Rachel Cairnes, policy and public affairs adviser at the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO), responded to the Department for Transport consultation 'Pavement parking: options for change'.
Pavement parking- as opposed to 'on street' parking - reduces the usable width of a pavement for pedestrians. As such, it can have a considerable impact on people's abilities to move freely and may leave them feeling unable to leave their homes or physically prevent them from doing so. In order to navigate around a parked vehicle, a pedestrian can be forced to move onto the road, thereby placing them at risk from moving traffic. People who have visual impairments, are neurodiverse, use mobility aids and who are walking with children or a pushchair tend to be more adversely affected than others by pavement parking. Damage to kerbs and footpaths caused by pavement parking not only increases maintenance costs for local authorities by present a potential tripping hazard for pedestrians. This in turn can give rise to personal injury claims against the local authority.
Cairnes said the issues associated with pavement parking have long been recognised and ACSO welcome the review of pavement parking as a means to shape how road users interact with one another and the transport environment.
A national pavement parking prohibition was argued to be the most effective way of ensuring the safety of road users, specifically pedestrians. "The establishment of a general and consistent rule against pavement parking, except where there is specific permission for it, provides drivers with much-needed clarity. Given the need for local authorities to identify and implement exemptions from a national prohibition, the process of implementing [a pavement parking ban] is likely to be time consuming and expensive. For example, a national prohibition was enacted in Scotland in November 2019 but has yet to come into force. For this reason, we urge the Department for Transport to continue with its ongoing work to improve the [Traffic Regulation Order (TRO)] in the interim period in order to ensure the safety of pedestrians and other road users".
However, Cairnes stated there are a number of issues that the Department for Transport must address before implementing a national pavement parking prohibition. "As the consultation document notes, pavement parking has been banned in Greater London since the implementation of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974. London and other major cities in the UK are more conducive to a pavement parking prohibition owing to far lower levels of car ownership per household and higher mode shared for public transport. Elsewhere, car ownership per household tends to be higher, thereby leading to a greater demand for parking. Moreover, parking solutions for motorbikes are also required.
"As a related point, the outbreak of coronavirus has led to an increased dependency on cars, largely due to concerns about the safety of public transport and a lack of adequate alternatives. A survey conducted by the RAC found that 57 per cent of motorists said that having access to a car is more important given the pandemic than it was before. Moreover, for the first time since 2002, fewer than half of drivers (43 per cent) said that they would use their car less, even if public transport was improved. Within the context of the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant reliance on cars due to concerns of contaminating the virus on public transport, the Department for Transport must consider whether it is appropriate at this time to announce the intention to implement a nationwide pavement parking ban.
"Further, the costs and practical issues associated with [a national pavement parking prohibition] need to be carefully considered. It is important that the implementation and management of a ban on pavement parking does not become an onerous administrative burden as this is likely to deter local authorities from prosecuting offending motorists and lead to a widespread disregard of the ban."
Cairnes also noted that although the impact of pavement parking on people's lives is well documented, there is little quantitative data on the safety implications for pedestrians. "The University of Westminster's Active Travel Academy found that between 2005 and 2018, 528 pedestrians were killed on pavements or verges in England, Scotland and Wales. However, it is difficult to identify the direct cause of such incidents, including whether they have resulted directly or indirectly from a vehicle parked on the pavement. Similarly, as noted in the consultation document, there is little statistical evidence on the number of pedestrians killed or injured in the road while navigating around vehicles parked on the pavement, despite there being little dispute that pavement parking can endanger the safety of pedestrians.
"In order to identify common issues that present a threat to the safety of road users, particularly those who are vulnerable, the collection and collation of granular data is essential. For this reason, we urge the Department for Transport to consider whether current reporting practices on non-fatal road traffic collisions are effective. This is particularly important given the declining number of road-traffic officers combined with changes to reporting practices and definitions have distorted over time statistics on non-fatal road traffic incidents. Furthermore, open, granular data on the safety of UK roads is likely to enable the identification of why fatal and non-fatal casualties have remained relatively consistent since 2010."
ACSO members can read the submission in full on the ACSO members' area of the website.