Are vehicles allowed to park on the pavement?

30 Aug

The question “Are vehicles allowed to park on the pavement?” sounds like a pretty simple one and one to which one might expect a clear answer!

According the common knowledge it is not illegal to park on the pavement in most parts of the UK but it is an offence to drive on the pavement. Clearly it is not possible to park on the pavement without driving on it but it is harder for the authorities to prove who actually drove onto the pavement. It would be simple to legislate to make it illegal to be parked on the pavement but until now the authorities seem reluctant to enact it for obvious reasons.

The Highway Code rule 244 says “You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs”.  ‘Should not’ is code for it not being illegal. The Highway Code fails to mention that it is also, rather randomly, illegal in Exeter which has it as a clause in its own Act of Parliament, the  ‘Exeter City Act 1987’! Is every town going to have it’s own act of parliament to get this problem solved?

It is also however common knowledge in the transport industry that there is not actually any legislation in place that allows people to leave, or to ‘store’ vehicles on the highway at all, so who is right? I have been poking around the legislation and here is what I have found:

The core legislation appears to be the Highways Act 1980 which states that an offence has been committed if “a person deposits any thing whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway”, (S:148) and then goes on to say: “If any thing is so deposited on a highway as to constitute a nuisance, the highway authority for the highway may by notice require the person who deposited it there to remove it forthwith”.(S:149)

Personally I believe that pavement parking often ‘interrupts’ other users of the highway and often can be shown to cause a ‘nuisance’. If that is the case then why is this clause not used? Possibly I am missing something, or possibly no one has dared to use it yet!

The Act does include other sections covering various specific ‘things’ that can be left on the highway in certain prescribed circumstances, these include “skips”, “scaffolding” and “structures”. It also itemises various things that cannot be left on the highway including “dung, compost or other material for dressing land, or any rubbish“, and also  “booths, stalls or stands, or encamps” established by “hawkers”.

Curiously the Road Traffic Act 1988 includes legislation making it illegal to park vehicles on cycle tracks, which incidentally includes shared use pavements. It says that “any person who, without lawful authority, drives or parks a motor vehicle wholly or partly on a cycle track is guilty of an offence” (Section 21). I am not clear why cycle tracks have been singled out for this favourable treatment but it could be useful in some situations. Incidentally the definition of a cycle track is any track that allows cycling and also a shared pedestrian/cycle route, but not one that allows any motorised vehicles. My reading of this is that a shared use pavement is classified as a ‘cycle track’.

The 1988 Act also  states that “a person who parks a heavy commercial vehicle wholly or partly on the verge of a road, oron any land situated between two carriageways … or on a footway is guilty of an offence” (Section 19) . Incidentally a “heavy commercial vehicle” is defined by the Act as “any goods vehicle which has an operating weight exceeding 7.5 tonnes“. Unfortunately this legislation also excludes parking these heavy vehicles on the pavement or verge “for the purpose of loading or unloading loading where this can not be satisfactorily performed without parking on the footway or verge“. As such the legislation actually seems to create a legal right for heavy commercial vehicles to park on the pavement in situations where it did not exist before!

Another useful but little used piece of legislation is the Disability Discrimination Act which according to the government gives disabled people “important rights not to be discriminated against in accessing everyday goods and services like shops, cafes, banks, cinemas and places of worship“. It seems clear that not ensuring that pavements are usable by disabled people would fall foul of that one.

What do local authorities have to say on the subject? Many say nothing,  Hampshire County Council do helpfully provide details of their interpretation of the law relating to pavement parking on their website. They refer to various types of ‘obstruction’ but fail to mention the more general clauses in the Act relating to ‘things’ or make any reference to vehicles on pavments or the Disability Act. To quote:

“Obstructions on or over the highway prevent the legitimate use of the highway and are a potential safety hazard for road users and measures shall be taken by the Authority for the removal of the obstruction. Obstructions on the highway take various forms and the most commonly encountered occurrences are as follows: Unauthorised signs, erections, materials or trading booths. The Highway Authority shall serve notice under the appropriate section of the Highways Act to deal with the removal of the obstruction:

  • Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 – unauthorised signs and structures.
  • Section 138 of the Highways Act 1980 – illegal erection of a building or fence.
  • Section 148 of the Highways Act 1980 – removal of dangerous deposits.
  • Section 154 of the Highways Act 1980 – removal of dangerous trees.
  • Section 143 of the Highways Act 1980 – removal of structures.

Where are the references to Section 148 relating to ‘things’ or the 1988 Act relating to Cycle Tracks and Heavy Commercial Vehicles or the Disability Discrimination Act?

The Department of Transport ducks the whole issue. Prior to the last general election their website said:  “in some narrow residential roads with a lack of off-street parking provision, drivers have little option but to park on the pavement to avoid causing traffic hazardsThe Government has no plans at present to introduce new legislation specifically aimed at banning pavement parking on a national scale“. Clearly the DfT is trying to avoid confrontation with car drivers at the expense of pedestrians and are possibly falling foul of the Disability Discrimination Act at the same time.

