Last month, a viral video was plastered across our screens, featured in The Sun and Daily Mail Online, showing a young man shouting and swearing at a pedestrian in a motorised wheelchair, as the pedestrian had asked him to move his car. The young man was parked half on the pavement, parallel to another driver also parked there, and half on zig-zag road lines in West Sussex, completely blocking the pavement and preventing the pedestrian from passing.

The incident was filmed by a shocked local, Mick Symes, from his flat window, as Mick’s brother went down to ask the man – who was inside a shop, having his hair cut – to move the car. The young man came out, angered, and seemed to abuse the pedestrian before driving off, and parking his car on double-yellow lines.

This is not a unique event: pavement parking is an issue which affects disabled pedestrians every day. Pavement parking is a highly dangerous activity which motorists all over the UK engage in on a daily basis, obscuring or completely blocking the pavement for their own selfish needs. For individuals with sight loss, wheelchair users, or those with mobility issues, it hugely affects their ability to effectively traverse the pavement while remaining safe. People with sight loss are particularly at risk, as there is the danger that they could be forced to walk around cars parked on the pavement and into the road, into the path of vehicles which they are unable to see.

James White of Guide Dogs said: “Parking on pavements is blighting Britain’s streets. It puts all pedestrians in danger, but particularly those living with sight loss.

“It is terrifying for someone who cannot see oncoming traffic to have to take the risk of stepping out into a road just because someone has decided to park on the footway. We’re calling on politicians to use their powers to end this dangerous practice without further delay.”

Pavements are not designed for cars: they are designed for pedestrians. They are not designed to take the weight of heavy cars repeatedly parking on them, which causes damage. The damage is not only costly to repair, but more importantly, it creates a trip hazard for those with sight or mobility issues, who are unable to avoid, or see, these potholes or damaged sections.

The problem of pavement parking is one that charities frequently visit, and one that many people are quick to dismiss as “trivial,” or making a fuss of nothing. From Guide Dogs to Age Scotland, charities frequently try to bring the issue of pavement parking to the attention of the wider public.

However, the issue of combating pavement parking is not a simple one. How we deal with pavement parkers changes depending on where you’re located. Local councils or civil enforcement officers contracted on their behalf are the ones responsible for ensuring pavement parking bans are upheld. In London, parking on pavements is completely prohibited, unless there’s signage around which says it’s ok to do so. This is ideal – except the government has no plans to extend the law out of London, meaning in the rest of England and Wales, pavement parking is legal.

There have been moves to extend the ban across England and Wales – MP Simon Hoare brought the issue to parliament, but the bill was withdrawn in December 2015, when promises were made by the government to review the current legislation, and what impact changing this legislation would have. This review has never taken place.

On a smaller level, local authorities can restrict or ban pavement parking in areas and by streets by making a traffic regulation order, or TRO. The process is long and expensive, taking two years and public consultations to submit and costing between one and £3,000, but once – or if – the TRO goes through, it can be enforced using parking control notices. There is a drawback, however: traffic regulation orders often simply move the pavement ®
parking elsewhere, relocating the problem. It ultimately doesn’t really stop pavement parking, it simply moves it somewhat out of sight.

In 2013, the Transport Select Committee said the current system for reporting or disallowing pavement parking is “unduly complex,” and noted that it was a difficult system for motorists to understand. Again, Westminster committed to review traffic regulation orders in April 2017 to examine the process of authorising TROs, in an attempt to make banning pavement parking simpler to do. Again – this never materialised.

In Scotland, the situation is different. Thanks to devolution, the Scottish government has more control over pavement parking, and preventing it. Recently, the Scottish government has completed a consultation on a law to restrict unsafe parking, following the unsuccessful launch of Sandra White MSP’s Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill, which included measures to curb pavement parking.

What can we do to give the pavements back to the pedestrian and ensure that everyone, able bodied or not, is able to use the pavement to its designed use? Unfortunately, unless pavement parking in the area is banned, there isn’t much. If someone is parking in an area where pavement parking isn’t allowed, reporting them to the council is the best way to
take action.

Problematically, it’s only illegal in a small part of the country. So how do we ensure that pavement parking is banned UK-wide? Guide Dogs run one of the largest campaigns to stop pavement parking, and are some of the most vocal in their distain for the act. They understand how difficult it is for those with guide dogs – and other disabilities – to use the pavement when it’s blocked, and how unsafe it is to travel on the road when your sight is affected. Guide Dogs also host an interactive map, where problem drivers can be named and shamed for parking on the pavement.

Ending pavement parking is also one of Living Streets’ key issues. Joe Irvin, Chief Executive, Living Streets said:

“Pavements are for people, not vehicles. Pavement parking is especially dangerous for vulnerable passengers, forcing them into the road and into oncoming traffic.

“As well as being dangerous, vehicles parking on pavements can actually stop people being able to use their streets at all. We’re regularly contacted by disabled and older people who are effectively trapped in their homes because there isn’t enough room on the pavement for wheelchairs or mobility scooters.

“There need to be tougher and clearer laws on pavement parking. The Government should stop stalling and bring forward the legislation which has been in the pipeline for some time now.”

Action must be taken now to protect the pavements from motorists, allowing pedestrians full use of them, and preventing motorists from destroying the pavement, making it near impossible for pedestrians to truly use. To get involved with any of these campaigns, contact Guide Dogs or Living Streets, or contact your local MP immediately. ϒ

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