Martin Horwood MP writes…Pavement politics

Pavement_parking_1 by PeterEastern
It is a badge of honour for Lib Dem MPs, Councillors and activists when people call us pavement politicians. We are a party that is relentlessly focused on community politics and the issues that matter on streets up and down the country.

That’s why, when I was drawn earlier this year in the Private Member’s Bill ballot, I decided to champion a Bill focused on an issue that blights tens of thousands of streets across the country – pavement parking.

It’s an experience that virtually every one of us has had in our communities. Walking down the street and finding we are either squeezing through ridiculously small spaces or having to step out on to the road because there is a car, van or lorry parked on the pavement.

In my constituency of Cheltenham the issue has reached epidemic proportions and we have seen accidents happen as a result, including one near a local primary school.

Personally I only suffer minor inconvenience from pavement parking, but imagine what this experience must be like for someone who is blind or partially sighted. Stepping out into the road where you can’t see the oncoming traffic must be extremely frightening. I’ve been working on this issue with the charity Guide Dogs who told me about some of the awful experiences guide dog owners have had, including one guide dog owner and her 5-year-old daughter who suffered serious injuries after having to change their route because of a pavement-parked car.

This issue also has a huge effect on wheelchair users and parents, who often find themselves having to push their buggies out in to the road because they can’t get them along the pavement.

When people report pavement parking to the police or to their local authority, they are often surprised to hear that it isn’t already illegal. The Bill I am proposing is very simple – a national law on pavement parking which would put in place an overall ban on the practice in all urban areas, while giving local authorities the flexibility to grant exemptions where appropriate.

This is something we know works. London has much stronger laws than the rest of the country and over the last 40 years and this has proved incredibly effective. If it can be done on the busy streets of London then why not the rest of the country as well?

My Pavement Parking Bill has widespread, cross-party backing. This was clearly shown in a letter to the Times last year which was co-signed by a number of MPs including Labour Shadow Transport Minister Richard Burden and Conservative MP Tracy Crouch. A national law is also supported by 69% of the public, according to a survey by YouGov.

This is a serious issue for people the length and breadth of the country, and a change in law has the potential to make a real difference to our communities. I hope you will join me in calling on the government to support this important Bill.

Photo by PeterEastern

* Martin Horwood is Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for the South West of England & Gibraltar. He is a member of the European Parliament’s Iran delegation. He is Borough & parish councillor for Leckhampton, Gloucestershire.

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20 Comments

  • Excellent news as it will also prevent the kind of damage to pavements that causes falls, particularly for older people. Could save councils a lot of money too!

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Jan '15 - 1:42pm

    This is a good thing to write about, but I am confused. Of course parking 100% on the pavement should be banned, but the bill says “wholly or partly”. We can’t ban putting one or two wheels on the pavement? Too many people do it.

    Regards

  • While this proposal is fair, I think some elements are problematic. People often park on pavements because there is nowhere else nearby to park, or at least nowhere free nearby to park.

    This is something we know works. London has much stronger laws than the rest of the country and over the last 40 years and this has proved incredibly effective. If it can be done on the busy streets of London then why not the rest of the country as well?

    Car ownership in London is significantly below that of the rest of the country, and falling (sadly the redesigned DfT website has hidden the data, but I assure you this is true). This makes it easier to accommodate the existing car parking space burden with lesser recourse to pavement parking.

    A strategy to reduce car ownership, with concomitant investment in public transport to bring it up to London’s excellent levels, is needed at a national level would complement the above proposals, rather than policies which favour car drivers over all other users of transport infrastructure, whether pedestrians, cyclists or public transport users.

    I hope you will give this serious consideration.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 5th Jan '15 - 5:34pm

    This is excellent and something I have been campaigning (and complaining ) about for a long time. It is really selfish to park on pavements, it is anti-social and inconsiderate. As for it not being illegal, when I worked as a traffic warden I would not only ticket vehicles parked on pavements, if they had left no where for pedestrians to go (as in the photo) I would tow the offending vehicles away as well.

    @Eddie Sammon, yes you can ban putting one or two wheels on the pavement. The fact that so many do it is not an argument that holds up. If everyone was involved in shoplifting (or any other current illegal activity you care to choose) would you propose that that no longer be proscribed? It would also leave drivers free to park with just the offside wheels on the road, resting against the curb, with 90% of the vehicle still on the pavement.