Interestingly a complete ban on pavement parking was included in to Transport Act 1974 , which went through parliament successfully but was then blocked by successive transport ministers, it  failed to become law and was junked in 1991 due to ‘potentially enormous costs to local authorities and police of securing proper policing and enforcement of such a blanket ban’.

The good news is that the current law seems to provide for much wider police action than is acknowledged by either the DfT or many councils. We will see if we can get formal legal advise on the above in case I have missed something.

See The Law for more juicy details.

33 Responses to “Are vehicles allowed to park on the pavement?”

  1. Bee February 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    This is great work, well written, informative with all the facts clearly laid out.

    Pavement obstruction is a pet hate of mine, I feel that some drivers find it genuinely offensive that they may have to park a few metres away from their front door/ shop/ venue so that they do not obstruct the pavement.

    I love your last sentence.

  2. Sofia Antonia Milone November 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Is there a definition of ‘highway’ – it seems to me that the road and the pavement are two different things, and as such a borad use of the term ‘highway’ to include both seems inappropriate when the term ‘pavement’ is also used. In my mind an obstruction of the highway, and inconvenience to users refers to the road and any vehicles on it — rather than the pavement and pedestrians?

    Just curious.

    • Peter Miller November 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      The ‘highway’ includes the ‘carriageway’, ‘footway’ and any other features such as verges from one boundary to the other. The carriageway is ‘that part of the highway made available for vehicles’ (or similar wording), the footway is that part made available for pedestrians. To obstruct the highway does indeed therefore include obstruction of the footway, however the police can argue that the highway is not obstructed because pedestrians are allowed to walk on the carriageway or indeed on the verge.

  3. Lin Francis November 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    I find it difficult to understand why as a pedestrian I should have to leave the footpath and walk on the road to get past a van, lorry or car, I walk my dog and we often have to leave the footpath, I can understand a bit of a vehicle being on the footpath where the road is narrow but the whole thing seems a bit much, am I allowed to sue someone if I get injured as sometime you cannot see round the vehicle?

    • Peter Miller November 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

      It seems very basic and tribal to me. For too long success has been linked to car ownership and pedestrians have accepted their place which is reinforced by the authorities who avoid strong laws and ignore them where they do exist. Do please make a fuss everywhere, with the police, your council and your MP. This will only change when pedestrians make it impossible to ignore.

  4. John Worby November 28, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    I see mention of the word “offense” as opposed to “offence.” Is this site U.S. or U.K. based?

    • Peter Miller November 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      UK based – I will update it thanks.

  5. R.PEVERLEY November 29, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    police have abdicated their responsibility for enforcing law 244 to the borough council.the council just ignore the law.

    • Peter Miller November 30, 2012 at 6:22 am #

      Out of interest, are you referring to a London Borough or elsewhere. Unfortunately rule 244 is useless outside London given that it is only advice so the police can’t use it.

  6. Silver Steve February 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Just a small note but if a motorist parks on a residential pavement in Hampstead, London or has parked in a driveway but leaves two tyres on the pavement, he is ticketed by a traffic warden – usually in less than 30 minutes!

  7. Ben February 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Nice article. I live in Crawley, West Sussex. There is not a huge problem with parking on the pavement here but on one particular road it was rampant. After reading about the problem online I had pretty much decided that nothing could be done. Before giving up I decided to send an email to my local neighbourhood policing team. The day after I emailed a PCSO knocked on the doors of the houses on that road to discuss the issue. Now no one is parking on the pavements. That is such an amazing response to such a small effort on my part. This is the second time I have contacted my neighbourhood policing team in the past few years (yes I am a malcontent) and both times I received great service. You can find your local team on the police.uk website. Highly recommended.

  8. David Dunville March 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Please make parking on the pavement illegal. Roads for cars pavements for people!!

  9. G.Virr April 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Concerning pavements, vehicles are bad enough, but refuse bins are worse.
    Residents putting the big bins out tidily creates a predictable obstruction to those with impaired vision or mobility.
    Refuse collectors leaving them scattered higgledy-piggledy anywhere on the pavement is very much worse.
    The very much smaller waste food bins, scattered about, are an even bigger hazard.
    Most Politicians and Councillors lack the guts to take the simple action needed even to get their refuse collectors to put bins back where they find them.

  10. hartlepoolparkingprevention April 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Hello.
    I have recently set up a facebook group with the name “Prevent Parking on Pavements” I would like to invite anyone with an interest and belief in this cause to join this group and to help us with our cause. I would also like to ask a question, if on this facebook group, we were to post images of faulty parking i.e. how someone parking on the street has caused someone else to have to use the road to get past, would we be required by law to blur out or delete the cars registration plate?

    Again, feel free to join our facebook group, even if you just want to take a look anyone is welcome. You can find the group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pavementparkingprevention/

    Hope someone can help me with this!

    Regards,
    Claire Watson at Prevent Parking on Pavements

    • Simon May 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

      Peter

      great site; I came across it while trying to find out what a ‘special enforcement area’ is. It’s my intention to get my Council to become one.

      A couple of thoughts as a serving police officer of some 20 years. Firstly, the majority of front line police officers think that parking issues are the Council’s problem, and I see them ignore pavement parking, parking on pedestrian crossings and so on. The apathy and the ignorance bothers me greatly.

