Showing posts with label Transit. Show all posts

Umbrella Strollers - what to do when you need one but hate the concept?

So after 3 years of hard living, our beloved Valco Baby Snap stroller gave way (note: watch for "kneeling buses" kneeling onto the wheels of your stroller if you get off the bus too quickly and the bus driver is still in the process of lowering the vehicle) with a crack in the frame. Faced with both the terror of choosing a new stroller to use daily and the freedom to pick something that doesn't need to take an infant, we restarted our hunt for the Best Urban Stroller - Umbrella Stroller Edition.

Umbrella Stroller Options

Option 1: Buy the same thing again. We'd narrowing things down to the Snap and the B-Agile last time and they remained compelling options for all the same reasons. You can see our post on choosing an infant stroller for more on this.

Option 2: Cheap umbrella strollers. There are a million of these out there. Many are light a inexpensive, making them compelling at first glance. However, many are poorly made which can put you in a real bind if you not just "at the mall," and more importantly, most have wheels that are simply inexcusable for use on city streets, in the snow, or over train tracks. Hell, even the week we borrowed a MacLaren Triumph was awful while getting around cracked sidewalks and over the Green Line tracks, and that is not a cheap stroller.

Option 3: BabyHome Emotion stroller. Dina seriously lusted after this stroller the first time around but we opted against it due to a lack of lie-flat capabilities. Had we owned our amazing Doona stroller/carseat combo at the time, we may have more seriously considered this option though.

Honestly, we scoured Craigslist until we saw a Valco, Britax, or BabyHome come up and the BabyHome hit first. Having owned it for a couple months now, here are our thoughts.


The BabyHome Emotion Pros and Cons

It's light (13 lbs), maneuverable, has good shock absorbers, and supports one-handed driving. While we were used to the other features, it's hard not to notice how much more maneuverable it is.  Being a couple inches shorter (due to the lack of lie-flat), it's also a bit easier to get into the area of flipped-up bus seats and take up less space on transit of all kinds. It can also remain upright when folded and folds pretty flat, which is great for the restaurants that require it.

A couple downsides... the basket is roomy but the opening is not. The wheels are acceptable but not amazing (they are made from the material of skateboard/Rollerblade wheels which make them durable but are still a bit too small for our tastes).

The BabyHome Emotion: Our Final Take

This is a great, but not perfect, stroller. Second-hand on Craigslist was perfect for our needs. That said, even at full price, the Valco plus BabyHome is still less than having bought a Bugaboo or City Mini system.

In a slightly less snowy city (or one with better sidewalks), you could easily do a Doona + BabyHome for all carseat/stroller needs in the first year (and beyond for strollers), especially if you invest in some comfy carrier options as well.


     

Listen to us on a Podcast! (TransitMatters episode 30: Kids on Transit)

I had the pleasure a few weeks back to discuss kids, transit, living carfree, and other urban issues with the folks on the excellent podcast TransitMatters.

If you're not familiar with TansitMatters, check them out - especially if you're in the Boston area. They are an advocacy organization "dedicated to improving transit in and around Boston by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates, educating riders and promoting a level of critical analysis normally absent from other media."

The family-centered episode I appeared on went live this week and you can listen to it here: PODCAST 30 - KIDS ON TRANSIT WITH LEE BIERNBAUM

Subscribe to their podcast on iTunes, your favorite podcatcher (yeah, I'm holding on to that term), or at their RSS Feed.

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, donate, or volunteer.

If you liked the episode, be sure to let them know too.




P.S. If you are familiar with TransitMatters, know that I spend days considering what Parks and Recreation reference I was going to make following the intro and I came up with nothing. I hope I can go back on someday just so that I can reveal my inner Perd Hapley.

Taking Transit with Kids: Boston MBTA

This is the first in (hopefully) a series of guides for riding public transit across the world with your kids. Would you like to help add information about your city? Drop us an email at transitinfo at acrossb dot com.

It doesn't matter how long you've lived here, there are some new things to think about when riding the MBTA with kids...

