Published: 14th MAY 2019

Sustrans response to the Transport Select Committee inquiry into Pavement Parking

We believe pavement parking should be made illegal across the UK, unless it is permitted by exemption.

This is our response to the Transport Committee - Pavement Parking Enquiry, submitted 14 May 2019.

About Sustrans

Sustrans is the charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle. We connect people and places, create liveable neighbourhoods, transform the school run and deliver a happier, healthier commute.

Sustrans is part of the Walking and Cycling Alliance (WACA) and party to its joint manifesto ‘Moving the Nation’ with five priorities, including the prohibition of pavement parking to create safer and more accessible streets.

Headlines and summary

  • Sustrans believes pavement parking should be made illegal across the UK, unless it is permitted by exemption.
  • This should be achieved by a clear and consistent UK-wide prohibition of pavement parking. Local authorities should be empowered to designate exemptions where limited pavement parking is permitted, quickly and responsively by resolutions, rather than by traffic regulation orders.
  • The main objection raised to a UK-wide ban is many streets are too narrow to park on the road and without nearby off-street parking. Sustrans believes that in each street where there is conflict and an exemption from the UK-wide ban is considered necessary, space should first be assigned for safe pedestrian and emergency vehicle access, and that any remaining space can then be allocated for parking. This may mean removing parking spaces on many streets where parking is unsafe and inappropriate.

The impact of pavement parking

  1. Parking a vehicle partially or wholly on the pavement is only illegal by default in London, although a similar bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament. On 5 April 2019 there was agreement in principle to implement it.
  2. Pavement parking is a widespread problem, for example in England 93% of local authorities have received complaints from members of the public about pavement parking.
  3. A YouGov poll of people aged 65 and over commissioned by Living Streets in 2014 found that pavement parking was a problem for 73% of older people in their local area; 50% of respondents said that they would be more likely to walk outside if the pavements were clear of vehicles parked on them.
  4. As car ownership has continued to grow alongside increases in home and business deliveries and car sharing platforms like Uber, space in many urban places is becoming more constrained. This means car parking is often displaced onto pavements and other public space off the carriageway. 46% of drivers are confused about the current laws on pavement parking  and therefore many drivers park wherever they can, often on the pavement to ensure the road is still accessible. In many places parking on the pavement is so common it has become a social norm. 
  5. Vehicles parked on pavements are a common source of inconvenience and hazard to pedestrians. Often they force a wide range of vulnerable people into the road, putting themselves at risk of death or injury from collision with motor traffic. This includes people with visual impairments, older people, children, and  people with reduced mobility, prams or pushchairs, all of whom may be forced into the road and put at greater risk of collision and injury. People with sight loss collide with cars parked on pavements more than any other pavement obstruction. Pavement parking can prevent people in wheelchairs from continuing their journey and generally restrict the independence of vulnerable people.
  6. Many local authorities have adopted hierarchies of movement that put pedestrians at the top. The frequency of pavement parking and the failure to address it contravene the spirit of these hierarchies. Pavement parking has emerged as one of the most common complaints by people walking, and one against which least progress has been made in recent decades.
  7. Pavements are not generally engineered to be driven on and repairs to damaged pavements are expensive, particularly at a time when councils’ resources are under huge pressure. This creates further hazards to people walking. The average cost of a fall on the footway is £8,300 in today’s prices and there are more than 20,000 annual admissions to A&E from ‘falls on public walking surface defects’. Local authorities in the UK paid out over £2 million in compensation to pedestrians in 2018.v

The enforcement of pavement parking offences

  1. In the whole of the UK, goods vehicles exceeding 7.5 tonnes are prohibited from parking on pavements or verges, except in cases of emergency or where there is no practicable alternative for unloading.
  2. However parking a smaller vehicle partially or wholly on the pavement is only against the law in London, although the similar bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.
  3. In the rest of the UK the Highway Code states that vehicles should not be parked on the pavement, but this is advisory only, not enforceable. Outside of London, driving any vehicle along the pavement however short the distance, or causing a clear obstruction are criminal offences which only the police can prosecute. Unless they have been lifted into position, vehicles parked on the pavement must have been driven there, but without evidence of the act of driving itself the police cannot prosecute, so this is very rarely enforced by the police. It is also an offence to park vehicles on the pavement for commercial sale or repair.
  4. In London all vehicles are banned from parking on pavements, and the maximum fine for doing so is £100. London boroughs can designate areas that are exempt from this. London TravelWatch report a reasonable level of compliance with the ban on pavement parking in London, but note that the reinstatement of powers to use camera enforcement
    and wheel clamping for these offences would deter them further.
  5. UK local authorities outside of London can designate areas of no pavement parking using traffic regulation orders but this is time-consuming, expensive and bureaucratic, with areas needing to be signposted. Typical costs are £2,500-3,000 per street for putting in the signs and lines, sealing the order, publishing notices in the local paper and staff costs.
  6. The police can take action against clear obstruction, against driving along the pavement, and against vehicles parked on the pavement for commercial sale or repair, but very rarely have the time and resource to do so.
  7. In conclusion, existing police powers have been largely unenforced and local authority powers deployed slowly and in few locations. We need to find a practical way to ensure fair but firm behaviour change to stop people parking on the pavement. The experience of London provides a clear and long-tested precedent that can and should be rolled out
    across the rest of the UK.

The current situation and what should happen

  1. The powers given by existing legislation to police and local authorities to deal with pavement parking have proven ineffective. This is because the authorities are either unable to use them, or because they consider them less cost-effective than other uses of time and money. Therefore reform needs to go beyond limited amendment to the existing use of traffic regulation orders.
  2. There is appetite for change. A Guide Dogs survey in 2014 found that ‘seven out of 10 people want restrictions for the rest of the country and eight out of 10 councillors would back a new law’.
  3. Sustrans believes that action is now required to ban pavement parking across the UK. London has shown that this is a practicable option, and if the Transport Bill in Scotland passes, Scotland looks set to follow suit. In London where space is  constrained, management of the space has been improved by markings to indicate precisely where
    car parking is acceptable.
  4. The main objections raised to a national ban are that there are narrow streets where there is no off-street parking nearby, and that access must be maintained for emergency vehicles.
  5. Sustrans believes that in each street where this conflict occurs and an exception is considered necessary, a clear and effective 2m width should first be assigned for safe pedestrian access on each side of the road or just one side if pavement access is not
    required on both, then adequate width must be preserved for emergency vehicles and that finally any remaining space can be allocated for parking. Local authorities should be given a timescale by which to introduce exceptions, and resourced properly to do so.
    This could mean removing space for parking where it is currently unsafe.
  6. For reasons of inclusivity, the government should identify all types of interest with respect to pavement parking, including for example users of pushchairs, buggies or strollers, and actively seek out the views of any group that has not been adequately represented in responses to this consultation.
  7. Police forces have other priorities and enforcement should be done most cost-effectively by local authorities. Therefore it should be a civil offence, with all local authorities having the necessary decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) powers to enforce it.
  8. All local authorities should also have powers to enact moving traffic offences, as they do already in London and Cardiff.
  9. Local police services should retain some power and responsibility for intervening against pavement parking where required, because they operate round the clock and have the power to remove vehicles if necessary.
  10. Local authorities should be resourced to identify problem streets where exemptions may be required and to take appropriate measures, but resources will be freed up by no longer having to introduce complicated Traffic Regulation Orders to control parking where it has been a problem.
    25 After a law change to make pavement parking illegal by default across the UK, there should be a public awareness advertising campaign to raise awareness of the change.


If you require any clarifications or further information on our response, please email, Bike Life Project Manager at Sustrans.

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