01/26/2013 08:37 EST | Updated 03/28/2013 05:12 EDT

In Defence of Strollers on the TTC

The latest news about potentially restricting strollers on the TTC upsets me not only as a mom, but also as a proud Torontonian, and as a fellow human being. Imagine if this stroller limit were to pass, what kind of Pandora's box would we be opening, what "inconvenience" would be next? People in wheelchairs, or on crutches? Women carrying numerous grocery bags?

The latest news about potentially restricting strollers on the TTC upsets me not only as a mom, but also as a proud Torontonian, and as a fellow human being. Torontonians pushing for this restriction should be ashamed of themselves. What kind of example are we setting when we put our own comfort (or stroller-induced discomfort!) ahead of parents' needs and rights to public transportation? It's called "public" transportation not "only if you meet desired standards transportation," and singling out specific segments of the population as being too much of a nuisance to be allowed on transit is discrimination, and it's unacceptable.

Imagine if this stroller limit were to pass, what kind of Pandora's box would we be opening, what "inconvenience" would be next? People in wheelchairs, or on crutches? Women carrying numerous grocery bags? Men with armfuls of packages? Students with backpacks and projects in hand? Larger persons? Pregnant women?

I have been following the online comments on this issue, and am appalled at the lack of compassion and ignorance displayed by those supporting a restriction. Until I began reading the articles online I had never heard of an SUV stroller (apparently mine is considered as such) and had no idea there was such an outcry for them to be banned. Sure I've had my share of dirty looks (seriously who gives a baby a dirty look?!) riding the TTC with my bulky buggy, but I am deeply saddened that we have even allowed the "issue" to get this far.

Amongst the haters it seems to be popular opinion that the "SUV" strollers are statement pieces, accessories if you will. Well I hate to rain on this judgemental parade, but my stroller happens to be a whole lot more than the latest watch, handbag, or pair of shoes. Sure it could be considered attractive, but last time I checked style wasn't a crime against society. But looks aside, I made the choice of this stroller based on several practical points. (And as most parents will agree, when you become a mom, style takes a back seat to practical, safe and convenient, so even the very idea that I would push my little guy around in something only because it makes a fashion statement is ridiculous.) I researched diligently for months, and after dissecting every design and model available from $40 collapsible Wal-Mart buggies to $1,600 "luxury" strollers I chose mine based on several key criteria.

1. Safety: Baby sits high in the stroller so he is not at exhaust fume level. Baby is also protected from the elements because of the height of the seat (or bassinet) and thanks to the hood and rain cover.

2. Durability: Babies are expensive and I don't want to have to replace my stroller due to wear and tear. The model I chose is well made, and well warrantied.

3. Compactness/Efficiency: My stroller frame comes apart from the seat which means I can alternate car seat and baby seat when necessary. The frame folds up neatly which (most of the time!) I can do with one hand. The wheels are rugged enough to push through snow and ice (not an easy feat but nonetheless a great cardio workout!) and the mesh basket is deep enough to hold my groceries and accessible enough to get them in there in the first place.

4. Money saving features: The stroller came with a baby seat and a bassinet; for the first three months baby slept in said bassinet beside the bed, which saved buying a cradle.

So, is my stroller an accessory? It most definitely is not. As a new mom it is quite possibly one of the most necessary things I own. Do I fill it with abandon and expect other passengers to haul it onto the bus for me as one online commenter wrote? Not the case. I fill it with what I feel baby and I will need on our journey, and I literally hope and pray that there will be someone kind enough to help me on board. I worry about how I will get onto the streetcar if there's no one to help, and in rush hour I'll generally avoid the attempt all together.

But when there's no other option I've humbly asked for help and been embarrassed for the trouble, but quite simply I ask out of necessity, because I can't lift baby and stroller by myself, and so am left relying on the kindness of strangers.

But regardless of whether or not help is offered, moms, dads, grandparents, any caregivers with stroller-aged children have just as much right to travel by TTC vehicles as our non child-toting co-riders. Are we really that disconnected as a city that we are allowing what amounts to no more than an inconvenience to become a debated issue? Aren't there more substantial issues we could be debating (ahem, building a better subway or having more buses running?!), more serious concerns to our well-being that we could be policing? If we put as much effort into helping out those around us as we seem to be doing in condemning those inconveniencing us, trust me, we could do great things in this fair city of ours.

A couple of weeks ago I tried to board the streetcar with my stroller at about 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The car was virtually empty and I politely asked the driver if he could help me. Without even looking my way or offering an explanation, he told me no. Now I imagine his unwillingness to help had something to do with insurance or company policy, and by no means was it his professional duty to help me, but since when do we refuse assistance without so much as acknowledging the person asking? I have helped haul numerous strollers (and shopping carts, and suitcases) up subway stairs and onto buses without a second thought, and thank goodness I see others around me doing the same. But what worries me is when we stare straight ahead, tuned out to human interaction, ignoring, or worse resenting anyone whose needs might infringe upon our own.

I think the issue we need to highlight right now is what kind of a city we are becoming when parents and children or anyone among us for that matter are discriminated against. Shame on us. It's time we took responsibility for the state of our world, and started making positive changes in the way we interact with each other.

Let's start right here at home, in our beautiful community. Let's make it our collective mission as Torontonians to practice random acts of kindness and see where it gets us. Next time you see a stroller taking up space on the streetcar think with kindness, and act with compassion. Put yourself in mom or dad's shoes and consider their great responsibility to raise their little ones to be good and kind so that they might one day build a better world for all of us. We can all play our part, by smiling instead of scowling, moving aside with graciousness instead of anger, getting up and helping, instead of sitting in invisible ignorance. If we all take responsibility for our world, our city, our community, we can all take comfort knowing that we're making a difference, a change for the better, one kind thought or act at a time.