Taking the MBTA with your little ones will make you think about the MBTA in new and unexpected ways. Maybe you've never really cared much about "new" vs. "old" style Green Line cars, or why using an elevator at South Station forces you to go outside when switching from the red line to the commuter rail, or which exit from Harvard involves the fewest street crossings when connecting to your bus. Now you are going to see a slightly different version of the MBTA.

Our system
  1. a. Is proud of being among the oldest in America (the first subway!) but also 

  2. b. Lacks any sort of standards in stations, vehicles, or much of anything else. 
Consequently, unlike a roundup for, say, WMATA in Washington, D.C. (which has a handful of station types and more-or-less the same trains throughout), we'll have a lot of variations along the way. But at least it's simpler than the old token/quarters-only Green Line fares before 2006... progress!

Also, have you read our guide to getting started on transit with your stroller or non-strollered toddler?

Kids ride the T for Free! 

Kids 11 and under are free with an adult (maximum 2 kids per adult).


Pay Attention to Close Stops!

Because the system is not fully accessible and because dragging a toddler onto and off of various vehicles might be less fun than walking outside (at least on a nice day), it's time to take a look at a good Boston map with the MBTA routes on it. Especially downtown, lots of stops are closer together than you may think if you haven't really walked around much. The canonical example here is Aquarium is a short walk from all the other lines without having to transfer to the Blue line.

Stations and Boarding

Red, Orange, Blue, and Underground Portions of the Green and Silver Lines

  • - Most stations in the MBTA are accessible now (check the MBTA map for the latest), which is really quite impressive (even if it took a few lawsuits to get there). Keep your eyes peeled as you head toward the station because elevators may be at the same entrance as the stairs (Porter), or just a few feet away (Copley), or somewhere else entirely (South Station). In other cases, elevators may be inside the fare gates (Charles/MGH).

  • - In recent years, more elevators have been added to secondary entrances (Harvard, Porter) and to make transfers more direct (Park Street).

  • - Every station has at least one "Reduced Fare" gate that's extra wide for wheelchairs and strollers. It's also good for kids walking through while holding your hand.

  • - Each two-car Green Line train is usually made up of one "high floor" car and one "low floor" car. 
    • * If you have a stroller, you should aim for the low-floor car to avoid having to lug it up the steps. Head to the middle doors and there is a large open wheelchair bay right by each set of doors. This is the place to camp out. 

    • * With a mobile kid, take your pick of cars and seats though you may prefer the high-floor Green Line car as it has pairs of forward/rearward facing seats rather than sideways seats. This way you can worry less about interactions with others on the train (i.e. opportunities for your kid to kick people).
  • - On the Red/Blue/Orange lines there are not any obvious places for a stroller but you can either try at the front/back of the car (where there may be seats missing to accommodate a wheelchair) or the area at the doors is usually workable. Just be aware of which set of doors will open at each stop so you can be sure to get out of the way.

  • - Silver Line buses are all "low floor" so enter at any door. Check out the bus discussion below on flipping up seats.
  • - Final note of interest: we've used station staircases and escalators as places to learn to go up/down lots of stairs and to learn escalator safety (and also about removing escalator grease from kids... fun times). That said, while we're willing to go down Harvard's many stairs during peak times, we still use the elevator at Park Street given the large hurrying crowds arriving from all directions simultaneously.

Green Line Surface Branches

  • This is similar to the situation above, but the need to pay up front creates a few wrinkles. To recap, each two-car train is usually made up of one "high floor" car and one "low floor" car. 

  • If you have a stroller, you should aim for the low-floor car to avoid having to lug it up the steps. The front of the train is NOT low, so you'll have to reach up to the farebox to tap your CharlieCard. The driver will generally open the back two doors for you (if they're not open already) and you can walk back on the train and enter one of those doors just a (usually) short step up (sorry outer bit of the B and C-lines). There is a large open wheelchair bay right by each set of doors. This is the place to camp out. 

  • With a mobile kid, take your pick of cars and board normally though you may prefer the high-floor car as it has pairs of forward/rearward facing seats rather than sideways seats so you can worry less about interactions with others on the train.

Buses (including Above-Ground Silver Line)

If you're with an unrestrained or carrier-contained kid, you don't really need any special information, though I will note that sitting in the seats on the steps or further back improves the ability of the child to see out the window so we aim for those. 

