Pavement Parking Petition

The charity Guide Dogs is urging people to back its campaign calling on the government to bring in a national law prohibiting pavement parking, in a bid to create ‘safer streets’ for all.

Pavement parking was prohibited (barring a few permitted areas) in London in 1974, in an attempt to reclaim footpaths for pedestrians and encourage drivers to park responsibly. More than four decades on, and despite the number of vehicles on our roads more than doubling from 15 million in the 1970s to 35 million by 2013 (Department of Transport figures), this legislation has yet to be rolled out nationally.

But what is the issue? A YouGov survey in 2013 highlighted how over half of motorists were aware of the impact of pavement parking on pedestrians but did so anyway. These findings were backed up by a recent Co-op Insurance study that found 39% of the 1,500 participants admitted to routinely pavement parking. Many of those who did so cited ‘wanting to keep the road clear’ as the reason for doing so.

But whilst motorists enjoy the freedom having a car can bring, and may view pavement parking as a minor inconvenience for others, affected pedestrians find their lives blighted and restricted as the vehicles of our roads encroach in increasing numbers onto our pavements. Guide Dogs research found that 90% of blind or partially sighted people regularly experience problems with pavement parking.

From my personal perspective – I am severely sight impaired – it is an occurrence I face daily, and the dangers this poses should not be over looked. Navigating outdoors can be challenging enough with sight loss without the added risks of walking into moving traffic or extra impromptu road crossings just to bypass an inconsiderately placed vehicle.

There are 360,000 people in the UK registered as blind or partially sighted, and, according to the RNIB, half of these people will not go out alone. Pavement parking is not the only barrier people with sight loss have to deal with when trying to access their local area, but in some instances routinely blocked paving can increase the reticence of someone with vision loss to a level where they will feel unable to leave the house, through an apprehension of having to circumvent these many paving obstacles.

It is not just people with sight loss who find this issue hazardous. Craig Grimes, Managing Director of Experience Community, an organisation whose aims and ethos are to promote disabled access and inclusion across our countries great outdoors, highlights the impact of pavement parking on anyone who uses a wheelchair or scooter. Craig says, ‘When car drivers park on pavements it isn’t just an inconvenience for me as a wheelchair user. It can also be really dangerous as I have to wheel into the road and traffic to get around the car. Sometimes you have to push for quite a distance down the road until you can find a suitable place to get back onto the pavement,’ He adds,’ I have pretty decent wheelchair skills so I can get up and down kerbs fairly easily, but for those who can’t do this or use an electric wheelchair or scooter, they may have to turn around and go back to find a drop kerb so they can get passed the vehicle.’

Pavement parking also raises an ethical question. Natural unease would leave us horrified to see children moving around amongst the flow of traffic, but the sight of a pram pushing parent or group of school children having to walk in the road to pass a blocking car is an everyday occurrence in some areas, and doubtless adding to parental concerns that perceive the streets as less safe than they used to be. When will consideration for the safety of children come before a person’s ‘need’ to Pavement Park?

Despite recurrent calls from the general public, and attempts by central and local governments to find a solution these difficulties for pedestrians continue to persist. As recently as 2011, the then Regional & Local Transport Minister, Norman Baker told councils to use their powers to tackle problematic pavement parking. Although his plans merely gave local authorities permission to put up signs indicating where pavement parking was no longer permitted, many cash-strapped councils – including my own, Kirklees – chose not to do so on economic grounds, whilst others who fitted signage were lack lustre with the enforcement.

What is clear is that any solution must be national and needs to be legally enforceable or else driver behaviours will not change. To get involved with the Guide Dogs Pavement Parking Campaign, by signing the petition an uploading your photos to the Pavement Parking map.

Follow this link to sign the Guide Dogs Pavement Parking petition:

Upload your photos of problematic pavement parking to the Guide Dogs Map here:

By Sam Heaton

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