Ludicrous, really. There’s a blanket national ban on cycling on the pavement (and has been since 1888) but there’s a confusing mish-mash of conflicting laws which means there’s no equivalent national blanket ban on parking a car on the pavement. Motorists can’t legally drive on the pavement, but a loophole (see base of article) means, in many localities, they won’t be nabbed for driving their cars onto pavements and leaving ‘em there. Some local authorities have enacted bylaws to stop motorists parking on pavements but these are few and far between.
Those who rant at cyclists for pavement riding tend not to rant at motorists committing the exact some offence. The offence was introduced in 1835. While all other parts of the 1835 Highway Act have been either amended or repealed, clause 72 remains in force. It’s a juicy one:
“If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon.”
The key phrase is “carriage of any description”. That is a cover-all that is still in force. Motor cars were classed as carriages in the 1903 Motor Car Act; bicycles were so classified in 1888.
INTERLUDE: Despite cars being banned from pavements since 1903, the BBC is not yet up to speed. In a report about a great many motorists driving on a pavement outside a school in Folkestone – video evidence was uploaded to YouTube – the BBC reporter said: “Kent police is now examining the footage to see if any offences have been committed.” And the school’s associate head teacher seemed to be talking about a future of driverless cars when he said: “…for cars to take it upon themselves to mount the pavement to avoid the traffic is absolutely outrageous.” Sadly, the local police told the YouTube uploader that the road traffic offences were the responsibility of traffic wardens (wrong!) which throws into sharp focus the whole problem of there being a national blanket ban on cycling on the pavement but none for parking a car on the pavement. To park on the pavement you tend to have to drive on the pavement – two wheels count, m’lud – but pavement parking is so endemic police look the other way because to enforce the law would involve charging millions of people.
The operators of bicycles and cars (and operators of shoes, too) have the same road rights, that is, being able to pass and repass over the public highway [DPP v Jones and Another, 1999] and as “reasonable users of the highway” are allowed to, say, stop and admire the view or grab a bite to eat while resting at the side of the road: “Highways are dedicated prima facie for the purpose of passage; but things are done upon them by everybody which are recognised as being rightly done, and as constituting a reasonable and usual mode of using a highway as such. If a person on a highway does not transgress such reasonable and usual mode of using it, I do not think that he will be a trespasser.”
However, parking of a carriage is caught up in a swirl of conflicting legislation.
It’s up to MPs to clear up this mess. But, to date, they haven’t. And they’ve had lots of opportunities to do so, and made lots of promises, too, as is made clear by a research document in the House of Commons library. These briefing documents are written for MPs and Peers, giving them an overview of a subject they may not be familiar with.
Parking: pavement and on-street [PDF] was written in 2010 and talks of the “previous efforts to legislate,” efforts which have always come to naught.
Governments have in the past consulted on ways to combat pavement parking and have sought to alter the law. In 1974 Parliament provided for a national ban on pavement parking in urban areas in section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (this inserted new section 36B into the Road Traffic Act 1972). If implemented, this would have prohibited all parking on verges, central reservations and footways on ‘urban roads’. The Secretary of State could have exempted certain classes of vehicles and individual local authorities could have made Orders within their own areas to exempt from the national ban certain streets at all times or during certain periods. However, full implementation required that the ban had to be brought in by Parliamentary Order and this never occurred. Successive transport ministers argued that there were difficulties for local authorities and the police in finding the resources to carry out the necessary policing and enforcement work. In 1979 the then government decided to defer implementation indefinitely.
In December 1986 the Department of Transport sought comments on a discussion paper, Pavement Parking – Curbing an Abuse. The paper looked at the reasons for pavement parking and the problems it caused. It put forward four options for tackling the problem:
• more private legislation by local authorities;
• more TROs by individual local authorities;
• implementation of the 1974 Act’s national ban; or
• amendment to the 1974 Act to permit local authorities who wished to introduce the ban to do so using the TRO procedure.
In July 1988 the Transport Minister, Peter Bottomley, said he had received over 450 responses to the paper and that he would be announcing the outcome of the review “as soon as possible”,4 but nothing happened. When the 1972 Act was repealed in 1988, section 36B (the ‘national ban’ mentioned above) became, without any amendment, section 19A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the matter rested there. Regulations to put into effect the national ban were not brought forward because of the potentially enormous costs to local authorities and police of securing proper policing and enforcement of such a blanket ban. It was finally repealed by section 83 and Schedule 8 of the Road Traffic Act 1991.
The House of Commons library document Cycling: offences [PDF], written in 2012, has a much shorter and simpler message:
It is an offence to ride a bicycle on a public footpath under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, as amended. This was made a fixed penalty offence in 1999 and since December 2002 Community Support Officers have been able to issue a fixed penalty notices for this offence.
Naturally, enacting a law that enforces a blanket ban on pavement parking won’t be easy. But Scotland is further down the road, as it were. Scottish MPs have agreed to legislate, nationally, to keep motorists off pavements.