All buses are technically accessible though there are still a few "high floor" buses still rumbling around the fleet. They're being phased out as of early 2016, but I imagine you'll see them for a while. If you come across a high floor bus, board it the same way you would the Green Line at the surface - i.e. pay up front and then board with the stroller in the back door (and lug it up the stairs, sorry). The area of flip-up seats is directly across from the doors (generally 2 sets of 3 seats that flip up).

On a low-floor bus, you can board normally through the front. On most types of buses, the entire set of front seats folds up. With a small enough stroller, you should only need to flip up one of the four potential sets of seats. Note: There are a few variants of buses out there that have slightly different configurations including a brand new set of buses that basically just has a spot to park a stroller specifically.

In any case, there are two ways to flip up the seat. On some buses, there will be a ring underneath the seat. Pull the ring toward you and then pull the seat up (see picture to the left for how to find the ring). To lower the seat back to its original position once you're about to get off the bus (polite but not necessary), pull the ring up and push the seat down. On other buses, there is a lever behind the seat (sometimes left, sometimes right, but the back of a bus seat is probably not the grossest thing you've touched today anyway). Push the lever to the wall and pull the seat up. To lower, there is a knob on the bottom front of the seat, pull out and push the seat down.

Commuter Rail

Any readers have tips for the Commuter Rail? We haven't tried it with the kiddos.

Ferries

Any readers have tips for the Ferries? We've not tried it with the kiddos either.

Exiting the T

For the most part, you'll just do the reverse of what you did to enter the vehicle and station.

The Green Line technically does not allow rear door exiting during the off-peak, so if the driver does not see you waiting to exit, a shout of "REAR DOOR" is usually sufficient to get them to open it. Hey, it's Boston, you made it this far in the article before someone had to shout at someone else.

Wrap-up

So yeah, that was a lot, but you can do it! 

Other Bostonians, what did we miss? What did we screw up? Let us know in the comments below.

Are you interested in helping to develop a guide for your city? Even if you know only a part of the system, drop us a line. We will help you put something together and build out a great resource. Email us: transitinfo at acrossb dot com.

How to start bringing your baby/toddler/kid on transit!

"Next Stop, Please"
While we were quite certain we didn't want to get a car the moment that first baby came, the idea of figuring out how to get a stroller onto the bus or train and keep a kid calm was daunting. Ideally I also wanted to allow others to board/alight without causing all the sidelong glances I'd so smugly sent at flustered new parents for many years.

Similarly, when the never ending snows of 2015 came, our slow easing-back of the stroller became an all-out desertion of anything with wheels. The thought of getting a 20-month old to and from daycare on transit unrestrained was intimidating, even for us urbanophiles.

So how did we do it?
Note: If you're here with just a toddler, you can skip the next two sections and head down to "Lower the Stakes."

Educate Yourself about the Transit System

Still pregnant? Watch other families board and see what works (and what doesn't) for them. Check out where they sit, how they get there, and especially watch how they flip up seats or any other adjustments to the bus or train. Be brave, ask questions or offer to help, it's a great time to practice.
Note: If you've enjoyed the anonymity of urban life so far, you may feel weird talking to random people, but your life of being ignored will soon end. People of all types are going to approach you with all sorts of comments and questions when you travel with the adorable littles, even in the city. So you may as well start getting used to conversation with strangers. At least this time you're getting some much needed information out of the deal.
Too late to practice? That's fine. If you're using a stroller, the general rule of thumb you're going to use on transit for the next few years is to treat the system like someone in a wheelchair. You are looking for low-floor trains/buses, elevators, step-free passages, and space to get a stroller out of the way of people trying to fill up a vehicle. The Americans with Disabilities Act (for those in the U.S.) does not cover you, but the things transit agencies are doing to comply will be your friend. (SEE BELOW FOR A MAJOR POINT ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY.)

Most transit agency websites have a section devoted to these things. You will generally find them under "Accessibility" or other information for the "Mobility Impaired." Your results will vary, as some agencies have more information than others, and some will (understandably) focus more on other issues of accessibility, but it's a good place to start. 

