Shop RNIB Donate now

Blog: Why we are asking for a new law from the Government’s consultation on pavement parking

The Government is asking organisations, like RNIB, and the public what should be done about pavement parking in England. Our Head of Social Change, Sarah Lambert, explains what RNIB is asking for and why.

Image: A car parked while blocking the footpath on the pavement.

This consultation has now closed.

We’re really pleased the Government is finally committing to address the issue of pavement obstructions from parked cars and asking people to respond to its consultation. This comes after years of campaigning by RNIB, Guide Dogs and other sight loss and disability charities.

We shared news about this consultation last month, but wanted to give you a more detailed overview of what it says and what RNIB thinks about the proposals.

What does the consultation say?

Pavement parking: options for change sets out three options.

Option 1: Reform Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs)

Councils can currently stop pavement parking in their areas street-by-street, using what is known as Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO). Restricting pavement parking is just one use for a TRO, and Councils make them for many reasons. For example, a TRO is used to make a street one-way.

Creating TROs can be costly and time-consuming. Option 1 in the consultation proposes making the process easier, so councils will be more inclined to introduce TROs that restrict pavement parking.

Option 2: Giving councils powers to fine drivers causing an obstruction

Option 2 proposes to allow local authorities powers to fine vehicles found to be causing an “unnecessary obstruction of the pavement”.

Option 3: A new law on pavement parking in England

The new law would mean pavement parking would not be allowed by default. However, councils would be able to designate some areas where pavement parking would be permitted.

RNIB’s view

Our preferred option is option 3. We believe that introducing a country-wide law would be most effective at addressing unsafe pavement parking. This option would establish a general rule against pavement parking except where there is specific permission for it. It would provide clarity for drivers, as it would be clear that the default would be not to park on the pavement.

This wouldn’t be a new or unthinkable proposal – it’s already happening in London. In fact, the Government would use the existing London pavement parking prohibition as a model for the new law. This allows for London councils to introduce exemptions, for example, where pavement parking is essential to allow traffic to use the road. The legislation in London also includes exceptions for certain vehicles including emergency service vehicles. 

We know that there are still some issues with pavement parking in London, and we’ll want to make sure that any lessons from experiences in the capital inform the new law. However, it is worth noting that in a recent survey by Guide Dogs, in London 26 per cent of people with sight loss faced daily problems with pavement parking, compared to 45 per cent overall.

Our views on options 1 and 2

The idea behind option 1 - to make it easier for councils to designate streets where pavement parking would be restricted - has some merits. However, it is essentially a continuation of the current situation. We’re concerned that it wouldn’t have the impact we want to see if councils have to ‘opt in’ the streets where pavement parking is not allowed, rather than ‘opt out’ particular areas. Councils have a lot of jobs to do, and we’re worried we might have to campaign in each area to get these changes implemented, making the whole process take longer. The clarity of message for drivers that the default is not to park on the pavement is also clearly lost with this option.

We understand the idea behind option 2 is to allow councils greater powers to penalise pavement parking, where the pavement has clearly been blocked unnecessarily. 

However, there are issues in how this might work in practice. The consultation itself says “unnecessary obstruction” is difficult to define. Therefore, by itself, this measure would likely lead to inconsistency across the country in how it is used. This means less clarity for drivers and therefore a limited impact on driver behaviour.  Both the police and Councils already have powers to prevent pavement obstruction but are very reluctant to use them.

What happens next?

We will be responding to this consultation calling for option 3, because of the clarity for drivers and pedestrians and the automatic opt-in for local authorities. 

The Transport Select Committee (a group of MPs that analyse Government transport policy) recommended that while we wait for a full ban to be implemented, which will undoubtedly take time to introduce, option 1 and a similar proposal to option 2 could be introduced easily and quickly in the meantime, along with other measures to discourage pavement parking. We think this sounds sensible and will be making the case for this approach in our response.