    @g, so there is nowhere else nearby, so what? That does not mean it should be acceptable to park on a pavement, obstructing it for pedestrians. As for the excuse that, if they parked on the road they would be obstructing traffic, that is an indication that they shouldn’t be parking in that road at all, not an invite to pavement parking.
    I agree with you that policies which favour motorists (as most currently do) should be curtailed. We need to get away from our current obsession with cars.

    On a side note, it would be good if those tasked with enforcing laws (i.e. the police) could themselves get over their kneejerk reaction of always parking their vehicles on the pavement. It doesn’t look good and it’s very hypocritical for police officers to be telling others that they should obey the law when they can’t do so themselves.

  • Steve Comer 5th Jan '15 - 6:09pm

    I’m not sure the answer to this is problem is yet more legislation, better to enforce the legislation we have got more effectively. In my 12 years as a Councillor, I had many discussions with the Police and Highways Dept. about this. Its not a simple issue, my part of Bristol was largely built before mass car ownership, and terraced housing does not lend itself to off street parking. In some streets residents have agreed between themselves to only park on one side. In others where pavements are wide, people sometimes park two wheels on the pavement. This is difficult, if people do that it reduces pavement width, but if they don’t the road is too narrow to get an emergency vehicle through – you solve one problem and create another!

    In this area the Police do have the occasional ‘purge’ where there is a problem, but the rule of thumb they use is that they will charge the driver with obstruction if the pavement space left is not sufficient to get a pram or a mobility scooter through. This seems a sensible and pragmatic approach to a difficult problem. Eddie is right, the existing legislation can be used to enforce against this practice, we don’t need a new law – just more effective implementation of the law we have,

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Jan '15 - 6:29pm

    Hi Graham, but what about narrow roads? Having half the car parked on the pavement seems to be a popular activity where I live, so alarm bells will ring when someone wants to ban it.

    I’m sure something can be done, I just don’t think a blanket national ban unless otherwise stated is the answer.

    Thanks Steve. You seem to know more than me about the issue. 🙂

  • Tsar Nicolas 5th Jan '15 - 7:52pm

    This sounds good on the surface, but in the area where I live such a ban would be catastrophic.

    The village where I live has narrow roads with no facility for off-street parking as it was constructed largely in 1887-90, the time the local colliery opened.

    In many streets parking on both sides of the road means that other traffic cannot pass. This is especially problematic for large vehicles, such as those delivering things, or the occasional bus that we see.

    Parking in other streets is not the answer since ‘other streets’ that do not have the same problem do not exist, and if you advise people to ditch their cars and public transport they will laugh because it is sporadic and virtually non-existent after 6pm, and totally non-existent on Sundays.

  • >”Enforcing existing law isn’t enough though. It is currently a criminal offence everywhere to completely obstruct the pavement but almost never enforced beause the Police have more important things to do ”

    And there is the real problem! I suppose by introducing a new law we can simply delegate the enforcement work to contract traffic wardens who will ticket anything ‘parked’ on the pavement (and that includes van’s of workers engaged in street maintenance activities) and leave it the driver to seek redress for an incorrectly issued ticket…

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    @g, so there is nowhere else nearby, so what? That does not mean it should be acceptable to park on a pavement, obstructing it for pedestrians. As for the excuse that, if they parked on the road they would be obstructing traffic, that is an indication that they shouldn’t be parking in that road at all, not an invite to pavement parking.

    Didn’t mean to imply I was trying to excuse this behaviour, it is selfish and damaging to pavements. Just pointing out it is an inevitable consequence of high car ownership and limited parking space that will keep happening unless more parking is provided or car ownership discouraged. Simply condemning it doesn’t solve it.

  • Ron Tindall 6th Jan '15 - 8:18am

    Good idea Martin, in a planned city, but most of our towns have not been planned for the car. Hemel Hempstead was built in the 1960s on the assumption of 2 cars per 10 houses, I trust you get the point. However, I also firmly support your stand on making footpaths safe for pedestrians. The answer is true localism with local authorities having the powers to vary legislation according to local conditions. Where there are wide footpaths, mark out parking zones. Where the space is limited, ensure free access for pedestrians with the limitation on parking justifiable. More power to local authorities on this as on everything. One size does not fit all. And of course, better local transport would negate the need for cars, but that is for another time.