On a day you're riding solo during a non-peak time, see if you ask a couple questions to the driver. Are there seats that flip up? Where is the handle? Is it the same on all buses/trains? Is it easier to enter through a back door? How/when do you pay your fare? Answers for Boston MBTA will be forthcoming in another post.

The Right Gear for Children on Transit

We've all seen people try to board the bus with giant heavy strollers, slowing down everyone else while they get increasingly flustered. How not to be them? 

First, get the right stroller and accessories. Light, tight turning radius, and narrow are your friends here... especially light. Stores may tell you that 20 pounds is light for a stroller (it may even have "city" in its name), but that's not light enough. You can find them under 18 pounds (15 pounds and under is even better).

Stroller toys are also super since on a particularly bad commute, anything that buys you another 5-10 minutes may just be the thing that gets you home (or the kid to sleep). Until the babies were old enough to ditch the pacifier, we kept one on a clip attached to the stroller at all times (clips are also a great way to keep a toy attached to the stroller without it going missing). That was, in fact, the last pacifier we ditched with our first, even after the one that lived in the crib. Remember to also keep appropriate things in your diaper bag in case of unexpected delays or accidents. This is not a place to go nuts for all contingencies (staying light being a priority as well), but a snack with a long shelf life and some all purpose wipes will go a long way for peace of mind.

Is your train or bus extra crowded? Do you live in a city that requires you to fold up strollers? Is it snowing? Then a carrier is a great way to use transit and more-or-less avoid all of the issues afforded by strollers. Just hope that this isn't the day you need to get diapers, wipes, and sheets into daycare.

Lower the Stakes when Starting out on Transit with Your Kid

The people on the bus go up & down...
Ok, now we're to the part where the strategies are the same for getting out there with a stroller AND for getting your kid out of the stroller. In other words, use the obvious strategies that you employ when trying something new with your kid.


Start small

Pick a non-essential trip, during the middle of the day or the weekend, on a day when your child seems to be in a good mood.  Don't go too far - pick a destination that you can walk home from with the stroller or carry the kid if you've ditched it.

Be ready for the first time (or 3) to be slow and to feel like the tourists you scoff at all the time. It's going to be awkward, you won't know where to put your hands, or the kid's hands, or you'll discover the cup holder hits the stop request button, or your newly unrestrained kid's snowpants cause them to slide right off the seat.  It will feel like you spent 15 minutes getting settled while everyone else stares daggers at you. You can rest assured, however, it was probably only 30 seconds and no one even looked up from Facebook.

Get off two stops later, enjoy a cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat at a cafe, and walk back home. You did it!

Build Slow

For the stroller crowd, once you get a couple of these under your belt, try a rush hour commute. If you're feeling nervous, recruit another adult to help (partner/parent/friend/etc.). Then try a rush hour commute where the second adult hangs out at the other end of the vehicle and only helps if something goes wrong. Slowly ease off the training wheels and you've got the confidence to hop on anytime, get around, and enjoy your city, baby and all!
Our first longer walk parallel to the bus route

For those trying to ditch the stroller, the same principles apply but you're also adding in the need to help your kid learn to walk further and further. So instead of wheeling the stroller directly into the daycare, we parked the stroller first and walked to the door. Then, we started walking to the park (holding onto a stroller handle) but letting the kid ride in the stroller on the return trip.

To bring it back to transit, we started taking the bus unrestrained to music class where the walk on either side of the bus was short. We kept practicing with various trips until we were ready to try a run to daycare. At first we only did the commute without a stroller one way, leaving the stroller at the daycare overnight for an unrestrained ride home and then back to school the next morning. We went from one day a week, to two, to... the worst winter in Boston history where we ditched the stroller entirely and were so happy she was ready and able to do it!

Use Cute and Precocious as Long as you Can

Moving to unrestrained transit riding also meant teaching the kid a lot more about proper behavior than we had to cover when she was confined to the stroller. We do lots of reminders about the fact that everyone gets personal space, the need to stay in your seat, using your inside voice, and really all the things that toddlers do. All of which is to say, you'll no longer be checking your phone or enjoying a cup of coffee while enroute.

