The School Run: A Rant
I have an admission to make. I drive my daughter the mile to school each morning. I wish I didn’t have to, but after she’s gone through the gates, I have 10 minutes to get to the car and into work. And even Usain Bolt couldn’t get there that fast. So I drive. Perhaps I’ll consider cycling in the future if I can get my fitness to a point that will allow me to arrive at work with functioning legs and lungs. But for now, I take the car, but park far enough away from the school not to get caught in the traffic.
However, this is not about that. I was just illustrating the fact that I am not coming from a holier than thou walking mum perspective. I drive because I have to, and I know others do too. But it isn’t an excuse to be reckless, or in fact, downright bloody dangerous. Yet I sometimes feel alone in this belief.
I have seen men (presumably, dads) driving vans with a fag in one hand and their child on their lap, neither of them wearing a seatbelt. This is to a school for children under eight. So, small children, that may fit between you and the steering wheel, but unless your brains are also located there, you wouldn’t endanger your child’s life like that, would you? Apparently, they would.
In order to ensure more children’s lives are threatened, there are also the oh so important parents who have some kind of special dispensation that means the yellow zigzag lines directly outside the school are reserved for them to park on; after all, god forbid their precious children, climbing around inside the car, should actually have to walk any distance at all. Or that you should miss having a gossip with the other parents that have these extra-special rights.
Recently, the council, who are renowned for being a bit rubbish, actually did something good. They painted double yellow lines on the corners of the road leading to the school. Prior to this, people would park right up to and even across the corner of the road, making it impossible to turn into or get out of the road once you were in it, with cars parked on both sides leaving no space for passing. You see, even driveways are fair game for parking across at school run time. Yet, apparently, I am one of the few drivers who have noticed these bright, colourful lines on the road as they have been pointedly ignored by many, and the confusion continues as cars try to navigate up and down the road.
All of this chaos makes for extremely dangerous pedestrian access to the school, as cars reverse out of the way, squeeze together tightly to get in a space and make it nigh on impossible to cross the road safely. I have seen cars speeding along the road and hooting each other as frustrations at the congestion rise.
On one occasion, I made the mistake of driving along this road, thinking that being later would mean there would be some parking, only to quickly realise I was about to get caught in the quagmire of traffic. I wasn’t going to rush though, so pulled over in a rare space to let a car coming in the opposite direction past. After all, there was nowhere to go if I didn’t. Having flashed my lights to let them know I was giving way, the driver started towards me, only for three cars to swerve round me and speed along the road. And guess what? They got stuck in the volume of cars at the other end and a woman actually had to get out of her car and start directing the traffic to break the gridlock.
I wish I had an answer to make the school run less dangerous and more child-friendly, but I don’t. If people can’t follow the basic rules of the road or use just an ounce of common sense, then no amount of money or law-making will make any difference. I’ve seen the headmistress out there, telling people off for parking on the zigzags, but they just move off and park there again later.
I just worry that a change will only happen when a child is seriously hurt, or even killed in the race to be the one to park closest to the school gates. I hope this never happens, but am always amazed that it doesn’t.
How does it work at your child’s school? Is everyone this inconsiderate? Or are there ways to make it safer?