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Whose sidewalk is it? Dealing with 'strollerphobia'

PRNewsFoto/Chicco USA

By Alex Smith

I stumbled upon an interesting post this morning on Phinneywood.com, a little news blog for Seattle’s Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods. It’s an odd little anecdote, but it struck a chord with me as a parent, and I’d imagine my fellow parents will similarly indentify. Evidently, a young mother was pushing her child in a stroller down a main drag in Greenwood when an agitated, middle-aged man accosted her. “Do you know who invented the stroller?” he asked. Before she could formulate an answer, this individual started venomously lecturing her on the negligence of “strollering,” and how it was invented by heartless, uncaring women and proved that she herself was some kind of nurture-resistant monster-of-a-mother.

Now, obviously, the gentleman in this unfortunate scenario isn’t quite right in the head (and not really all that clear on his facts – the first stroller was actually invented by a British garden architect named William Kent in 1733 with an accent on luxury, comfort and convenience). But encountering hostility in the street over one’s stroller is something I’m sure a lot of parents have experienced. As a resident of downtown Manhattan and a father of two, I was frequently met with sneers upon braving the pavement with my double-stroller. Perhaps it’s a New York City thing, but evidently not everyone is pleased to share a sidewalk with people who’ve proven themselves audacious enough to actually breed.

In 2006, I somewhat foolhardily composed a post on my own blog, venting my spleen about the difficulties of navigating a neighborhood outdoor market whilst pushing a stroller. In short order, I was suddenly besieged with e-mails that took me to task for blighting Manhattan with more children, further sullying (I guess) the city’s vanishing bohemian cachet . Lots of people, it seems, are gripped by what can only be described as “strollerphobia.”

I get it, though. Many stroller-pushing parents aren’t entirely considerate. They’ll plow down narrow sidewalks with their chunky double-wides while blabbing into their cell phones, fully expecting everyone else to dutifully stand aside lest they get run over. It’s a haughty, presumptuous attitude that earns all the scorn it attracts. While there were certainly moments when I felt giddily compelled to use our ridiculously pricey stroller as a battering ram, never once during my kids’ smaller years did I ever strike anyone with it, much less run over anyone’s toes.

At the end of the day, parents and single folks are going to need to achieve a lasting détente. People are going to continue to procreate, and given the sheer amount of maintenance involved with transporting your child anywhere, strollers of all shapes, sizes, descriptions and price tags are going to continue to pepper this nation’s byways. My kids have graduated out of the stroller and now terrorize the pavements on scooters, but that's a whole different story (albeit no less contentious). But to the pram-dodging non-parents out there, all I’d ask is a little patience and understanding. After all, the chances are pretty good that once upon a time, you were pushed around in strollers yourselves.