We discovered Irene had hand foot mouth disease (HFMD) on Boxing Day which meant I became a single parent for a week or so. During this time, I was reminded of a frustration I had when Zoey was much younger.
It was the ‘Open Stroller on the Bus’ problem.
When Zoey was younger, I used to bring her out on my own a lot. I would hurl her around either in a baby carrier or push her along in the stroller. This in addition to carrying the diaper bag and when she started eating solids, the food bag . It was always easy when we were in a shopping mall. Simply open up the stroller and sit her down, then hang the bags on the handles of the stroller or stuff it in the basket below. When she preferred to be carried, I could carry her in the baby carrier and put all the bags on the stroller. It was fairly manageable.
The problem always came when it was time to head home on the bus. We live in Hougang and our home is around 7 bus stops away from the MRT station. So we always have to catch a bus home.
Sometimes she was asleep in the baby carrier, so all I had to do was lift up my bags, put them on the floor, fold up the stroller, lift it up on the bus, put it on the floor of the bus, get off the bus, grab my bags, get on the bus again and find a seat for myself and the bags.
If Irene or our helper was with me, this is easily done as there is an extra pair of hands. However, when I am alone, this can be quite challenging.
The worst is when she has fallen asleep in the stroller. Which was the case last Saturday.
It had taken me all day to get her to fall asleep. We had walked around for ages in Toys R Us where she looked at loads of toy demonstration videos, she had enjoyed a couple of kiddy rides, waffles with ice cream for tea and a fun ride home on the MRT. Naturally she was tired out and so had fallen asleep by the time we got to Hougang.
Normally, if I had help, I would have picked her up and soothed her, while the other person packed the stroller and the bags onto the bus. However, I was alone.
So I decided to leave the stroller open and just carry it onto the bus.
Fortunately the bus driver closed one eye and I was able to park the stroller like this. I stood behind the stroller for the entire journey, holding on to it with the brakes on and making sure it was steady so Zoey could sleep in peace. (This photo was taken when we stopped at a traffic light.)
It set me thinking. It is hard enough for me, when I have only 1 child who weighs just under 12 kg. How do the parents who have more than 1 child cope? Do the authorities really expect all parents to only take MRT, taxis or drive a car? In a country where car ownership is not encouraged, taxi prices are increasing and public transportation is supposedly world class, how is it we are still required to fold our strollers when we get on the bus?
While I understand that some strollers are potential hazards (I’ve seen some giant mammoths that wouldn’t fit on a bus closed or open), I feel that with proper regulations on size and type, we can encourage more parents to take public transportation with their strollers. Strollers have brakes similar to wheelchairs and are definitely safer parked properly than haphazardly stowed on the floor or against a wall on the bus.
The argument that SBS makes is that a child is safer on a seat than in the stroller as stated on their website:
Are prams/strollers allowed on board the bus?
Yes, they are but they must be folded up when travelling on our buses for safety reasons. In an emergency braking situation, opened prams can pose as safety hazards to both the child within and fellow passengers around as it can be thrown forward. As passenger safety is important to us, we do not allow opened prams/strollers on board our buses.
I counter that in an emergency braking situation, a child seated in a stroller parked safely at an allocated space on the bus and strapped into the stroller with a 5 point harness is in a much safer position than a child seated on the lap on an adult. Also a stroller that is parked securely with brakes on in an allocated space is much safer for other passengers than a folded stroller loosely held onto by a parent who is also carrying a child.
People reconsider having more children because sometimes even going to the neighbourhood mall with 1 child needs to be a 2 person operation. Not everyone can afford to have a car or take taxis everywhere. Not everyone lives right next to an MRY station. Allowing open strollers on the bus will definitely help make the lives of parents, especially those with more than 1 child easier. The solution can be regulated by allowing open strollers only during off peak hours or only allowing strollers of a certain size. It certainly makes more sense than insisting sleeping children be removed from a stroller and having said stroller laying around unsecured on a moving bus.
Given that Singapore wishes for its citizens to have more children and often boasts of having a world class transportation system, I hope the new Minister of Transport Mr Khaw Boon Wan will look into this important aspect of enabling parents to travel comfortably on public transportation especially buses.