Rebecca Jones, Design Engineer
The government’s Transport Committee has been conducting an inquiry into the issue of pavement parking, and this week published a rather extensive catalogue of the evidencethey have received thus far. For those that have ever had to squeeze by a vehicle parked up on any pavement, much of what has been said will not be a surprise.
Particularly poignant, however, are statements from the Guide Dogs charity, who in a recent surveyfound that vehicles parked on the pavement have caused 95% of respondents with visual impairments problems in the past year alone, and for wheelchair users this figure rises to 98%. Furthermore, for some the footway being obstructed in such a way isn’t just an inconvenience, but actually impacts their ability to live independently, with 48% of respondents that use a wheelchair stating that they were less willing to go out alone where there is pavement parking, for example.
This kind of testimony is quite affecting, but I am not surprised that the problem is so common, given the attitude towards pavement parking both from motorists and legislators. Carlton Reid has summarised the legal background to pavement parking very well in his article, so I will spare you the details, but in short the lack of a blanket ban has meant that this practice has become the norm, to the detriment of everyone else.
The photograph above was taken in an area of London that permits pavement parking, albeit in marked bays (the only type of pavement parking permitted in the capital). While the vehicle shown is parked illegally, the presence of pavement parking bays can serve to normalise the practice to the point whereby some drivers feel entitled, and indeed deserving, of the use of the pavement to store their vehicle. There is no doubt that this practice needs to be reviewed and overhauled.
The outcome of the inquiry is yet to be seen, but I think the situation as it stands is typical of the attitude shown by many as to how our streets should be used. Those that park on the pavement usually do so to avoid parking in the road where traffic may be held up as a result, but why has that emerged as the main concern in our streets? The context of this behaviour is that as our cities and towns have grown, maintaining the flow of traffic has been prioritised, with motor vehicles getting the lion’s share of the space and our most vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) getting whatever is left over. In some cases, this means almost nothing, and so many are excluded as a result.
For me, it all boils down to what we want our streets and towns to be. If they can only comfortably be used by those on four wheels, or by the young and able-bodied, then we have failed.