  • Scared Amoeba 6th Jan '15 - 9:34am

    Surely, the cure for pavement parking is for the Police to ticket vehicles parked on the footway under the 1835 Highways Act, because the presence of a motor-vehicle on the footway must be taken as de facto evidence that it was driven there.

    The 1835 Highway Act says carriages mustn’t drive on footways. In law, cars are carriages, and so are bicycles. But why is it socially acceptable for motorists to drive and park on footways but cyclists are deemed to be sinners when they ride on the same footways, committing the exact same offence?

  • Where I live I have bigger issue with cyclists on the kerb often travelling faster than the cars on the road delayed by congestion on several occasions I have had to get out the way quickly or probably be ridden into. Fully parking on pavement I agree wrong but a couple of wheels often as mentioned allows room for HGV passing an alternative reduce the width of pavement

  • Allan

    Where I live I have bigger issue with cyclists on the kerb often travelling faster than the cars on the road delayed by congestion on several occasions I have had to get out the way quickly or probably be ridden into.

    Deaths caused by cyclists in 2013: 0
    Deaths caused by cars in 2013: 1713
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/annual-road-fatalities

    Worth remembering.

  • David Allen 6th Jan '15 - 1:07pm

    Steve Comer said:

    “the rule of thumb (the police) use is that they will charge the driver with obstruction if the pavement space left is not sufficient to get a pram or a mobility scooter through. … The existing legislation can be used to enforce against this practice, we don’t need a new law – just more effective implementation of the law we have.”

    So why isn’t this law implemented effectively? I would suggest that it’s because it just makes life too difficult for the police, most of the time. If they bring an obstruction charge, the “offender” can argue the toss about whether the police are “using” an unrealistically wide pram, or ridicule them by arguing that the narrowest pavements around are narrower than the gap their car had left. The police have better things to do than prosecute difficult time-consuming cases in which a parking “offender” gets off. That’s why, most of the time, they do better things.

    That’s why we do need a new law. However there should be plenty of scope for local exemptions – identified by clear markings to show precisely on what parts of what pavements a motorist is permitted to park legally.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 6th Jan '15 - 2:28pm

    @Eddie, you ask about narrow roads. If the road is too narrow to park on, then don’t park there, go somewhere else. So you may have to walk a bit further, considering how obesity is becoming a problem, this may be a good thing.

    Does anybody think that the parking in the video put up by Scared Amoeba is acceptable? Yet this type of view is common everywhere. I get so frustrated when reading comments like the majority posted here that appear to be so worried about the potential bad effects on the poor old motorist, yet nobody thinks of the poor old pedestrian. Our society is too much in thrall to the motor vehicle and allows motorists to get away with behaviour that would be condemned if committed by anyone else.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 13th Jan '15 - 12:00pm

    I know that people aren’t really looking at this any more but, for those who say that motorists should be let off if they only have 2 wheels on the pavement, take a look at this photo.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5254739407/in/photostream/

    According to that argument only one of the vehicles should be targeted. Really?

  • If is left at least 1/2 m of the pavement I don’t understand why the parking should be banned.2 people can walk and even if the have to give way each other.In many places the pavement its completely 1/2 m anyway .In London the public transport is much more active then other cities.If they allow the drivers to park on the pavement there will be a real chaos especially when its green light and 20 cars have to wait for someone to go slow on the pavement.I agree that drivers blocking footpaths completely must be punished because the footpaths are for pedestrians. There are many places where you really don’t have where to park your car but you have to consider the pedestrians and the other motorists as well.If is enough room on the pavement for pedestrians and cars the parking should be allowed there.

  • Clare Smith 19th Mar '16 - 5:31pm

    I live on an estate, which over the last 30+ has become a rat run, to avoid going through 3 sets of traffic lights, and because of this the vehicles who use this road are probably travelling too fast for the conditions. On top of this, we are just off a main road, which has a shopping centre opposite our junction. We frequently get vehicles parking in front of our house after travelling through the estate – and this includes articulated lorries with trailers, whose drivers walk across the main road at the pedestrian crossing. The road is quite narrow and these park on the footpath and certainly no pushchair or invalid vehicle could get past. I actually have a photograph with such a vehicle and would you believe it – there was a police car driving past! Our footpath has just been repaired but it won’t be long before it has to be done again.

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