When we've had issues with her pushing the limits of appropriate behavior, I apologize, and generally people are pretty nice/forgiving (yes, even here in grumpy Boston). Her size, comparative independence and charizma let her get away with it. This should buy you enough time (and trips) to teach better habits.

Ask for help and know when to decline it

We all have bad, weird, or frustrating days. And here's the thing, you can always ask for help. You can ask people to vacate the accessible seating, you can ask people to flip up a seat, or to even help you with a stroller on the stairs if you so need. In my experience, people have always been pretty great about it, especially people who have grown children.

While plenty of people offer useless (or worse) help, most of them are just trying to be good citizens and everything is going to be OK, I promise!

I see our subway station!

You Did It!

Eventually they'll want to look out the window, which will be lots of fun (and distracting) for them. They'll learn the names of the stops, learn their left and right from the door announcements, and tell strangers how to get around. At home you can make up new verses to "The Wheels on the Bus" based on your actual experiences (we've added verses about bike racks and card readers).

And now we have a commute where we can have fun, learn skills, and see each other face-to-face all without having to circle for parking.

Hey, we got back to being smug, victory!

A note (actually 2) about Accessibility

When you are in the wheelchair section of your bus or train, keep your eyes open for folks using other mobility aids who need access to that section of the vehicle. It's annoying to stand in an aisle with a stroller, but easier/safer for you to do than a wheelchair, which generally must be secured using special attachments only in that area. Similarly, someone with a walker may not be able to make it as far into the vehicle as you can. Part of asking others to vacate these spaces for you is realizing that you may still need to vacate for someone in more need than you.

Also, when you're winding through dark passageways from platform to platform and stuck in slow-moving foul-smelling elevators while those without wheels walk up 10 stairs to accomplish the same task, remind yourself: When my child(ren) is out of the stroller, we'll be done with this. And then double-remind yourself, for many of the people using these services, they are stuck with this substandard transit experience every day.

So, when your transit agency says they don't have money for accessibility, or there's no need to add a second elevator to serve platforms in both directions, or that they can't upgrade a station because then they'd finally need to make it accessible, PUSH BACK. Do it for your selfish reasons of needing to get a stroller around town for the next few years, but especially do it for the non-selfish reasons.

This post is in the series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

Tales from the Trenches: Weird comments on transit edition

Toddler's first trip to day care on the bus without a stroller.
It's definitely the lazy "nothing important is going to happen at work" time of the year. So in honor of that, we here at Kids in the Stairwell decided to take a break from our normally scheduled programming to start a new (recurring?) segment where we relate funny/thought provoking/ridiculous anecdotes that have happened to us on our parenting journey. So without further ado, this installment will be devoted to...

Crazy weird stuff people have said to us when using transit with an unrestrained child

As we mentioned in some previous posts, our daughter ditched the stroller pretty early (about 20 months). She's also always been pretty ahead in the gross motor skills arena. These two things are almost certainly highly related. Regardless, this means that we've had the experience of taking the bus and train (and making transfers) with a very small child not protected with the cocoon of a stroller. While for the most part this engenders exclamations as to her precociousness, occasionally this results in odd or downright hostile interactions.

You should carry her!

One time, I was walking down the stairs into the train station with my daughter who was doing a great job walking down the stairs beside me. As we were descending, a man, who was passing us, turned around and barked at me that I was being unsafe and should pick her up. This was particularly odd as I was visibly quite pregnant and also the toddler was not causing a problem (at that exact moment, because believe me.... My toddler knows how to cause a problem).  I'm not sure exactly where our behavior was so unsafe as to elicit comment, but it's good to know that the public has our interest at heart... or something.


She looks cold!

One time my husband was on the bus and an old lady told him that our daughter looks cold and then PROCEEDED TO ATTEMPT TO BUTTON HER COAT FOR HER! I guess she didn't get the memo about not touching other people's children without permission (or really just touching other people you don't know on the bus, regardless of age)...


Happy Mother's Day!

This past mother's day, at 32 weeks pregnant, I was boarding the bus with my daughter in tow, heading home from the playground. As I got on, the driver looked me up and down (pausing at my giant belly) and said
"Happy Mother's Day, I guess"
Awww thanks buddy, but really you could have stopped talking before the "I guess" part.


