How many times have you walked down a street, only to have to squeeze your way past a collection of cars parked half-on, half-off the pavement?
Pavement parking, where motor vehicles are left on the pavement, has become such a regular feature of many Scottish streets that for many, it is just another urban annoyance, like litter. However, for others, it is an issue which seriously impacts on their ability to get to places, their physical and mental wellbeing and in some cases, can even put their lives in danger.
What’s the problem?
When people park their cars and vans on pavements, it blocks the way for others, especially those with visual or mobility impairments, people pushing pushchairs or those who need wheelchairs to get around.
This can lead to people having to alter their journeys completely – either because they are unable to get past or because they cannot detour onto the road (especially the case if a pavement lacks a low or dropped curb). For others it means having to move into roads, in order to get around the vehicles, forcing them to compete with moving traffic. This issue can be compounded further by the parked vehicle blocking the view of drivers and pedestrians, adding to the peril of an already dangerous situation.
My neighbourhood in Edinburgh is not immune to this issue of pavement parking. My narrow Victorian street means that car owners, myself included, mount their cars on kerbs to ensure the road is still accessible for other, particularly emergency, vehicles. This bothers me. Whilst we all know that this will mean less pavement space for users, any changes that need to happen to streets like mine across the country, have to be coordinated through law – rather than one car at a time.
This is why the new Transport Bill, which is currently making its way through Scottish Parliament, is so important. By creating legislation on pavement parking, the government is able to set out clear guidance and support as to how this issue can be addressed.
The move will also help to level the playing field – by ensuring that road space in Scotland is equitable for all users – it will guarantee safer, easier and more comfortable journeys around our towns and cities for everyone.
Creating a solution which works for everyone
Car ownership in Scotland is higher than ever before, yet access to a car is remaining the same, in other words, more people own more cars than ever before. A quarter of people resident in Scotland don’t own or have access to a car. The way that many of our streets and neighbourhoods have been designed does not take this into account.
New legislation would make life fairer for the quarter of Scots who do not have access to a car, but who still find their journey made more difficult by pavement parking. It would help to ensure that people with impaired mobility, wheelchair or mobility cart users can safely and independently and more comfortably get about.
The Transport Bill proposes a compromise where necessary so not to unfairly impact cars. But some, understandably, question where they should park their car if they can’t do so on the pavement.
The answer is that some streets will need physical changes for the Bill to be effective, and some streets will have to be exempted. However, London banned pavement parking in 1974 and residents and visitors there have successfully adapted to the change.
Making places that make people want to walk
Banning parking on the pavement should not be seen as targeting or penalising car owners, but as making life easier for people on footways.
We should do everything we can to encourage more journeys to be made on foot. Walking is free and good for your health and the environment. It leads to local economic benefits and can help to develop a sense of community. Neighbourhoods, where people are happy and confident to walk about and spend time in, are successful and invariably popular.
But, with this in mind, Government and civic leaders should not stop at banning pavement parking. It should also ensure that footways are clear of clutter like signage, telecoms cabinets and even electric vehicle charging points, which are increasingly being thoughtlessly installed on pavements.
We have drifted to a status quo where space on footways is being taken away from people and we need legislation to stop this.
A ban on pavement parking is a very simple and effective piece of legislation that will make our streets safer for everyone and our communities more welcoming for people.