More than a dozen moms armed with babies and strollers rolled into Ottawa city hall Wednesday to protest rules that would have restricted bulky strollers on transit buses. And in the end, councillors backed down.
City staff proposed the new rules after receiving complaints from customers and operators involving the area at the front of the bus reserved for seniors, pregnant women, people with disabilities and passengers with small children.
"There's been a lot of falls and injuries as a result of people trying to move around the stroller," Vicky Kyriaco-Wilson, Ottawa's manager of transit marketing and customer services, said Wednesday. "We really are trying to find a way to accommodate all of our customers in a way that's co-operative."
The proposed stroller policy would have banned non-folding single strollers. Only one open stroller would have been allowed on board at a time, in a designated wheelchair spot, and only if it were occupied by a child. If a wheelchair needed the spot, the parent would have to fold the stroller up and move.
But as a result of the protest Wednesday, the proposal was abandoned in favour of the current practice. Transit drivers will continue to decide the size and number of open strollers that can be on board at one time.
Rules would be hard to follow
About 15 mothers, many with their strollers and small children, showed up to demonstrate against the proposed restrictions and to show the transit committee how hard the new rules would be for parents who rely on the bus. Among them was Hannah Rogers, who rides the bus daily with her three-month-old and a three-year-old.
"Where do you put the infant if you are folding your stroller?" she asked the committee. "Do I need to hand my child over to a stranger while I fold my stroller if there's no room for me on that bus? That would be a little complicated."
Brianne Marvin, 22, said she has relied on transit to get first to high school and now to Algonquin College. Her three-year-old son attends daycare near her home in Orléans. Sometimes she has had to wait up to two hours before a bus would let her on with her stroller, she said. Making things any worse could discourage young mothers from trying to get to school.
"Being a parent at 18 I could have just said 'I'll give up,' but having the transit system there — I mean it — it has helped me a lot to give back to the community and [be] a successful person,"
Many parents can't afford any other form of transportation, she said.
The protesters managed to convince the committee, including Coun. Georges Bédard, that the policy was unrealistic.
"I think that is rather onerous in certain situations," he said. "And if in fact there is room on the bus … we should let these people on the bus with their strollers open because many of them are carrying very small children and they need protection along with other passengers."
Kyriaco-Wilson said she hopes the attention drawn to the issue recently, along with public education, will reduce the number of conflicts among bus riders in the front of the bus.