On 9 September 2019, a report calling for a nationwide pavement parking ban in England was published by the House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee.
The report followed the Transport Committee’s inquiry on pavement parking launched earlier this year. It also called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to launch a national awareness campaign, to highlight the negative impact which pavement parking has on pedestrians.
We welcome the recommendations and hope that the Government will respond positively to the Transport Committee’s report. Whilst we do not have any guarantees that the Government will act on the recommendations, we will continue to do all we can, to get these recommendations implemented.
Making streets safe and accessible for blind and partially sighted people is one of RNIB’s most important campaigns, and our Regional Campaigns Officers in England are regularly contacted by blind and partially sighted people with concerns about pavement parking.
As many people will know, pavement parking is where vehicles stop with one or more wheel on a pedestrian walkway. Sometimes drivers may even think they are doing the right thing to keep the road clear. But if drivers are choosing to park on pavements, they then become an obstruction to pedestrians, who need to be able to pass through freely.
Pavement parking causes serious problems for blind and partially sighted people in particular, along with others such as wheelchair and mobility scooter users, parents with buggies or prams, elderly people and children. Indeed, the Transport Committee made clear in their report that:
Pavement parking effects everyone, but some are more adversely affected than others.
Blind or partially sighted people often use mobility aids, such as a long cane or guide dog. When a person uses a long cane, this can pass underneath a pavement parked vehicle, meaning that it can’t be detected until it is too late. Other times a person will have to walk through the narrow gap next to the vehicle, making it impossible to effectively use their long cane to navigate through the small space. And guide dogs are trained to stop when faced with an obstruction and a gap which is too narrow. In some cases, a vehicle might even completely obstruct the pavement.
This means that blind and partially sighted people can easily collide with a pavement parked vehicle, or injure themselves walking through a narrow gap. Or they can be forced to step out into the road to walk around the vehicle, placing them in danger of moving vehicles in the road.
Some experiences reported to us include:
The effects of pavement parking can go beyond physical injury. The shock of a collision, or even the threat of a near miss, can lead to a person losing confidence in being able to safely navigate their local area. The same can happen when people are forced to put themselves at risk by walking into the road around a pavement parked vehicle, without being able to see if it is safe to do so. Being unsure of what to expect from one day to the next, can further erode a person’s confidence.
The result is that some people will avoid getting out and about, or they will avoid making journeys without a sighted guide. This can have a huge impact on a person’s independence. The Transport Committee highlighted some of the effects in their report:
We heard how pavement parking can make some people so afraid that they do not leave their home and how this can increase the risk of social isolation.
We believe that pavement parking is an equality issue. As the Transport Committee say:
People with mobility or visual impairments, as well as those who care for others, are disproportionately affected.
So, we think that the DfT should initiate a full country-wide ban, in line with the Equality Act 2010, as part of its Integrated Transport Strategy.
Under the Equality Act 2010, public authorities (including highway authorities) are required to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, and to achieve equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled people. This is called the Public Sector Equality Duty. As pavement parking disproportionately affects blind and partially sighted people, it is simply not an option to leave things as they are.
Highway authorities already have a duty to prevent obstruction to the highway (and this includes pavements!) under the Highways Act 1980. It is also a criminal offence to wilfully obstruct free passage along the highway, and to deposit anything on the highway which causes an obstruction.
Of course, a ban on pavement parking is not a new idea, and it has been banned in London since 1974. This has been largely effective in preventing pavement parking in the capital. We believe that a nationwide ban across England will give more clarity to everyone on this issue. It makes what is, and what is not allowed, much clearer.
The important issue of enforcement was addressed by the Transport Committee recommendations, which suggested that local authorities could enforce the new rules on pavement parking. The recommendations also suggest limited exemptions to the ban where needed. For example, where a parking space is needed close to a building, by someone with a mobility disability. To approve any exemptions, a public consultation and a full impact assessment would have to be carried out.
I’ll leave you with some words from my colleague at RNIB, Hugh Huddy, who leads our campaigning on Inclusive Journeys:
We welcome the Transport Committee’s report, because pavement parking is a problem we cannot allow to continue, if we’re serious about safe and accessible streets. Inclusive journeys start and end with accessible pavements!