There have been legislative moves afoot to try to change the absurd situation in the UK (outside London) that parking is generally legal on pavements, though driving is not. (So obviously all the cars parked on pavements must have landed there from the sky.) A Private Member's Bill was proposed that would bring the law in England generally into line with that applying to London; that is, parking on pavements would be made illegal except where the Local Authority has put up signs and painted markings showing where it is permitted.
MP Simon Hoare said:
Following detailed discussions, I have withdrawn the bill today following The Minister’s commitment to convene a round table and undertake a policy review.
This response demonstrates the Government’s commitment to improving access for all pedestrians including disabled and vulnerable people. A government examination of the current issues gives us the best opportunity of securing Government backing for legislative change.Apparently the Govenment need to "undertake a policy review with stakeholders to examine the legal and financial implications of an alternative regime and the likely impact on local authorities".
This sounds rather fancy, when a simple-minded person like me might think it is absolutely clear that pavements are there for walking on and cars should not be parked on them.
A coalition of charities including Guide Dogs and Living Streets was backing Simon Hoare's bill. However, his bill in no way proposed a blanket ban on pavement parking, he said:
The bill will simply enable local authorities to deal with problem areas in an efficient way. It just provides another tool in the armoury for local government.The thing that strikes me about all this is how it's a classic example of weak campaigning. There's an extraordinary kow-towing to motordom here, everyone apologetically and oh so 'reasonably' trying to accommodate the convenience of selfish car derivers at the expense of the majority. The campaign should be to sweep away all parking on pavements, pure and simple. But no-one in the political mainstream or 'civil society' is saying this. Yes, these worthy organisations say, let's have Simon Hoare's feeble bill, or something even weaker the Government might come up with after a few years of consulting with 'stakeholders' (who will include such statutory loonies as the Alliance of British Drivers), in order to make the pavements of Burslem and Basildon just as delightful for walking as the cracked-up, routinely obstructed pavements of Brent. Plus ça change.
When I was a member of Camden Cycling Campaign, we had a clear line on pavement parking, which we held to in all discussions with Camden Council. This was that pavement parking is wrong: it messes up the environment, produces shabby streets, and obstructs pedestrians. If it was felt that there was insufficient parking for demands, and there was excess pavement (not common in Camden), then we said the Council should rebuild the kerbs to provide clear, dedicated parking bays that were not part of the pavement. This was the line that was repeatedly put to the council's Walking, Road Safety and Cycling Advisory Group, consisting of councillors and representatives of community organisations. The pedestrian campaigners and residents' associations seemed to back this line, and, as a result, Camden has to this day very little pavement parking. Faced with a choice between expensively rebuilding kerbs, and not giving in to the pressure to provide more parking, the council unsurprisingly tended to go with the latter option – which is why the kind of mess you see in the Brent street pictured above is uncommon in the neighbouring Borough of Camden.
|How Camden has organised parking in Russell Square, WC1. This is a good example: the parking is not on the footway, but on a designated, differently-paved area.
|A minor one-way road in Assen, Netherlands
|An example of a 'home-zone' street in Groningen, Netherlands
David Hembrow has a blogpost with further pictures of how car parking is treated on Dutch residential streets, where it is often removed from the carraigeway, but given a distinct space that is not in the way of pedestrains and cannot damage the surface on which they walk. These Dutch designs do not look like the half-on, half-off, painted-lines-with-blue-signs London-type pavement parking messes.
In the UK it seems the general thinking is that parking on the pavement is a legitimate part of a 'settlement' vis-a-vis motoring and walking whereby motorists are allowed to park on the pavements when they feel like it, or it appears to be necessary so as not to obstruct the flow of traffic, but pedestrians are always free to walk in the road, as we have no concept of 'jaywalking' in our law. This is obviously pretty unsatisfactory to anyone of limited mobility or particularly vulnerability, such as the blind, or the mother with a pushchair. It mirrors the attitude to cycling, which is to allow it everywhere on roads, except on motorways and in a few other places, but to accept that as sufficient 'payment' to cyclists and therefore exonerate the authorities from needing to provide for cycling properly as a mode in its own right. Both of these 'settlements', the walking one and the cycling one, short-change the vulnerable road users and cement the domination of the car, though they seem very free and fair, from a certain traditional anglo-saxon point of view. 'We don't need any of those fussy foreign rules about where you are allowed to walk and cycle, you're free here', said John Bull, maybe. Yes. Free to be run over anywhere.
I've linked a few times here to David Hembrow's blog on Dutch cycling, and he also has view about campaigning for the right things, and not those that seem like 'achievable goals' or a 'first step'. I've consistently advocated that UK cycle campaigners should not ask for inadequate solutions, but think big. This message seems to have got through, and cycle campaigners have been making much bigger demands than they used to, in the days when the earlier posts on this blog were written, with striking success in some places. As my previous post about London's emerging segregated cycle network showed, we've started to get the ambitions things, that really make a difference, that we demanded, because of an adherence to clear, justifiable principles and an unwillingness to compromise over them.
It seems to me that pedestrian campaigning is still at an earlier stage, the stage where cycle campaigning was decades ago. It's not political enough, not clear enough in its demands, it's too polite and too compromising, and not asking for the right things. For example, you'll search in vain on the Living Streets website for any reference to the inadequacies of UK traffic law and the Highway Code in relationship to the how pedestrians are treated at junctions. There's no campaign to bring the UK into line with the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, the failure to apply which makes the difference between UK signalised crossroads, where any pedestrian attempting to cross without a specific signal risks getting run over (and blamed for it), and the equivalent in most of continental Europe, where the pedestrian automatically gets priority over turning traffic (often re-enforced with zebra markings). Just to bring this into UK law and practice would far make more of a difference to walking here than all Living Streets' favoured issues such as ice, the time zone (yes, really, that's trying to make pedestrians safer, not by controlling danger, but by making us do things at a different astronomical time), and the (rather more sensible) 20mph campaign.
The current pro-pedestrain campaigns won't make the real difference they needs to, like the weak cycle campaigns of yesteryear, with their reliance on asking for mutual respect and poor but uncontroversial infrastructure like Advanced Stop Lines. Pedestrian campaigning should be virtually one with the cycling movement in demanding a complete re-design of our physical transport environment and re-thinking of the balance of rights and responsibilities accorded to motorists and vulnerable road users. The pro-pedestrian, pro-cycling, 'urbanist' and 'better streets' campaigns should all be virtually identical in their demands, and mutually supporting, and would be so much stronger if that were the case. But it is hard to see a transition to this situation when the largest part of this potential coalition is as reluctant to challenge the motor-centric status-quo as standard pedestrian campaigning in the UK still seems to be.