Most Northern Ireland parents stick with cars despite parking chaos and an hour-long wait at school gates
ON a rain-soaked February afternoon, parents outside one primary school in east Belfast have to arrive an hour early just to get a parking space.
Despite many living within walking distance, the vast majority outside Strandtown Primary School on the North Road yesterday explained why they'll keep sitting in traffic for the school run.
Jonathan Turk (38) from Connswater had just picked up his son Harrison (6).
"I live about a mile away. I could walk the kids but the car is handy," he said.
"But it is frustrating sitting for an hour every day just to get a space.
"At the moment I don't think anything would get me out of the car as Harrison is still a bit too young.
"The eldest could probably walk now but it's handy to pick up both in one go."
Elin Wilson (40) was waiting to pick up her two sons Adam (11) and Max (7).
"I usually drive from home in Stormont," she said.
"It's a bit too far for me to consider walking or cycling. My work's in Holywood and I pick them up afterwards so taking public transport isn't really an option."
She added: "Like everyone, I'm normally waiting for an hour so I do a bit of reading or listen to the news. If they had a bigger pick-up area it would make things easier for us, or even a drive-through system."
Ashleigh Dempster (32) from the Newtownards Road was waiting to pick up Ellie (5) and Lauren (10).
"I mostly drive, it's about two miles. If the weather's nice though I'll bring their scooters and we walk home," she said.
"Parking's nearly impossible here. I sit here from about 1.45pm, my younger girl gets out half an hour later and my oldest isn't out till 3.15pm.
"So that's an hour-and-a-half of sitting every afternoon. There's no point going back home as you'll never get parked again."
She continued: "For parents waiting on different children, something like a play area to sit and have a cup of tea would be a massive help.
"The congestion here is terrible. It's the same outside our house, cars for another school are there from 7.30am every morning. I can't even park outside my own house sometimes."
She said public transport has never felt like a practical option.
"It doesn't really make sense for me, it would take me even longer as the bus route I need doesn't go past my house. So driving's still the quickest option."
Among the few parents doing the school run with an umbrella instead of a car was Kylie King (30) from the Beersbridge Road.
Setting out on her homeward journey with William (10), Ryan (8) and Annie (5), she said she's more than happy with walking.
"It's not the best weather, but I don't drive so I have to walk every day. It's about 15-20 minutes," she said.
"I don't mind it at all. It's good for them and it keeps me fit and active too.
"Public transport, though, I don't like it.
"I just find it so awkward when you have the kids with you. It's nice walking home as well as it gives you a chance to chat with the kids, they fill you in on everything that's going on during the day.
"The congestion outside school here is crazy.
"If there's a day I have to get a taxi it can be absolute mayhem trying to get here on time."