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Should the government ban parking on pavements?

The idea of parking on pavements has been a hot topic for a number of years. The arguments on both sides of the debate are as legitimate as they are easy to sympathise with; on the one hand, banning parking on pavements will make it almost impossible for people to park their vehicle in narrow or confined streets, while on the other, making this form of parking illegal will significantly benefit those in wheelchairs or who need to push pushchairs.

Parking on pavements is already an illegal act in London, but in the rest of the country, only lorries are prohibited from engaging in the practice. However, a recently launched government consultation could result in a nationwide ban for all vehicles, which could be implemented with relative haste.

The argument, however, continues to rage on. There are those in favour and those against, and even should the consultation deem that parking on pavements should indeed be banned, it is unlikely that the protestors will dissipate overnight.

So, with that firmly in mind, what are the pros and cons? Is banning parking on pavements a good idea, and even if it is introduced, how easy will it be to police? Quite simply, should – and will – the government ban the practice?

The official stance

Grant Shapps, the current Secretary of State for Transport, has been leading the charge for such a ban. His opening salvo in the wake of the announcement of the consultation focused on making pavements more useable for wheelchair users and those with pushchairs, while he also made a point of saying that this decision could form a ‘key part’ of the country’s ‘green post-Covid recovery’.

What does the research say?

One of the most effective ways of forming an effective and sufficient opinion is by looking at research studies and taking note of the results. And, what’s more, it’s worth remembering that such studies will deal with a variety of elements; some will look at the financial implications, others will look at personal opinion, while others will focus more on societal impact.

It can be difficult to recognise what research to focus on or what studies should be given prominence, especially when so many people will be massively swayed by their own personal circumstances, and that is one of the key reasons why this particular issue is so contentious.

The pavement parking ban would be advantageous to those who use a wheelchair.

There have been numerous studies conducted around this very specific issue. For example, a piece of research carried out by the Guide Dogs charity found that one in three (33 percent) people with visual impairments (of any kind) would be inclined to remain at home rather than go out due to ‘antisocial’ parking on pavements, while half (48 percent) of wheelchair users had the same response.

It is also certainly worth highlighting that a recent study carried out by YourParkingSpace found that, even were a ban implemented across the country, one in six (16 percent) would refuse to comply. This raises the question of how such a ban could ever effectively be enforced, especially when there are approximately 790,000 streets in the UK, and given that police officers and council employees are already stretched with regard to workloads.

Those that are against

The AA, one of the country’s leading providers of breakdown cover and vehicle insurance, is the organisation that has been at the forefront of the campaign to try and convince people that a comprehensive ban on parking on pavements is liable to be a poor decision.

Speaking in an official AA press release, Jack Cousens, the AA’s Head of Roads Policy, stated that he believes every road, street and path needs to be assessed individually for any such change in legality to be effective. “As we have seen with road closures and narrowed roads, councils have recently acted with little consultation and in many cases lost the confidence of the communities they serve,” he said.

“Local authorities should make a street-by-street assessment and where pavement parking is allowed, markings should show how much pavement can be used. While councils have always had the powers to tackle problem parking, it would be typical if the only time they act is when there is fines income to be had from it.

“A driver who deliberately parks in an obstructive manner and blocks the path of any pedestrian should expect to be punished. However, an outright ban on pavement parking could cause a series of unintended consequences.”

Final thoughts

There is no definitive answer to this conundrum. It is, of course, essential that everyone be able to navigate a footpath without coming up against unnecessary or unforeseen obstructions, but at the same time, is a complete ban really the right way to go? Could such a move be deemed overkill?

It does seem very likely that the consultation will result in the practice of parking on pavements being banned completely, but will this solve the problem? Will people comply, and will it be possible to create adequate punishments to target those unwilling to abide by the law? One thing is for certain – the introduction of such a ban will by no means result in the end of the debate, but it could well be the start of a process that will make all pavements in the UK more navigable for everyone.

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