Parenting: newborns to toddlers

Making Hong Kong stroller-friendly: the online community of mums sharing baby-friendly walks across the city

Group's website carries details of nearly 30 walks you can do with a small baby in city and countryside

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 5:46am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 11:16am

It's challenging enough to be a pedestrian on Hong Kong's narrow and busy pavements, much less to push a stroller around with baby on board. But three mothers will tell you there are many buggy-friendly routes in the city - and have set up a website to spread the word.

Sharon Rubin, Rosie Fletcher and Charlotte Eriksen, each with a toddler aged between two and three, had initially found it difficult to navigate Hong Kong streets after having their children. But as they discovered more and more stroller-friendly ways around the city, they decided to share the routes by setting up last year.

"We're reclaiming our love for Hong Kong and hiking with strollers in tow," says Fletcher, a primary school teacher and avid hiker.

The website has a database of 29 routes across the territory, categorised according to duration (up to four hours long), suitability (walks with a stroller, baby carrier or scooter/bicycle, or toddler), and type (point A to B, out-and-back or a loop).

Each route is described in detail with photos and a link to a Google map. Other useful information includes the presence of any inclines or steps, and the availability of shade and facilities such as food stops and baby changing areas.

Every month or two, the trio also organise group stroller walks that anyone can join for free. A fortnight ago, about 10 mothers walked from Deep Water Bay to Repulse Bay.

The first walk they organised was along Black's Link, from Wong Nai Chung Gap Road to Wan Chai Gap Park. They put out the word through a few local mother community Facebook groups and about 30 people signed up; some 10 mothers showed up in the end.

"Some people who came had never taken their pushchair out in Hong Kong; they didn't think it was possible," says Fletcher.

Rubin, a marketing director and the IT brain behind the website, adds: "A few people were so grateful that we helped them use their stroller for the first time. It's a nice feeling to share something you love. Whenever we go on a walk, whoever turns up are always like-minded people who want to get their kids out in nature."

Even during wet weather, the walks continue. "It's better to be out than in on a wet day," says Eriksen, an accountant and swimming coach. "We're all from places where children grow up in outdoor spaces. It's easy to get cooped up in Hong Kong."

All three mothers are from England and met in Hong Kong through mutual friends. Stroller walks, they say, helped them return quickly to their pre-pregnancy fitness levels.

Rubin says the walks are also good for the mind. "It can get lonely and claustrophobic to sit with a newborn at home the whole day," she says.

The women began by discovering "secret ways" around their Mid-Levels neighbourhood - "like the lift in the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre on Kennedy Road that you can take down straight to Hong Kong Park", Rubin says - then elsewhere on Hong Kong Island. Soon, they were heading north into Kowloon and the New Territories.

A hidden gem, Eriksen says, is a waterfront route from Tsim Sha Tsui to Hung Hom. Surprisingly, the stroller never leaves the ground on that walk. If you live on Hong Kong Island, the Hung Hom to North Point ferry is an enjoyable way to get back.

Parents don't need a special stroller for the walks. Any type will do, although a relatively slim and light one is preferable.

What's more important is being prepared for the outdoors. During the summer, Fletcher recommends putting ice packs under the stroller's seat pad, using a portable fan and bringing along lots of hydration for both baby and parent. Remember also to take along mosquito repellent.

While the three mothers are enthusiastic about stroller walks in Hong Kong, they do have some gripes: such as buildings that have a few steps from street level to the lift lobby; disallowing strollers on escalators; and street furniture such as bins and poles obstructing pavements.

"Sometimes you just have to pretend to be a car and push your stroller on the street," Rubin says. "Just be determined and walk with confidence."