Amber Daniels is a regular BC Transit user.
While most of her experiences riding the bus are uneventful, she sometimes has difficulties travelling with her two-year-old son Jaedon in his stroller because she doesn’t know her rights and responsibilities.
“Sometimes people are just grouchy and they don’t want to move out of the seats to make room for a stroller,” she said. “And sometimes the bus driver doesn’t wait until you lock your stroller to start moving, making it unsafe sometimes.”
Daniels is not alone in these experiences. Parents with strollers in Greater Victoria have been passed up by buses, asked to leave buses to make way for wheelchairs, to leave buses because their child was crying, and have had to deal with unaccommodating passengers.
“We talked to a lot of women, and the amount of them that were reporting these incidents was huge,” said Colleen Hobson, executive director of Saanich Neighbourhood Place.
Tots on Transit (TOTS), a new partnership between Saanich Neighbourhood Place, Success by 6 and Island Health, aims to reduce those incidents by informing parents, passengers and BC Transit drivers on how to deal in these situations.
TOTS this month released three tools – a brochure, a stroller tag and a small thank you card – that parents can use to better inform themselves when these bad experiences on the bus arise.
Meribeth Burton, spokesperson for BC Transit, says there is existing policy in place in regards to a lot of the issues that parents report.
Buses are first come, first served, and parents do not need to leave a bus if they’re asked to make way for a wheelchair or other passengers. There are also size restrictions for strollers: two feet wide by four feet long.
“We encourage parents, whenever possible, to have those strollers folded safely under the seats. There are people with mobility aids and walkers, who don’t have the option of folding their strollers, and have to share the same priority seats with parents with strollers,” she said.
“The limitations we put on strollers and mobility aids is for the safety of all passengers,” added Rob Brown, a safety and training officer with BC Transit. “It can’t enter into the aisle in case of an emergency. We’re not prejudicing against parents with big, fancy strollers, it’s about whether or not it’s safe for all passengers onboard.”
Burton said if you do have a bad experience with a fellow passenger, let your driver know. If you have a bad experience with your driver, call BC Transit customer service at 250-382-6161.
Hobson acknowledges that educating parents and bus drivers is likely the easy part of the TOTS campaign. Ensuring other bus passengers are just as knowledgeable and accommodating could be a challenge.
“The smallest positive thing can make a huge difference in that parent’s life. Extend yourself a little bit, especially if you’re feeling a little grumpy,” she said. “Those parents are on there because they have to be, and when you have a child it doesn’t always work out how you want it. Sometimes the children are hungry and tired, and they would rather be on there with a happy, smiling baby, too. Try to remember that.”
TOTS anticipates the tools will be available to parents at neighbourhood houses throughout Greater Victoria by summer. For more information, contact Hobson at Saanich Neighbourhood Place at 250-360-1148.