Photo by PLR_Photos on Flickr.

We now have public systems to share bicycles. What about strollers?

Tanya Snyder suggests a “stroller-share” system at Streetsblog. She points out that as soon as children get too large to carry long distances, parents simply can’t take their kids on a trip around the city on foot or using transit without a stroller.

A stroller makes the bus or train a viable mode of travel for a parent with a child. Yet strollers and transit only mix uncomfortably at best. Many bus systems require parents to fold the strollers, which means unstrapping the kid, folding the stroller one-handed while supervising the kid, boarding the bus and paying the fare while both carrying the stroller and holding onto the kid, and reversing the process at the other end.

Meanwhile, many non-parent transit riders can get quite irate at parents who take up a lot of space, want to keep the stroller unfolded, or delay the bus while folding the stroller; just look at the comments on Ken Archer’s article on strollers, which have since been cited multiple times in the press as illustrations of how intolerant some transit riders can be toward parents.

Both sides have valid points. The parents need strollers, or will find themselves forced into driving everywhere. But strollers also do take up a lot of scarce room. What if parents could pick up a stroller only after they get off the bus? Snyder writes:

Once we get off the bus, it sure would be nice to have a stroller as we walk around a museum, or the zoo, or when I sit down for a meal. (Once kids are old enough to grab, they’re too old to hold on your lap while you eat.) And if they sleep well in the stroller, you don’t have to be prisoner to their nap schedules. You can continue with your full and busy day and they can just be lulled to sleep by the vibrations of the pavement (and potholes).

It’s easy enough to say, “I’m never going to be one of those moms pushing a kid around in a stroller who’s old enough to walk,” but you can bet I will be. If I’m not, it’s because I got suckered into the myth that you need a car if you have a kid. As Luna gets bigger, Stroller-Share would be useful for the outings where she starts out strong but wears out quickly. I bet any number of visitors to the National Mall get caught flat-footed when they realize it’s a full two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial — not to mention the distance back to wherever they parked the station wagon. Solution? Stroller-share!

We could name it Bay-B-Cycle in Denver, BittyTyke in New York, Capital Strollershare in DC, Play-Nice Ride in Minneapolis, the Cubway in Boston, Baby Bixi in Montreal.

Like bike-share, you’d have stroller stations in key places: transit hubs, tourist areas, shopping centers, children’s museums. There would be a small range of options to accommodate newborns without head control as well as older kids who just need a rest, as well as double-wides. They’d all have a cargo basket underneath so parents can get a bit of a break from carrying diaper bags and such. The free half-hour might not make much sense for strollers, as they’re not often used just to dart from one place to another, like a bike-share user would. Daily, monthly and annual memberships could still be available, with a focus on making one-time rentals as easy as possible, with payment by the hour.

If people mainly return strollers to the places they took them out, a stroller sharing system could work more like Bike and Roll, which rents bikes for longer periods of time (including tandems and child seats) for multiple hours, specifically to let people tour a place like the Mall.

Actually, it looks like they do rent one type of stroller: the jogging stroller, designed for a parent to take a run and bring the child along. Bike and Roll only serves the Mall and Alexandria today. Could a business succeed renting out other strollers, for 2 or so hours at a time, in places like Gallery Place, Georgetown, Clarendon, Bethesda and so on?

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.