Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Should we really park our cars on the beach?

A view of Portstewart Strand Beach as hundreds of cars descend to the beach. Photo by Mark Jamieson
A view of Portstewart Strand Beach as hundreds of cars descend to the beach. Photo by Mark Jamieson

Are we the only country in the world that promotes the concept of the drive-in paddle in the sea?

Some of our best beaches double as car-parks. And while one part of me (admittedly, the lazy part) thinks this is a great idea, the other, wiser part of me worries about the potential consequences.

When we were children, our Da used to take us in his oul' banger to our beach of choice – a glorious, almost deserted stretch of sand where we all but had the ocean to ourselves.

I was back to the same beach not that long ago and it was virtually standing room only.

No bad thing, of course. Great to see the scenic splendour of our shores being widely appreciated.

But where once you would have seen only a few cars parked on the same stretch of beach, there was now a whole Boucher Road of them.

All sorts of vehicles had been parked about four deep by drivers of all degrees of ability.

Little children, freed after what must have seemed to them an interminable journey to the coast, whooped with joy as they bounded from the car and raced seawards.

"Look out!" mothers screamed. Cars jammed on brakes. Others reversed dangerously.

It was – it is – a recipe for disaster.

But just how do you balance the notion of allowing people free and easy access to the beach with genuine safety concerns? Without spoiling everybody's fun.

We need to give it some thought.

Because we need to acknowledge that among that peculiarly local summer mix of buckets and spades, ice-creams, exhaust fumes and on-beach vehicle manoeuvres there is potentially, some awful, awful tragedy waiting to happen.

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