Take a cab!

And for our last anecdote, one time my husband boarded a bus with our daughter and her large carseat in a backpack (this was before we had the good fortune to acquire the IMMI GO). Another passenger angrily insisted to my husband that he should take a cab. One can only assume that he was unaware that it's called public transit and thus open to the general public, which does include children...

Your turn...

What weird and ridiculous comments have you all encountered when taking public transportation with your kids?

Attach baby, see the world! (review of Ergo vs. Lillebaby structured carriers)

Baby in carrier, stroller in hand, ready to board the train!
Carriers are super useful in the first year of life, especially if you live in an urban area and like to go places without a car.  They can also be a great way to calm down an upset baby or give the baby a place to nap while out and about (while still maintaining use of both your hands).  There are even studies which show that periodic babywearing (as it's known in the biz) allows children to reach gross motor milestones earlier. (Note: I'm almost hesitant to mention this last fact because when I was Googling for the references on this, I came across all kinds of crazy websites advocating that you never put your child down in order to become a "natural" parent.  I don't even know where to begin deconstructing this.  Let's just say that I rolled my eyes so hard they almost got stuck in my skull.  Naturally (ha!) you have my full permission to put your baby down any time you damn well please! I assure you there is nothing "unnatural" about wanting space from your kids sometimes and no one will be damaged as a result.)

In any case, in the first 2 months of life I really recommend an unstructured carrier (doubly for Mom).  In the beginning they tend to be easier to put on and adjust to the adult, especially when the adult in question is still funny shaped from the pregnancy (though keep in mind, Mom won't be able to use the carrier for the first 2 weeks, but Grandparents and partners can). Also the structured carriers are all built to carry 3 year olds and so sometimes are hard to adjust to itty bitty babies. (You can see our review of the Moby and Infantino Mai Tai.)

Once your baby is big enough though, you may want to get a structured carrier for your and their comfort.  But which carrier should you get?  There are many of them on the market and we personally have tried 2 different ones: Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier and the LILLEbaby Complete Baby Carrier.

Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier

Getting squirmy toddler through airport security.
When our first child was born there was only one company that made "ergonomic" carriers, i.e. ones that were comfortable for the parents.  They called themselves "Ergobaby" (get it? get it?).  We got one and it was great.  It was an easy way to transport the baby, say onto an Amtrak train, and still have hands free for all your stuff. It had a "sun hood", which was great not just to protect the baby from the sun but also to help her sleep when we needed her to nap on the go.  It also had a pocket in the front which was a convenient place to store your cell phone/keys etc. if you were just taking a walk around the neighborhood and didn't need that much stuff with you.  Our baby also just enjoyed hanging out in it while we did other stuff and often it was a way to get her to nap when she just plain didn't want to.  We used it with some frequency until the kid was about a year old. In fact we have so many pictures of us carrying her around in it (in the carrier at a wedding! at a train station! with dad working at a computer!), it was hard to just pick 2.

Overall, it was great but from my perspective it had 2 downsides:
  1. 1. There was no front facing option with the "original" carrier, which was the only one available at the time. Facing forward would have been much more fun for the kid once she got to be about 4 months old.  Both Ergobaby and other brands have since come out with structured carriers that have this feature.

  2. 2. When the baby is under 3 months, you have to use this really bulky and hot insert with them.  This one was the real bummer, especially since our first baby was born in June and our second in July.  Even in the most recent version of this (the Ergo Baby 4 Position 360 Carrier ) they haven't entirely fixed it (the 360 infant insert at least does appear to be thinner).  Given that other options are available, if you think you'll want to use the carrier before the kid is 3 months, I would say it's definitely worth considering a different brand.

LILLEbaby Complete

Tiny baby, napping in the airport
When we found out we were expecting a second child, we knew we wouldn't have to get too many new things for him.  He was born a mere 2 years after the first and most things survived our daughters' use of them.  There were a couple of products, however, we wanted an updated version of and the structured carrier was one of them.  For this reason we set out to find a carrier that improved on the 2 things mentioned above that we didn't entirely love about the Ergobaby.  The LILLEbaby Complete Baby Carrier met all our needs in spec and has certainly lived up to expectations since then in use.