In mid-December 2012, The Herald reported that “motorists face a ban on parking on pavements or alongside other parked cars and dropped kerbs under plans expected to be widely backed by MSPs.”
Charities representing older people, wheelchair users and other vulnerable groups have thrown their weight behind legislation designed to prevent pedestrian access to pavements being blocked.
Emergency services have also supported the measures, with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue saying double-parked vehicles can be “a matter of life or death” if they slow down fire engines.
Under current laws, driving on pavements or obstructing access to a pavement are illegal – a situation described as confusing by campaigners who claim drivers are rarely prosecuted.
A Private Members’ Bill was proposed in the last Scottish Parliament by the then LibDem MSP Ross Finnie. It aimed to give councils greater powers to ban parking on pavements, but was not progressed. It was relaunched by Joe FitzPatrick, the SNP MSP for Dundee City West, in March and then taken over by Sandra White, a Glasgow list MSP, in the summer.
A final draft of the plans…as already been backed by 34 MSPs from four parties – enough to ensure it progresses to the formal bill stage.
Ms White said the proposal was about “justice and fairness” for pedestrians. She added: “There are a lot of people using wheelchairs or with toddlers in buggies who cannot get on to pavements because of inconsiderate parking. It’s not unusual to see cars parked with all four wheels on the pavement, which isn’t right. Pavements are for people and roads are for cars.”
Well, not just cars, but that’s nit-picking.
David Goodhew, director of operations at Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, welcomed the proposals. He said: “Anything that frees up our streets to allow swift passage of our appliances has got to be a good thing. Delays caused by double parking or parking on tight corners or street ends can be a matter of life or death.”
Get Britain Cycling, a parliamentary inquiry inspired by the ‘make cities safe for cycling’ campaign by The Times, starts hearing evidence on 23rd January. There will be six evidence sessions with a panel of MPs and Peers who will take verbal evidence from a selected group of witnesses. The last session will be on the 6th March.
According to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, the inquiry “will examine the barriers which are preventing more people from cycling in the UK.”
One of those barriers is pavement parking. Motorists leaving their private property on the public highway is a nuisance to other road users and, frankly, an unsightly mess.
Professor Ian Walker, a transport and environment psychologist at University of Bath, said the inquiry ought to examine pavement parking because:
“Pavement parking enforces a ‘streets for drivers’ mindset.”
Twitter user John The Monkey said: “[It’s] indicative of an institutionalised hypocrisy regarding the transgressions of drivers and cyclists.”
UrbanManc added: “It’s turned communities, especially schools, into hazards and no-go areas for pedestrians and cyclists alike.”
I have been asked to give evidence at ‘Get Britain Cycling’ and, among other issues, will be raising the subject of pavement parking. I’m due to give evidence on 23rd January.
A CRANE PUT MY CAR ON THE PAVEMENT, OFFICER
Section 72 Highways Act 1835 is used in the current Highway Code. Rule 145 states:
“You MUST NOT drive on or over a pavement, footpath or bridleway except to gain lawful access to property, or in the case of an emergency.”
Since January 1999 a fixed penalty notice can be issued with the offender given a ticket with fine and points attached unless they appeal in which case it goes to court.
This regulation tends not to be used, especially if a police officer doesn’t see the driver actually driving on to the pavement. A police officer may have “reasonable grounds” to believe the motorist drove on the pavement – it would be up to the courts to decide whether a driver was telling the truth should he claim his car was placed on the pavement with the use of a crane. However, unlike for a speeding offence a police officer has no power, in relation to driving on the pavement, to insist that the keeper of a vehicle tells of who was driving at any particular time. For this and other reasons the police generally don’t enforce this particular law and tend to refer complainants to local authority parking enforcement officers, who have few mechanisms in which to tackle the problem.
Now, back to that crane. If there was one knocking around the police officer should use it to lift cars off the pavement, ship them off to the pound and charge motorists for the process. Then perhaps our pavements could be freed of private property obstructing the public highway. But don’t stand still: highways, such as pavements, are there for passage, to be used to pass and repass, and obstruction of the highway is an offence. An offence only ever rarely enforced, of course, which is why motorists feel free to dump their motor vehicles on the carriageway, and have done so since the early days of motoring.
Public Information Film ‘Don’t Park Your Car On The Pavement’, 1981:
‘The Young Ones’ spoof ‘Don’t Drive On The Pavement’, 1984:
Man On TV: Let’s assume for one moment… that this table is a crowded shopping street on a Saturday afternoon. And this… meringue, filled with whipped cream, is a young mother weighed down with groceries. And this… juicy, over-ripe tomato is a tiny little girl, who doesn’t know what a dangerous place her exciting new world is. And let’s assume that this… clingfilm parcel, of mashed banana and jam, is a deaf senior citizen, who is in a wheelchair, and is blind. And this… cricket bat, with a freeze-block nailed to it, is your car. Now what happens when your car mounts the pavement?
[annihilates the meringue, tomato and parcel of banana and jam with the cricket bat]
Think once. Think twice. Think DON’T DRIVE YOUR CAR ON THE PAVEMENT.