As far as the law currently stands, it’s illegal to park on the pavement in London – but the law is much less clear about pavement parking in other areas of England and Wales.
The Highway Code says that you must not park on the pavement in London, unless there are signs on display permitting you to do so. Many of the rules in the Highway Code are also legal requirements – and the ban on pavement parking in London goes back over 40 years to the passing of the 1974 Greater London Council (General Powers) Act.
As for the rest of the country, the legal situation is quite confusing as it depends whether a car parked on the pavement is causing an “unnecessary obstruction”. This rule is rarely enforced though, as is the law on driving on the pavement – which, although illegal under the 1835 Highways Act, would require witness evidence to secure the prosecution of a pavement parker who, it is safe to infer, must have to drive a vehicle on the pavement in order to park it.
Problems Caused by Pavement Parking
Despite the confusion in the current laws on pavement parking, even the Highway Code describes how the practice can “seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.”
The risk of injury to pedestrians is certainly higher when parked cars block pavement space. Pavement parking can force vulnerable pedestrians – such as the elderly, disabled or families with prams or pushchairs – into the road and into oncoming traffic.
Although some drivers find that parking on the pavement is unavoidable, for example where there is no off-street parking or if the road is not wide enough for cars to park both sides, avoiding serious injury to other road users is surely a more important consideration than the inconvenience to the driver of finding an alternative place to park.
Proposed Changes to the Law on Pavement Parking
A Private Member’s Bill calling for an outright ban on parking on pavements in England and Wales is currently making its way through Parliament.
The Pavement Parking (Protection of Vulnerable Pedestrians) Bill was submitted to Parliament by the MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare. It had its first reading on 24th June this year and its second reading is scheduled for 4th December.
The Bill has been welcomed by national road safety charity Brake who sees the proposed ban on pavement parking as important in “reclaiming our streets for people.”
National pedestrian charity Living Streets has also welcomed the Bill, stating, “Pavements are for people, not vehicles and it is about time that this issue is prioritised and given the attention it deserves."
At Slater and Gordon, we have seen how lives have been devastated after being seriously injured in an accident caused by being forced into the road to navigate around a parked car. We will be watching the Bill’s progress through Parliament with interest and hope that we’re not too far away from a time when pedestrians in England and Wales can feel a little bit safer on our pavements.