Baby, ready to see the world while Mom takes a walk
It's appropriate for use in the newborn stage without any inserts.  Like the Ergobaby, it has a pocket for transporting small things like a cell phone or a burp cloth.  It also boasts not only a sun hood, but a back that can be pinned down to give the baby a better view of the world even when the baby is worn parent-facing.  Not only that, but it can be converted to be forward facing relatively easily.  Most importantly, it is phenomenally comfortable for the parent (even more so than the Ergobaby).   It's a bit tricky to learn to put on but, the other amazing features of this are well worth it in my opinion.

Finally, what I love about this carrier is that it comes both in a "all season" and "airflow" version.  We got the "airflow" version because wearing a baby usually feels warm and one can always add a cover to it.  This carrier has been everything it promised to be and I am super excited to be using it until the kiddo outgrows it.


    

The amazing folding toddler carseat - lifesaver for Carfree families!!

2 year old in IMMI GO seat.
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I have a tendency to effervesce in the form of wild gesturing and Valley girl-style high pitched squealing when I get excited about something. Let me tell you, when I first read about the IMMI GO Car Seat, I reached full Alkaseltzer crossed with 1995 Alicia Silverstone. I was so excited! Since that initial love at first read, I've had the joy of using this car seat and being proven correct. 

Live carfree? You'll spend more time obsessing about carseats than your suburban friends...

Let's start with why car seats are the mortal enemy of city-dwelling families and then we can discuss why this particular one rises so far above the rest. What I need in a car seat is one that's light, foldable, easy to carry, and importantly, easy to install correctly - bonus if I can do it quickly enough that my toddler doesn't decide to bolt into traffic while my attention is elsewhere. Car seats, especially ones designed for kids after the infancy stage, are heavy, bulky, and not meant to be taken in and out of cars frequently. In fact studies show that most kids ride in car seats that aren't installed correctly, which means that more and more families are going to police departments to have their car seats installed professionally. This is all fine, but it in no way encourages car seat manufacturers to make these seats simpler to install correctly (again... improperly installed car seats aren't all that useful). And if they're so hard to install, then there's no reason to make them easy to transport. Add to this the recent trend to steel reinforced seats which are twice (or more) as heavy than regular seats... So car seats - the mortal enemy of the carfree family.

Aren't steel reinforced seats installed by professionals the safest thing for my child?

Yes? Maybe? Sometimes? The answer is, in fact, kind of murky.  First of all it's not actually clear according to the data that carseats are all that effective for kids over the age of 2 anyway.  Second of all, if you live carfree in a city, the overwhelming majority of the time you want to drive somewhere, you're driving on much slower-moving roads than if you live out in the middle of the country, in a state with very straight borders. (For good data on this look here - most fatal crashes occur on straight, fast moving highways... if you live in Massachusetts you have never seen one of those). Prior to the availability of the IMMI GO, many people have suggested things like a Car Seat Travel Cart or the Lilly Gold The Sit 'n' Stroll. These are fine for what they are, but they still require lugging a giant thing around, just on wheels. They also don't solve the problem of "I may need a car seat later so I'll just take one in case we decide to take a cab home for a quick get away".  These are not "maybe" solutions you'll just casually haul around with you - they are commitments.  (Also they are expensive so I've never gotten desperate enough to invest in either of them.)

How the IMMI GO changed my life!

Folded, the seat is about the size of a bulky briefcase
The IMMI GO fits all my criteria for a carseat and is totally small enough that I can carry it around as a "maybe". It folds, comes with its own attached carrying case, weighs only 10 lbs, is easy to install and adjust... correctly! It's brand new so you might not find tons of info about it but it is Carseat Lady approved (so I'm not the only crazy Internet lady who likes it).   

The only small, tiny quibble I have with it is that it only has a handle and not a shoulder strap.  But! We live in the age of the internet and such problems can be solved.  I ordered a strap from Mautto.com and was able to convert it into the ultimate portable carseat (pictured - Cotton Canvas Webbing Strap, 1.5" wide, 55" adjustable length).  At just 10 lbs, and carried hands free, I can take this on the train with me along with my toddler, purse, and whatever else I need.  I can know that if we're cutting it close to bedtime or dangerously approaching a toddler freak out, we're just a safe taxi ride away from home.

