Shropshire-based Guide Dogs charity is backing a proposed change in the law to help bring an end to parking on pavements.
Parking has always been an issue that has caused debate among motorists. Whether it is parking charges, not enough parking or inconsiderate parking, it is sure to cause a heated discussion.
The charity highlighted that those who park on pavements or mount the kerb force those on foot – including parents with buggies and those on mobility scooters – on to the road to avoid the obstruction. This is particularly dangerous for those who are blind and with guide dogs.
They noted that there had been issues with pavement parking in Bayston Hill, and although traffic wardens had been successful in moving people on, there is still more that could be done across Shropshire.
Shropshire Disability Network said that there had also been problems in across the county including in Shrewsbury in Sundorne, Radbrook and Copthorne. In Crewe Street, Shrewsbury emergency vehicles had not been able to get through. There had also been problems in Oswestry and Wellington.
Calls for Government Action
JT Hughes spoke to Guide Dogs charity about the ongoing problem and how they are campaigning for a change in the law.
Andrew Farrell, Community Engagement Officer at Guide Dogs said: “Regarding recent government action, the Minister responsible for roads at the Department for Transport, Jesse Norman MP, has responded to our pavement parking petition, which received over 31,000 signatures.”
“The Minister acknowledged the dangers caused by pavement parking, and said the Government would carry out a survey in the autumn on the existing powers that local councils can use to restrict pavement parking on a street by street basis.”
“We’ll use this opportunity to call for a law similar to the one in place in London since the 1970s that prohibit pavement parking unless local councils specify otherwise.”
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Who Is Affected by Pavement Parking?
There is a definite lack of clear legislation on pavement parking which creates a grey area for motorists, leading them to believe that it is an acceptable practice.
A YouGov survey for Guide Dogs found 54 percent of drivers admitted to parking on the pavement.
In 2014 Living Streets undertook a poll of people aged over 65 and 73 percent that pavement parking was a problem in their area. It also revealed that 50 percent of older people said they were more likely to walk outside if the pavements were clear.
A survey by Guide Dogs showed that 97 percent of blind or partially sighted people encounter problems with street obstructions, and 90 percent experienced trouble with a pavement parked car.
Ruby Hartshorn of Shropshire Disability Network said: “For people with visual impairment pavement parking is a massive issue because those with a guide dog have to go out into the road as guide dogs are trained not to walk on grass because of slips.
“For people using wheelchairs and mobility scooters they have no option either because they also put their life at risk by having to go out on the highway creates a danger to them.”
Ruby added that people are afraid to go out because of the danger which causes more isolation.
“We have heard of people on mobility scooters and from carers pushing people in wheelchairs that they have had to reverse or walk backward and go back to a dropped kerb enabling them to get on the highway and travel up passed the vehicle on the pavement. Again this is added danger.”
Not only is it causing problems with pedestrians but it also comes at a cost to local authorities too.
Over £1 billion was paid out on repairing kerbs, pavements and walkways between 2006 and 2010. £106 million was paid in compensation claims to people tripping and falling on broken pavements in the same period.
Dangers for Guide Dog Owners
A guide dogs trainer for Guide Dogs charity told JT Hughes that dogs are taught to travel in straight lines following the natural contours of the pavement until instructed by the guide dog owner to change direction.
If the pavement is blocked, the dog must ignore the instruction from the guide dog owner and the rules they follow to leave the pavement to walk into the road and return to the pavement as soon as it is safe to do so.
“This can be very difficult for some dogs and could cause a loss of confidence, confusion in some dogs in the training stage.”
“This could also cause a blind or visually impaired person to lose their orientation. As the guide dog owners know the routes prior to them having a dog they learn how many kerbs to count, which side the traffic is on to aid ensure they are on the correct route. If they don’t realise a car is parked there or what their dog is doing they may inadvertently cross over the road, get lost or be walking down the road for longer than needed.”
If the pavement is blocked by a car then they must leave the pavement, walk along the, often very busy road and get back on the pavement when it is safe to do so.
“Even with quiet side roads, we are still asking a blind or partially sighted person to walk along a road.”
“I wonder how many people given a blindfold and asked to walk into a road no matter how quiet would take us up on that offer. The only other option is to turn back from their destination and return home. If they are very lucky someone sighted may offer to help them safely back onto the pavement.”
“One lady in my area who walked along a very busy road to get to her local shops in Newcastle under Lyme had several issues with a Tesco delivery van blocking the pavement, as the road was so busy she had to turn back. Imagine how frustrating that may be to get half way to your destination and not be able to continue, even to get a pint of milk.”
Drivers Could Face a £70 Fine for Pavement Parking
A ban on pavement parking has been enforced across London in 33 borough states since 1974. It says: “You must not park partially or wholly on the pavement in London. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.”
The Department for Transport is ‘examining pavement parking outside of London’ as part of its cycling and walking investment strategy.
Local Government Association says pavement parking puts pedestrians at risk and wants DoT to give powers to the council to enforce a ban.
JT Hughes spoke to Warwickshire and West Mercia Police, who said there is currently little they can do to prohibit parking on pavements as this falls within the responsibility of the local council.
Currently, local authorities can make a traffic regulation order (TRO) to help stop pavement parking on individual streets. However, Living Streets says that this can shift the problem elsewhere. Making a TRO is not a quick-fix with it taking up to two years and extensive public consultation. Once this order is in place, civil street enforcement officers are able to issue a parking control to enforce the ban.
In April 2017 the government committed to a review of traffic regulation orders. If the process of making traffic regulation orders were less time-consuming and expensive, then it may be easier ban parking on pavements.
A change in the law could see motorists being charged £70 for parking on the pavement and causing an obstruction to pedestrians.
Should Pavement Parking Be Banned on All Roads?
Some argue that prohibiting pavement parking on all roads is not possible, due to some roads and streets being too narrow to allow cars and emergency vehicles to pass.
AA President Edmund King cautioned against a total ban, pointing out that some roads could become blocked if they did not park on the pavement.
He said earlier this year on the proposed ban: “Some drivers think they are helping the flow of traffic by parking on the pavement, but too often little to no consideration is given to how someone in a wheelchair or parent with a child in a buggy will pass their vehicle.”
“The AA cautiously welcomes this measure, but a thorough investigation of roads must happen before any implementation takes place.”
Guide Dogs recognises the need for some flexibility and recommends allowing local authorities to permit pavement parking where it is unavoidable through markings on the pavement to allow a minimum space for pedestrians to pass.
Shropshire Disability Network believes that more education is required to make them aware of the problems that pavement parking creates. They have also been working with Guide Dogs to communicate with local police on the issues.
They are also encouraging help in gathering evidence of pavement parking. “In recent months Shropshire Disability Network have been contacted by several people in Shropshire about issues around people parking on pavements, we are working with local police on this. The more evidence we can get the better so please send photos or other evidence to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can build a picture and act".
"When people park on pavements people need to think should they be parking there at all. This leads on to people who do not have a blue badge using parking bays designated for blue badges holders. If anyone has problems around parking on pavements or anything to do with disability parking please email us or call 07780 852 229."
Andrew Farrell added: “When it comes to preventing pavement parking, awareness is massive, generally for those who pavement park it’s a matter of convenience, they probably have never thought about the dangers it presents for Guide Dog Owners, whom could be forced into a busy road to navigate their vehicle.”
“In the name of helping us to promote awareness of Guide Dogs and their services then we have an upcoming 5k fun run at Telford Town Park on 30th September.”
“If you have seen someone with a guide dog struggle to navigate past a car parked on a pavement, then you would be less likely to pull up on a pavement.”