Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Carlton Reid, Executive Editor, (PE 01)

Pavement Parking

Parking on pavements is endemic in the UK yet highways—in the widest sense—are not just for cars.

There’s a blanket national ban on cycling on the pavement but there’s a confusing mish-mash of conflicting laws which means there’s no equivalent national blanket ban on parking a car on the pavement. This is a ludicrous situation and one that transport ministers keep failing to tackle. While the “local authority parking enforcement” inquiry is, by definition, local perhaps reference can be made to a problem that can only be effectively tackled nationally, in partnership with local authorities?

Pavements—and bike paths—are often used by cars for parking, which is dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Storing unused cars is a major function of British streets but in other countries this is not the case, where off-street parking is often mandated.

Motorists can’t legally drive on the pavement in the UK, but a loophole means, in many localities, they won’t be charged for driving their cars onto pavements and leaving them there. Some local authorities have enacted bylaws to stop motorists parking on pavements but these are few and far between. To park on the pavement you tend to have to drive on the pavement but pavement parking is now considered so “normal” police look the other way because to enforce the law would involve charging millions of people.

A research document in the House of Commons library. “Parking: pavement and on-street” talks of the “previous efforts to legislate,” efforts which have always come to naught.

“Governments have in the past consulted on ways to combat pavement parking and have sought to alter the law. In 1974 Parliament provided for a national ban on pavement parking in urban areas in section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (this inserted new section 36B into the Road Traffic Act 1972). If implemented, this would have prohibited all parking on verges, central reservations and footways on ‘urban roads’. The Secretary of State could have exempted certain classes of vehicles and individual local authorities could have made Orders within their own areas to exempt from the national ban certain streets at all times or during certain periods. However, full implementation required that the ban had to be brought in by Parliamentary Order and this never occurred. Successive transport ministers argued that there were difficulties for local authorities and the police in finding the resources to carry out the necessary policing and enforcement work. In 1979 the then government decided to defer implementation indefinitely.

In December 1986 the Department of Transport sought comments on a discussion paper, Pavement Parking—Curbing an Abuse. The paper looked at the reasons for pavement parking and the problems it caused. It put forward four options for tackling the problem:

more private legislation by local authorities;

more TROs by individual local authorities;

implementation of the 1974 Act’s national ban; or

amendment to the 1974 Act to permit local authorities who wished to introduce the ban to do so using the TRO procedure.

In July 1988 the Transport Minister, Peter Bottomley, said he had received over 450 responses to the paper and that he would be announcing the outcome of the review ‘as soon as possible’, but nothing happened. When the 1972 Act was repealed in 1988, section 36B (the ‘national ban’ mentioned above) became, without any amendment, section 19A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the matter rested there. Regulations to put into effect the national ban were not brought forward because of the potentially enormous costs to local authorities and police of securing proper policing and enforcement of such a blanket ban. It was finally repealed by section 83 and Schedule 8 of the Road Traffic Act 1991.”

Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 is used in the current Highway Code. Rule 145 states:

“You MUST NOT drive on or over a pavement, footpath or bridleway except to gain lawful access to property, or in the case of an emergency.”

Since January 1999 a fixed penalty notice can be issued with the offender given a ticket with fine and points attached unless they appeal in which case it goes to court.

This regulation tends not to be used, especially if a police officer doesn’t see the driver actually driving on to the pavement. A police officer may have “reasonable grounds” to believe the motorist drove on the pavement—it would be up to the courts to decide whether a driver was telling the truth should he claim his car was placed on the pavement with the use of a crane. However, unlike for a speeding offence a police officer has no power, in relation to driving on the pavement, to insist that the keeper of a vehicle tells of who was driving at any particular time. For this and other reasons the police generally don’t enforce this particular law and tend to refer complainants to local authority parking enforcement officers, who have few mechanisms in which to tackle the problem.

18 January 2013

Prepared 22nd October 2013