IMMI GO - you have this tired Mom's very sincere thank you!

This post is in the series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

Part 1 - I don't have a car but my stroller is boss - (why?)

It was shocking to me how quickly after announcing our first pregnancy to the wider world questions/assumptions came pouring in about when and what kind of car we would be purchasing (answers: never and none).  Yes, it's true... my name is Dina Aronzon, I live in a city, I have 2 children, and zero (0!!) cars.  Also I am not alone in this decision.  If you've not encountered this phenomenon before, this post will answer all your burning questions about what that's like.

Are you some kind of martyr/hippy/crazy environmentalist/crunchy sanctimommy?

No (at least I don't think so).  The decision to not have a car was not made as a statement nor out of any kind of particular conviction (please! who has time for that kind of thing with the amount of laundry around).  It is entirely one of practicality.  Reasons I don't have a car:
  1. 1. It's really expensive to have a car in the city.  You have to pay to park it at your own house (we rent out the parking space that came with our condo for $125/month), at your job (my job downtown charges $350/month to park; even when I worked in the 'burbs it was still $30/month), and everywhere else you go.  Car insurance costs more.  Our combined spending on transportation (monthly transit pass + average Zipcar spending + taxi/uber) comes to roughly $200 a month.  The math doesn't lie.  Plus, we can take all that money that we DON'T spend on parking, insurance, car payments, and gas and spend it on our mortgage.

  2. 2. At the end of a snow storm I've never been sitting there thinking "you know what I want to do right now?  Go outside in the freezing cold and dig a hunk of metal out, just for kicks". 

  3. 3. I never have to schedule an oil change, get snow tires, or coordinate getting home from "the shop".  Frankly, I'm too lazy and busy to add another expensive and possibly lethal thing to take care of.

  4. 4.  Most importantly, in the 10 years that I have been living as an independent adult, there has never been a thing that I wanted to do that I haven't been able to because I don't own a car.

Do you have a driver's license?

Yes. I live in America, I'm pretty sure they strip you of your citizenship if you don't get one by age 25.  Also, I've had to drive equipment around for my job so it's come in handy for professional reasons.  Also also, we do use Zipcars when we need to get somewhere that's not conveniently accessible by transit.  Being able to drive when you need to without owning a car - the future is pretty awesome, isn't it?


How do you get your kids anywhere?

Riding Amtrak with our 3 month old
The same way all parents do - with a lot of patience.  Also with the help of strollers, trains, buses, and as previously mentioned, Zipcars.

15 month old, riding the bus
Toddler says "Hi there, I love my stroller"
And of course, when all else fails, we use our walking feet

You must be sacrificing SOMETHING

Sure, yes.  But once again, this is no different from anyone else.  There are absolutely jobs I haven't taken because it would have meant buying a car and commuting out to the suburbs every day.  This is definitely a  place where I have some luck.  I have not had trouble finding work that fit my criteria.  That said, I have also been flexible as to what my criteria are.  In return, my husband and I commute to daycare on transit where we get to talk to our children, play games, and sing songs with them. They are not stuck completely strapped into a seat, facing a different direction, unable to have meaningful interactions with us.  Also, as a bonus, we don't tend have naps ruined by a cat nap in the car (instead our naps are ruined by toddler intransigence).  And finally, yes, sometimes we say no to activities or events because it would be too much of a hassle to get there.  Then again, there's something to be said for using your time judiciously and just walking your kids to the playground instead.


I have a car.  Are you judging me?

Yes.

I am of course joking. I don't really care what others do. The purpose of this post twofold.  The first is really to dispel the mystery around my family's choices (which frankly aren't that mysterious).  The second goal here is to encourage others who may currently be living car free but are about to have children to consider giving the carfree family lifestyle a try. 



This post is the first in a series of posts about carfree living. Upcoming posts will include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

Photo Credit - National Sarcasm Society under the Creative Commons License.