,” and to be honest, they’re right.
I know something about first-world problems, because, well … I live in the first world. I check off a lot of boxes: mom of a small child, millennial, rider of public transportation for 13 years, and a person of privilege. I’m literally eating a piece of avocado toast as I type this.
(Before you call me a snowflake, you should also know that I’m also a child of immigrant parents and the first in my immediate family to get a college degree.)
The world (first and beyond) would be a better place if we all started exercising some basic empathy and common sense, and this strollers-on-buses issues is the perfect example of people doing just the opposite of that.
Let me tell you why an unfolded stroller on a bus — or on a train; subway, trolley or tram car; or in the supermarket — is really a terrible idea. Strollers take up a lot of room. Buses, trains, and trolleys are already super-cramped. The fact that anyone would think it would be OK to leave them unfolded is rude and inconsiderate to fellow riders.
There’s also a safety issue. When people in wheelchairs or on scooters board buses, protocol dictates that the driver secure the vehicles with straps. That’s a precaution for both the person in the wheelchair and the other riders — but no such steps will be taken for strollers, which means that if the bus comes to quick stop or there’s an accident, the stroller could go flying. A parent can’t secure a baby and a stroller at the same time. Trust me, parents, no one wants you barging onto a crowded bus wielding a rolling agent of pain.
Unfolded strollers can also lead to some decidedly unneighborly actions. No one wants their toes run over by a Greico SnugRide. (By the way, if any other parents have an easy way to unlock those bad boys on the fly, hit me up.)
Parents of small children need to take some responsibility for their commutes. If you rely on — or even just prefer — public transportation, have enough self-awareness to realize your trip might be a little uncomfortable, but you’ll probably survive, and so will your kid.
Angela Showell is a social media and digital content manager at a large university and health system in Philadelphia. She takes public transportation five days a week.