Saturday, 13 April 2019

Footway Parking Ban Comes A Little Closer

I was writing this to be an article for Highways Magazine except I realised that I had covered the subject only in September. Not wishing to waste my effort, I've posted it here because my last rant was back in 2013.

The ban which has come a little closer is only in Scotland as the Scottish Parliament has voted in principle to ban footway parking after a consultation which saw 83% of those responding supporting the proposal. There has been a long-running campaign by Living Streets for the ban, which the charity wants rolled out to the rest of the UK. The change in Scotland is far from delivered however, because there are those who want to water the idea down with exemptions for their own particular view point, such as allowing deliveries to take place for up to 20 minutes.

My view is straightforward and that we should ban footway parking and give the space back to people on foot. If there is a supremely compelling reason for it to be considered in a particular location, then it should be designed and signed by exception. I’ve heard all of the arguments before about emergency access and people having nowhere to park their cars, but that’s tough. Emergency access routes can be protected with double yellow lines. If the only way people can store their car is on the footway, then that should be their problem and not that of the person trying to get past with their wheelchair or buggy who are forced into the road or the visually impaired person who has to try and negotiate the selfishly placed obstacle.

It’s not just about access for pedestrians, footway parking destroys surfaces, obstructs access to utility chambers and degrades the walking experience, because even when space to squeeze past is left, the simple ability to walk in pairs along the street having a conversation is lost.

Footway parking across the UK is a total mess which comes from our highway laws which broadly allow people to do what they like unless it is otherwise regulated (either through national legislation or local traffic order). Enforcement from a civil point of view relies on having traffic orders and signs in place and the response from police forces is highly variable and relies on the use of obstruction to target the badly parked. London and Exeter are the curious exceptions where footway parking was banned many years ago by primary legislation. There is a compelling case to sort this out across the whole of the UK.

There have been plans in the past, but it has always been a ‘fear’ of the resources the police and local councils would need to enforce it and that as usual, it was for local authorities to make their own decisions which in reality means that view have pushed on with local bans. We can of course install bollards to stop footway parking, but this comes at a cost and erodes the very space we are trying to protect.

How did we get here? As usual, we didn’t especially go out to design in footway parking into the fabric of our streets and indeed, many streets predate mass motorisation anyway. It’s a symptom of wider problems in society where the perfect storm of high levels of car ownership meets selfish attitudes from people more worried about their wing mirrors being clipped than a child walking to school. And so the cycle continues until every part of available space has been given over to our cars.

Footway parking should not be something which is up for debate. As with so much about our streets, the conversation needs to be moved on to one where we acknowledge we have a problem and work to solve it. Polite campaigns haven’t dealt with the problem and leaving it to local councils and the police has been, in the main, an abject failure. We are dealing with a cultural problem in which those with power and a large physical presence on our streets exert their will on those without a voice or power.


  1. "...the person trying to get past with their wheelchair or buggy who are forced into the road or the visually impaired person who has to try and negotiate the selfishly placed obstacle."

    This looks to me like creating a hazard to the public. Meaning that we do not need any new laws. Simply charge them with Criminal Negligence. The law we already have will do just fine.

    1. In theory, criminal negligence would only come into play if a serious offence had occurred. In this case, would a person forced into the road and then being killed, lead to the person who parked there being charged with manslaughter (where criminal negligence can come into play)? I wouldn't have though so. A national footway parking ban would be simple to enforce.

  2. Of course footway parking already has laws which can be used to deal with it.

    1) Vehicles over 7.5T parking & driving on footway already illegal (Section 19 RTA1988). Enabling wider use of photographic evidence sent to Police (or clearing house service) to generate either TOR or FPN and log the offences, to inform the Traffic Commissioners (repeated offending clearly shows poor management/repute) and the roads authority (repeated offending on same footway might be used to found a civil claim for the damage caused). Other parties (insurers, utilities with damaged services, those claiming for harm arising from the footway parking) could have controlled access to this information.

    2) Any vehicles parked on a footway where parking restrictions are marked at the kerb on the carriageway - parking restrictions apply to the outer edge of the footway, so a much more robust enforcement by a council's parking attendants is needed. I have a major problem with vehicles parked & blocking refuse collection & fire engine access on an unsurfaced lane, with 24/7 parking & loading bans, but only as a plate on the walls, & no yellow lines - the council refuses to enforce this because they haven't the cojones to take on the drivers - yet from one day when we could not get a truck down the lane we totted up around £2,500 worth of PCN just sitting there. Only when a CPZ comes in to force, and the situation of pre-1970's is restored, can this be tackled - no marked place to park then you get PCN & towed.

    3) The REAL game changer, will be to bring the moving traffic offence (Section 72 Highways Act 1835 or Section 129.5 Roads Scotland Act 1984) into line with ALL other moving traffic offences (speeding, red light running, using bus lanes &c) and drop the in flagrante delicto requirement. At a stroke the presence of a motor car on a footway, will be deemed to be evidence that the offence of driving or riding a carriage on a footway has taken place, and an FPN (with 3 points - or perhaps initially a lower tariff) sent to the registered keeper. It would transform this problem overnight, and remove the frustrating anomaly in enforcement.

    So who's up for this clearing house idea? Collecting and sorting photo supported reports of traffic offences (including vehicles with No MOT or VED - as around 10% of the vehicles at present recorded, seem to be)

    1. A clearing house would be brilliant and would do a lot of business. What about denying fuel at petrol stations too?