Pavement parking blocks the pavement so wheelchair users, people with prams or mobility issues have to walk in the road to get past.
Foundations, Local MPs and pedestrians are desperate to stop this to improve safety for vulnerable road users. But progress on the pavement parking ban is slow.
Here are the current rules for pavement parking and an update on each UK country's progress on the ban.
Is it illegal to park on the pavement?
It's illegal to park on the pavement anywhere in London, according to the Highway Code.
In other parts of the UK, pavement parking bans are enforced by the local council. In most cases, it’s only banned if signs say so, or if there’s another parking restriction in place like yellow lines.
If you’ve been caught parking on the pavement by the police, you could be charged with 'unnecessary obstruction of any part of the highway'.
But, according to the Living Streets foundation, the police rarely take action. That’s because the existing laws are unclear, and it can be difficult to prosecute.
What are the changes to pavement parking in the UK?
Some of the UK’s nations are now rallying to stop parking on the pavement. But each country is at a different stage with their plans. Here’s how the latest campaigns for each country are going and an update on the latest rule changes.
Ash Jones, a Green Party West Belfast representative described pavement parking as an 'epidemic' that puts wheelchair users and people with prams in danger. She said:
"If the Department for Infrastructure, which holds power over Belfast's streets, really wants to commit to a city that is safe to walk around, it must devote resources to keeping pavements accessible. Anything less is a dereliction of duty to the tens of thousands who use our streets every day.
"We deserve a city where anyone can walk, wheel or cycle without fear, and it's immensely saddening to see us go backwards in this respect."
In Northern Ireland now, the police can issue a fine for a car that’s causing a general obstruction. They can also fine a motorist if their car is blocking access to someone’s home.
But there isn’t legislation to stop cars parking on pavements. They’d only be able to fine someone if there was an existing parking restriction in place like double yellow lines.
But the Department of Infrastructure can introduce pavement parking bans at any time. It’s already done this in a few places where pavement parking has been a problem.
The Scottish government was among the first to implement a ban on pavement parking. In 2019, the Transport Scotland Act introduced new provisions to stop pavement parking, double parking and parking at dropped kerbs.
Now, the Scottish government are working in more legislation to give local authorities the power to enforce the pavement parking ban.
The ban was due to start in September 2023, but the government is still in consultation.
The Living Streets Foundation says this isn’t good enough. It also said that penalty charges for people who park on the pavement aren’t enough to deter drivers.
Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland said:
“Parking fines have remained at the same level for several years, so we question whether they’re even meaningful for better-off drivers.
“We're concerned that a reduced fine for those who can pay within 2 weeks is effectively a subsidy for drivers on higher incomes who have a more flexible budget across such a short period.”
In Wales, the pavement parking taskforce was reinstated last year and it suggested implementing parking legislation at the end of 2023. This has now been delayed in most of Wales until next year as councils are focussed on introducing 20 mph speed limits in residential areas.
Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change said:
“We're asking a lot of hard-pressed local authorities at what continues to be a difficult time. I've listened to the feedback from leaders and decided to delay the consultation on pavement parking until next year.
“This will enable local authorities to focus on the implementation and introduction of default 20mph speed limits in September 2023 and the work to prepare for bus franchising.”
But in Cardiff, there’s an 18-month pavement parking ban trial zone on City Road. The zone is marked by signs and drivers could get a penalty charge notice (PCN) if they park on the pavement.
In England, the government is still gathering evidence for pavement parking bans in places other than London.
In a survey, the government found that:
- 95% of people with vision impairments had had a problem with vehicles parked on pavements
- 32% of people with vision impairments didn’t want to go out on their own because of pavement parking
- 98% of wheelchair users had issues with pavement parking
- 48% of wheelchair users didn’t want to go out on their own because of pavement parking
In the government’s latest update, it said there wasn’t much data to suggest any safety implications of pavement parking. It asked 68 local authorities how many pedestrians had been hurt in the previous year because they'd been:
- Hit by a vehicle because they were walking in the road to pass a parked car
- Hit by a vehicle that was driving onto the pavement to park.
It found that:
- 3 councils estimated up to 10 incidents
- 4 councils estimated over 10 incidents
- 7 councils said there were no incidents
- 54 councils didn’t know
Even though the data doesn’t support the claim that pavement parking causes accidents, the government still agreed that pavement parking is an issue.
Parking on the pavement could also cost the government more money. Pavements aren’t built for cars, so parking on them could cause damage. And if someone fell on a crack, they could make a personal injury claim against the government or their local council.
The government is proposing 3 options to solve the pavement parking problem:
Improve signs and road markings to deter pavement parkers
Give local authorities the power to issue PCNs to vehicles that are causing ‘unnecessary obstruction of the pavement’
A national pavement parking ban - with some exceptions for breakdown and emergency vehicles
The consultation is still ongoing and another response will be published at GOV.UK.
Why can't I park on the pavement?
When you park on the pavement, you’re blocking part of the pavement so pedestrians have to walk in the road to get around your car. This puts the pedestrian at risk.
It’s even more difficult for people who have a disability, are elderly, or have young children, to pass cars parked on the pavement.
Stephen Edwards, director of policy and communications at Living Streets, said:
“We’re regularly contacted by disabled and older people who feel trapped in their homes because there isn’t enough room on the pavement for wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
“Pavements aren’t designed to be parked on, and over time the surface can become uneven or cracked, causing trip hazards too.”
What happens if I’m caught parking on the pavement?
You could get a PCN if you’re caught parking on a pavement where it’s not permitted.
If you’re caught by the council, you get the PCN from your local authority and they’ll set the fine amount. But you can expect it to be over £50. You have to pay your fine within 28 days, but it’s usually reduced if you pay within 14 days. This depends on your local council’s rules, though.
If you’re caught by the police, you could be charged with the 'offence of obstruction' and be given a fixed penalty notice (FPN). You could pay up to £200 and get penalty points on your licence - this is likely to affect your car insurance costs too.
You can appeal a PCN if you don’t think it was warranted, by contacting your local council. But FPNs can only be challenged through the courts, which could be expensive.
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How to stop cars parking on pavements
If you live in an area where it’s illegal you can report pavement parking to your local council. You can find your local council's contact details using GOV.UK.
If you’re in London where there’s a ban, call your council and ask if they can send a traffic warden.
But if you live somewhere where there isn’t a ban, there’s not much you can do other than make your local council aware of the issue.
You could also try talking to your neighbour if they park on the pavement. They might not be aware of the problems they’re causing and find alternative parking. If you don't know who the car belongs to, you could also try leaving a note on the car windscreen.