Inspired by Elizabeth Carey Smith’s documentation of riding the New York City subway while visibly pregnant, I decided to record my experience taking transit in Vancouver during my pregnancy last year. I began keeping track of seats offered to me during the 18th week of pregnancy, when I looked obviously pregnant and was offered my first seat on transit.
For this project, I never asked for a seat on buses or trains. I wanted to determine how often other passengers would offer a seat given that pregnancy is not a disability and I was not entitled to a seat according to TransLink’s etiquette for courtesy seats:
Here are the hard numbers for my TransLink travel within Vancouver between February and July 2013:
Here is my experience summarized visually:
I wonder if more seats would have been offered to me if TransLink included expectant mothers in its courtesy seating etiquette. Other cities, like Ottawa
OC Transpo Cooperative Seating
JR Train (Tokyo) Priority Seating
Photo credit: Yoshiaki Miura
make it very clear that pregnant women should be offered a courtesy seat or should at least feel comfortable asking for a seat if they need one.
Thank you to all the TransLink passengers who graciously offered me a seat last year. There were times when I really needed to be off my feet, particularly when my pre-pregnancy size 8 feet swelled to a men’s size 10 in the third trimester. Your kindness is remembered.
Today, I noticed this beautiful little bike bar at the Waves Coffee House at Main & 10th:
The Waves bike bar is the first one I’m aware of on Main Street, but it won’t be long until there is another bike bar at Main & 21st, thanks to the successful funding of The French Quarter Parklet Kickstarter project by Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France.
What pleasant and community-oriented additions to the Main Street area!
Gordon Price’s op-ed on road pricing in today’s Vancouver Sun is a worthwhile read.
Moving in Metro, a project of the SFU Centre for Dialogue with support from TransLink, Metro Vancouver, the Vancouver Foundation, the North Growth Foundation and the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, has been holding a series of dialogues to look at the potential for road pricing to solve some of Metro Vancouver’s challenges. Learn more about these dialogues, which will culminate with a stakeholder summit on November 29.
The Car Free Vancouver Society (CFVS) will be holding its Annual General Meeting on Sunday, November 17, 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre (1 Kingsway) in Room Multipurpose 2.
The CFVS is seeking new committee members, particularly individuals with knowledge of or interest in administration, blogging and social media, or project management. The AGM is also a great place to discuss ideas you have for hosting a car-free festival in your own neighbourhood. No experience is necessary to join the CFVS and you’re guaranteed to meet a great group of people supporting car-less and car-free living and car-free fun!
Full details about the meeting can be found on the Society’s website.
In July, Kevin and I gained a new family member!
In preparation for N’s arrival, we looked at many lists of newborn essentials. Most of these lists identified the car seat as the #1 must-have item, above diapers, clothing, and other transportation gear such as strollers and carriers. Being without a car, we found it daunting to select a car seat.
After doing what we thought was careful research, we bought a convertible car seat: the Britax Boulevard 65. We thought that “certified for aircraft travel” meant the seat would be easy to install and uninstall. We learned on the day we left the hospital in a car share vehicle (thanks to our good friend Matt) that convertible seats, particularly when you don’t have a car and have no previous experience with car seats, can be very challenging to install even if you have an Engineering or Physics degree.
We also bought the Britax Infant Positioning Insert for the convertible seat and the Britax Car Seat Travel Bag to make it easier to lug the seat.
N has used the car seat once: the day we came home from the hospital.
N in his convertible car seat
Now that N is three months old, we think we could have gone about getting a car seat in a different manner and we wouldn’t necessarily choose the model we selected if we were doing it all over.
This is what we would have liked to have known when we were choosing a car seat for our car-free lifestyle:
- We could have waited until after the baby was born to get a car seat. When selecting a car seat, it’s helpful to know the size of your baby and how quickly he or she may grow, particularly when deciding between an infant bucket seat or a convertible seat. If your baby is long, they will likely outgrow an infant bucket seat fairly quickly, possibly as early as four months.
- It’s a myth, at least for BC Women’s Hospital, that you need a car seat in order to be able to leave the hospital. If you’re feeling up to it, you may want to take the baby home in a stroller or carrier, on foot or by public transit. If you are leaving by car or taxi, you will need a car seat. When we gave birth to N, BC Women’s Hospital only checked infant bucket seats and not convertible seats (unless requested to do so) before discharge.
- Some infant bucket seat models can attach to strollers, which is convenient if you want to have an easy way of transporting your car seat to car share vehicles. In the early months, we transported N in a bassinet attachment on his stroller. He really liked the freedom of movement in the bassinet, which would have been lost if he had to be restrained in a car seat.
- Infant inserts for convertible seats may not work for newborns. Even if your baby is a good size at birth, newborns lose some of their weight in the early weeks and may not fit very well into a convertible seat fitted with an infant insert. You will notice in the photo of N above that we had to use rolled blankets to get a good fit, and we know now that we probably should have removed the hard plastic portions on the straps when using the infant insert.
- Getting a used car seat from someone you trust can be a good choice for the car free. If you choose to do this, read these helpful tips as well as this Transport Canada Consumer Information Notice about children’s car seats and booster seats. It seems absurd to us now that we bought an expensive car seat that we have only used once.
- Vancouver taxis are exempt from the Child Seating and Restraint regulations of the BC Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. Given how much cars terrify me, I can’t imagine ever travelling in one without a car seat, but it’s still useful to know about this exemption.
- Even though you may think you’ll drag your car seat with you when you travel, it may be easier than you think to find suitable car seats at your destinations. We recently travelled with N to Ontario and we used a Toronto taxi service that had pre-installed car seats. Friends and family also asked around to find car seats for the few car rides we needed to take in Southwestern Ontario. If you’ll be renting a vehicle, most vehicle rental companies will rent you a car seat. If you’re going to a walkable city with decent public transit and good airport connections, you may be able to go without a car seat for your entire trip (but, as we learned in Toronto, it’s very important to know whether public transit is accessible and stroller-friendly).
- We thought we might be in cars more often once N arrived, but this hasn’t turned out to be the case. Don’t assume your transportation behaviour will change unless you’re a member of a car share program and really do plan to drive more often once you have a baby. We still walk and take transit all the time (except during peak transit times with a stroller!), and we look forward to figuring out how to bike with N once he has some serious head control.