We don’t own a car, and even if we did, I don’t know how to drive on the wrong side of the road, so here in London I have come to know and actually enjoy the public transport. I rode the Tube and busses throughout my pregnancy, and take Alex everywhere using the system. Therefore, I can speak with some sense of knowledge about getting around town with a little one. This advice is London specific, but I think it works for all large cities.
1. Do Your Homework.
2. Equip Yourself.
3. Assume the Worst.
4. Don’t Sabotage Yourself.
1. Do Your Homework. When you are in a big city and using public transport, another level of planning has to occur before you walk out. While some tube stations have ‘step free’ access, most don’t, so you can expect to be lugging a stroller up and down a *lot* of stairs, or lugging a toddler around. Check tfl before you head out for any last minute changes or closures. Between strikes, weekend closures, and (how do I say this nicely) incidents on the tracks (read: dead body), you do not want to be trapped in a train or at a stop and have few options. A word on the Tube: in the summer, the trains can reach an internal temperature of 120 Fahrenheit. You do not want to risk being trapped in a car that is stuck in that kind of temperature with a baby. Best case scenario, you will have an inconsolable child. Worst case, your kid could stroke out from heat, dehydration, and the like. If it’s after June, take the bus. And for the love of Thor, do not attempt to ride any public transport during rush hour (in London, that would be between 8 am to 9.30 am, 4 pm to 7 pm). Just. Don’t.
2. Equip yourself. I cannot stress this enough: If you are capable of wearing your child, DO IT. Babywearing is (for those who can physically do so) very easy, cost effective, and efficient. You can walk up and down steps without worrying about letting go of the handles of a stroller, not having room on a bus, or (and I have night terrors about this one) forgetting your child on the bus. With baby strapped to front (or back, when they get old enough), you have hands free abilities that you simply do not have with a pram. Most busses only have enough room for 2 strollers at a time – if you are number 3 (or there are already strollers on when you get to the stop), you will have to either fold down your stroller and carry your kid, or wait for the next one. And remember, if a person in a wheelchair comes on, you have to fold it all down or hop off and wait for the next bus. If you can’t wear, get the smallest safe stroller you can, something light and easy to fold and carry one handed.
3. Assume the Worst. London gets a bad rap in the UK as being a rude town, which is a bit unfair. It’s a city of 7.5 million people, and they all have somewhere to be OMGRIGHTNOW, so yes, people can be a bit brusque, but with any group of people I tend to take the 85-10-5 rule. 85% of any group are regular decent folk, 10% are jerks, and 5% are pure evil. So, if you walk onto a bus assuming someone is going to be an utter asshole, you can be pleasantly surprised when the trip goes well.
4. Don’t Sabotage Yourself: I will say, I almost always get treated well on the bus with Alex, and here is why: I firmly believe if people realize you are trying your hardest to accommodate them, they will go out of their way to accommodate you. When they see a mum with a Land Rover sized pram with 1672820 bags hanging off the handlebars, slogging her way down the isle, whether it is fair or not they are annoyed with her. She takes *forever* to get in place, she takes up *so much* room, and God help everyone on the bus if more than one of those Behemoths are on at a time – it can descend into fisticuffs. Meanwhile, I get on just as fast as everyone else with Alex, and take up the same space as one fat dude (Alex does stick out my front side – like I’m preggers all over again!). When people see me, they generally give up their seats. They see me trying, and they try to match the kindness.
Mommas: it’s mean, but true: Until there is a ‘baby only’ bus, you are not a protected class – you get up for the elderly and disabled. No one is under any moral or legal obligation to make life easy for you on the bus – they have places to go. Set yourself up for success by paring down, wearing when you can, and planning ahead.
(For everyone else: All that being said, next time you see someone struggling getting their pram up steps or fighting to get a toddler and pram down the isle, take a second and help them. It’s the nice thing to do.)