Lord Low: Pavements are for people, let’s keep it that way
Lord Low of Dalston wants to end pavement parking, an anti-social behaviour that makes the pavement dangerous for people with disabilities.
The Government spends a lot of time thinking and talking about breaking down the barriers which prevent disabled people fulfilling their potential in life. Some of these barriers, though small, have a disproportionate impact on people’s independence. Pavement parking falls into this category: if you can’t reach the end of your street safely because the pavement is obstructed by a vehicle, then your ability to engage with society in a meaningful way is severely curtailed.
As a lifelong advocate for disability rights, and as a blind person myself, I know only too well the problems caused by cars on the pavement. On the whole, pavements present more challenges to visually impaired people than to sighted people, but it’s possible to anticipate fixed obstacles, such as trees, and navigate around them. Cars are mobile by nature, so their presence on the pavement creates an unexpected hazard, putting people at real risk of accidents and injury.
The pavement is designed to give pedestrians a safe place to walk, away from traffic. A blocked pavement means walking in the road - not a pleasant experience in a busy street if you can’t see oncoming traffic. Wheelchair users and parents with buggies have even bigger problems as they may not be able to re-mount the pavement until they reach a dropped kerb, which could be hundreds of yards further up.
What’s more, pavements aren’t designed for cars and can crack under the additional weight, creating trip hazards for pedestrians and costing millions of pounds in maintenance and compensation claims from the public purse.
Unsurprisingly, pavement parking is often regarded as anti-social behaviour, and many people are amazed to hear it is not already illegal. The fact is that pavement parking laws in this country are a mess: it’s illegal to park on the pavement in London, except where local authorities specifically allow it. In most of the rest of the country, though illegal to drive on the pavement, it is not explicitly illegal to park there. Some local authorities issue Traffic Regulation Orders to stop pavement parking in certain areas but the Orders are expensive and difficult to issue, besides which, an Order in one trouble spot can simply transfer the problem to a neighbouring road.
It’s for these reasons that I’m moving an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, which will be debated today, making a small change that would have a great effect on people’s lives. My amendment would bring the rest of the country into line with London, clarify the situation once and for all, and reclaim the pavement for pedestrians.