Pavement parking – why do we tolerate it?
By Alison Hill
If you have been out for a cycle or a walk today in the city, I can bet that you will have passed a vehicle parked on a pavement. As it is such a commonplace occurrence you may not even have noticed, but look again on your next walk and think about what that pavement parking means for someone pushing a buggy, someone on a mobility scooters, someone who is visually impaired, a parent with a small kid on a bike or even two people walking side by side.
Ask yourself: how do people get past a vehicle obstructing the pavement? They have to squeeze past, or worse than that, they have to move out on to the road putting themselves in danger. And yet, and yet…. aren’t those footpaths there to protect people from fast moving traffic? Is this making you a bit angry?
Pavement parking has truly become a scourge. What is it that makes vehicle drivers feel that they have the right to park on pavements on our streets? On the occasions I have asked a driver why they have decided to park that way, the response usually comes: “oh I am allowing emergency vehicles to pass”, or “oh I don’t want to obstruct the road”. Drivers are thinking about their own tribe – those vehicles that inhabit the carriageway and not about that other tribe – those who use pavements.
Every driver parking on pavements is legitimising other drivers to do the same. They know that they won’t get fined because it isn’t illegal to park on a pavement (London and Exeter being exceptions). Weirdly, the law says it’s an offence to drive onto a pavement, but if a car is parked on a pavement this doesn’t prove it was driven there. The Highway Code Rule 244 states drivers should not park on the pavement, meaning it is advisory and not, therefore, enforceable. But Rule 242 makes it a bit more ambiguous: “You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road.” The only time then that parking is deemed an offence, is if the vehicle is causing an unnecessary obstruction.
Because it is such so commonplace, we’re almost blind to it, but it shouldn’t be like this. We are delighted therefore that the Department of Transport is currently consulting on a pavement parking ban. They are asking for views on three different options, the first is to rely on improvements that Highways Authorities can make to existing rules, the second is for enforcement to be made civil rather than criminal, and the third is to extend the London-wide existing pavement parking prohibition to the rest of England. If the last option became law the Highway Code would say drivers must not park on the pavement.
Do respond to this consultation. Cyclox will be responding and will say that we want to see a nationwide prohibition.