Most major cities have a subway as part of their public transportation. The subway can be a wonderful and inexpensive way to get around and a great alternative to traffic and parking hassles. It can also be a lot of fun for children to ride the train through the city. Whether you’re just visiting or you live there, there are extra precautions you need to take, and be aware of, to ride the public subway safely with your children.
Before you leave
The subway system can be very crowded, loud and downright scary for a young child. Before you even leave, you should be preparing your toddler for what’s to come. Let her know that there are going to be a lot of people around and trains coming into the station can squeal very loudly. If the child is prepared for this, he can then actually look forward to the experience. Show him pictures of trains and system maps. Explain that you may go underground. Get her interested in the train ride rather than being afraid and unprepared. This step alone will make your experience safer and more enjoyable. Be sure to give yourself a little extra time when traveling with the kids. Most subway systems aren’t on a fixed schedule so you could be at the station for awhile awaiting the next train. The last this you want to be is in a hurry. You can get careless and forgetful when rushed. Many subway systems now have smart phone apps that can assist with purchasing tickets and even letting you know when the next train is due.
When you get to the station
When you’re at the station, put the child in his stroller if you have one and be sure to have his “comfy” toy with him. His favorite blanket can provide the sense of security he needs to stay calm. Buy your passes ahead of time online if possible. If not, be sure to keep a close on her while you’re at the kiosk and be sure to take advantage of any child rates. If there are transit assistance personnel there, ask them about special fares, seating and anything they have seem parents have issues with at that station or traveling on this particular type of subway car. Each system and stop in that system is different. Ask about evacuation routes and known safety issues. They see a lot during the day and they’re there to help. Use caution when going through the fare gates. Many places still use the three bar turnstile type gate. These can swing back and strike the child. A safer alternative is to use the handicap accessible gates if available. These gates are wider and more easily used, especially with a stroller. Again, if there are transit Representatives, ask for assistance. They may have access to wider and safer gates for your children. If you have to get to a different level in the station use the elevator if available. If not, take your toddler out of the stroller when using the stairs or escalator and have her get back in once you’re at your level. Keeping them in the stroller and buckled will help you maintain control of your child.
On the Platform
Don’t let children play or run around in the station or on the platform. A train station can be extremely dangerous with trains coming in. Try to find a relatively quite area of the platform, away from the larger crowds and clear of the track are itself. Get far enough from the track so that if she decides to throw her favorite toy, it won’t reach the track area. If anything where to fall into the track area, find a police officwer or station personel to have them assist. They can safetly stop the train if necessary and retrieve the item NEVER enter the track area on your own. Trains can come quickly and from any direction. If there are police call boxes, get yourself close to one or at least be aware of where they are in the station. Set the stroller brake and play with your toddler by getting down to their level, keeping them in the stroller, and chat with her. Ask her how she’s felling and if she has any questions. Point out some of the feature of a train station, particularly the safety line near the tracks. Explain the dangers of going near that line. Even if the child is too young to comprehend safety, it’s always a good idea to explain safety to them. Eventually they’ll get it.
Boarding the Train
There are often indicator lights and/or public announcements to let you know when the next train is arriving. Now, depending on the type of train you are boarding you will either, calmly take your child out of the stroller, fold it up and prepare to board. Or, if the train is handicap accessible, simple release the stroller brake and prepare to board. In either case, stand well clear of the yellow safety line, there will be plenty of time to board. Let the people off load first and calmly board the train. “Mind the Gap” is a common sight and slogan in England’s Underground but it’s not used enough here in the US. The gap between the train and the platform is one of the most hazardous conditions you will encounter. Stroller wheels and little feet can easily slip into the gap and cause injury. Use extreme caution when passing over the gap. On
On the Train
Once onto the train, move into the train to a safe location. If there are seats available, take a seat and get your child into a seat as well. If there are no seats available, ask someone sitting if they wouldn’t mind giving up their seat for you. Most people are decent human beings and wouldn’t have a problem with this. If he’s in a stroller, seat yourself, face him towards you and lock the brake. In either case, prepare yourself and her for the jolt of the train starting to move. This can be quite violent in older trains and even newer ones. Try to stay clear of others as the train starts to move. If they’re not ready it can send them into you or the child. Always be aware of your surrounding and the people around you as well. Trust your instincts. There are dangerous people in the world bent on hurting your children. Keep a safety perimeter around your child. If someone move into the safety zone, politely ask them to step aside a bit. Explain that you wouldn’t want them to bump into your child as the train starts and stops. Most people will completely understand and too bad for those that don’t.
Exiting the Train
Know when and where your stop is. Prepare yourself and the child for the train coming to a stop. This too can be very abrupt. Wait until the train has come to a complete stop. Look out to be sure you’re in the station as the trains will often stop a little before the final door opening area. Very calmly exit the train and keep the child as close as possible. Step away from the loading area as quickly as possible and get awy from the crowds. Reassess your location and surroundings. Once you’re comfortable with where you are and where you’re going next, you can exit the station. Again, watch for handicap accessible gates and exits. They provide a safer alternative to exit the station.
Kids love trains. With some common sense and simple safety practices you both can enjoy the experience and convenience of riding America’s subways.
Keep Safe, Always!
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