Gridlock on the block: students struggle to find parking

Senior Samantha Topolosky rushes to finish parking before school. (Photo by Mead Gibson)

In Bexley, driving anywhere is within a five minute radius—except for finding a parking spot around the high school. It is a common occurrence to see students driving in loops around the school, frantically searching for any available spot minutes before they’re due for a tardy slip. While waking up early for school is hard enough, attempting to find a parking spot in a restricted area around a landlocked school is the real challenge.

Principal Kristin Robbins said that students are not allowed to park in the teachers’ lot or at certain hours in front of the school on Cassingham Road.

“Students know that they can park all the way down by the tennis courts or side streets to their best ability,” she said. “It gets sort of dicey on Cassingham because these spots have historically been for traveling teachers or parents.”

According to the signs posted on Cassingham Road, students are forbidden to park in front of the school from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., but they are allowed to from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Senior Erin Winchell said that while she obeys the signs, the hours posted are frustrating to abide by.

“I understand having restricted hours for lunch because of student traffic, but everyone is at school by 8:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m.,” she said.

Junior Grace Jones said she leaves her house up to 40 minutes before school starts in order to find a decent, legal parking spot for the day.

“I try to park on Dale Avenue, but if I don’t get there by 8 a.m., then I have to circle around the tennis courts and hope for the best,” she said. “In general, the parking is tedious because I live 10 minutes away, and I could probably save time walking.”

Senior Tess Madison said the traffic around the school is caused by the lack of available parking, forcing students to search around the building for a spot.

“Sometimes you almost hit cars backing out or have to worry about other kids crossing the street because there is such bad traffic,” Madison said. “I think there would be a lot less traffic if people could find parking spots easier.”

Robbins said that the biggest complaint from Bexley residents regarding parking is typically about kids trying to squeeze into a parking spot and blocking someone’s driveway or potentially damaging property.

“We’ve had some issues where people are doing renovations or yard work and someone will back into an expensive landscaping job,” she said. “I would say they call us before they call the police. It’s really not an ugly scenario, and we’ve called people down to come move their car.”

Junior Ava Foster said she often has close calls trying to avoid blocking other people’s driveways by getting too close to the car in front of her because she refuses to have to park somewhere far and walk.

“This school has been here for ages and the residents chose to live across the street from it and then complain about students trying to get to class on time,” Foster said.

Madison said she has gotten tickets multiple times in the mornings and afternoons, but the ticketing only started in the middle of the first semester this year.

“At first, everyone thought they could park there, then boom, $45 tickets every day,” Madison said. “The school definitely hasn’t considered parking for their students as it’s usually impossible to find an available, legal spot, and the 30-minute time slot we can’t park is extremely inconvenient.”

Senior Pierce Grossman had a similar encounter on Cassingham Road when he was returning to school from a doctor’s appointment at 1:25 p.m., only five minutes before he was allowed to park at 1:30 p.m.

“I was walking into the school and immediately, I saw the parking control guy swing around the corner and stop by my car, so I ran back to my car and left right before he could ticket me and then just drove around the block until I could park at 1:30,” he said.

Foster said students will go to extremes in order to find a close parking spot or to avoid parallel parking.

“I’ve seen some girl park right in the middle of two people’s driveways on the literal sidewalk,” she said. “There weren’t any yellow markings saying it wasn’t allowed. It looks ridiculous, and I thought to myself that there is no way that is allowed.”

Additionally, the lack of available parking can potentially lead to harmful situations. Jones explained that she has been rear-ended five different times by other students and has also been late to her fifth period multiple times due to overly cramped parking spaces.

“One morning, this huge blue Mazda pulled in on Dale and proceeded to tap my car once and then pulled up and tapped it again,” she said. “Luckily, my car was fine and there was no damage, but it is obvious that everyone is in a rush to park.”

Madison said that once, someone slammed into the back of her car when they were trying to pull up behind her.

“Another time, I was trying to park on the side of a street and ended up backing straight into a trash can because it was literally in the middle of a parking spot,” Madison said.

Parking around the high school can also foster competition for spots and annoyance with other students, Jones said.

“I have an unspoken war every morning with this one girl,” she said. “I have no idea who she is, but whenever I see her drive past once I get the spot, it’s such a feeling of accomplishment.”

Grossman said that he gets irritated when he sees underclassmen with parking spots closer to the school’s entrance than upperclassmen.

“I think underclassmen should be forbidden to drive and park at Bexley,” he said. “Underclassmen should not have parking rights.”

Grossman added that he believes that students should ask residents how they actually feel about student parking.

“I think we should petition to ask residents ‘Do you guys actually care if we park here during this time?’ because frankly, all of them are probably at work,” Grossman said. “They leave before we get here and get home after we leave, so I don’t know why they go crazy about student parking.”

Winchell said most students can agree that the parking situation is not ideal due to the risk of parking in the street and getting into an accident as well as the high possibility of being late to class.

“It’s difficult to get a parking spot in the street that is actually allowed, especially with kids packing their cars like sardines,” she said. “If we had more spots open on Cassingham, there wouldn’t be as many cars in front of residential areas on Ardmore or Stanwood.”

Jones suggested that if the school were to add “no idling” signs to prevent lingering parents before and after school, then students could park a bit closer, which could help with the time crunch in the morning.

Many students have attempted to park in the student-restricted teachers’ parking lot, especially athletes who sometimes struggle with the transition between school ending and after school practice, Robbins said. In a recent incident, a student who had repeatedly parked in the lot and been confronted by an adult in the district continued to keep parking there, she added.

“As with anything, if it’s something we ask kids not to do and they continue to keep doing it, then we would look at that as insubordination, a reasonable request that is not being followed,” Robbins said. “Do we want to go down that path? No, but the parking lots are where teachers park and are reserved for that specific reason.”

While students are prohibited from parking in the staff lot, teachers used to bid their parking passes to students, Robbins said.

“We used to hold an auction with Charity Newsies for Student Council and some teachers would offer their teacher parking passes, which can be problematic if you don’t know why they have it,” she explained.

Robbins said the administration has discussed alternatives such as Cassingham Road being turned into a one-way.

“At the end of the day, we are landlocked and there are really limited places kids can park,” she said.