      Secondly, as far as the offence goes – and apols if you’ve written this up elsewhere – the offence of Unnecessary Obstruction of the HIghway is still there for use by the police. As mentioned above, the highway includes the pavement, but I’d argue that any parking that stops a pedestrian having normal use of the pavement is a straight up offence; saying that someone can walk round an obstruction is not a defence.

      Thirdly – on the Facebook post above. I can see no issue with posting whatever you photograph in a public place on the internet. You are not revealing personal data, and as private individuals we are not bound by the Data Protection Act. I shall be joining Facebook and your site shortly!

      Keep it up guys.

  11. Ian Turner July 23, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    Section 218 of the Highway Code covers this in one go. 217 does as well. The best part of all is that you can not park on a bend. Funny how you always see cars parked going round bends on the pavement.

    • Peter Miller August 1, 2013 at 6:50 am #

      Thanks for that. I will take a look at the section you mention.

    • Peter Miller April 5, 2014 at 12:48 am #

      A couple of points:
      Firstly, I think you are using section numbers from an odered edition of the Highway Code. Secondly, the sections you refer to start with the phase ‘DO NOT’, rather than ‘YOU MUST NOT’, and the ‘do not’ version is entirely optional from a legal perspective. As such the code says you shouldn’t park on a bend, but doesn’t legally stop you from doing so.

  12. Ian January 30, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Regarding the discussion about parking on the pavement: (today I had to negotiate with a large dog into the carriageway around a van who parks near my house, I pointed out to the miscreant that the pavement/footway is for pedestrians, it’s safe to do so in company of a large dog!) I think the more interesting legal area (since there appears to be little other protection) is in the event of an accident or damages occurring to someone trying to negotiate the footway when it is so obstructed.

    For example, would insurance cover for liability when a driver parks a vehicle obstructing the footway and someone trying to get past has an accident as a result of this obstruction?

    • Peter Miller April 5, 2014 at 12:40 am #

      Needless to say, I do sympathise, however I think it might be very difficult to prove in court that the injury ‘was caused by the obstruction’. I can see all sorts of evidence being produced to prove that it was due to someone or something else!

  13. Luke P. April 2, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    Check out the new road and streetworks act – ACoP. In this it states that when work is undertaken on the highway (roadworks or similar) that a width of 1m must be maintained for pedestrians. Where this is not possible, a walkway, with ramps and barriers and a safety zone of cones must be provided for pedestrians to pass the obstruction. I wonder what would happen should a pedestrian or animal be struck by a passing vehicle. It seems like a huge knock on from that one vehicle parking completely on the footway…

    • Peter Miller April 5, 2014 at 12:41 am #

      Very interesting. Can you point out the relevant section – I can’t see it?

    • Simon June 7, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Luke

      this is very relevant as it says very clearly that the bare minimum accorded to pedestrians is one metre. Can you dig out the section and post it please?

  14. Edwin Milne April 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Is it illegal to park a car on the pavement in a residential street when there is space for 3 cars in their driveway in Aberdeenshire

    • Peter Miller April 5, 2014 at 12:14 am #

      No, I do not believe there is any legal requirement on motorists to use private spaces rather than park on the road!

  15. Ian April 5, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Just to follow on from my previous comment- a couple of days ago, in exactly the same spot I was walking on the pavement in the evening with my dog. The resident (and neighbour)of the adjacent house got into his car which was parked on the pavement outside as I was about to pass. As the car was restricted by a tree on the pavement in front of it, he proceed to reverse at speed backwards into my dog which I had to pull out of the way to avoid it being hit. I am speechless. The bloke had clearly seen me on the pavement and this wasn’t some boyracer (though since late in evening the bloke may have had a drink).

    I think I am going to start filming on my walks!

  16. Richard R May 25, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    In Leek, Staffordshire, and surrounding towns, there are many residential streets where the road is so narrow it makes pavement parking mostly a necessity.
    In those particular cases, I feel the pavements should be totally removed and the whole road made into a pedestrianized zone with a ten mph speed limit or less. Notices would need to be placed impressing motorists that pedestrians are to be given right of way.
    There are also other more modern and wider residential roads where cars are still habitually parked, by some people, off the carriageway and therefore blocking the pavements. Motorists are able to drive at high speed down the residential streets, and pedestrians have to avoid those cars while they circumnavigate the obstructions. Pets, children and disabled people are at particular risk.

    Unfortunately, due to the habitual use of pavements for parking, many (stupid?) motorists now view the pavement as a layby for their precious tin. They do not seem to care that parking on the pavement places children, pets, disabled people and everyone else at risk. We also have been forced to jump out of the way by vehicles that bump up onto the pavement and drive directly at us expecting us to get out of their way. They simply do not see pedestrians as having any point of view or any value!! It is only a matter of time before someone is badly hurt.

    Pavement parking should be treated as dangerous driving.

    In Leek, we now have pedestrian-ized zones in our main centre. However, it has NOT been made clear to road users or to pedestrians where the demarcation lines begin or end. We have pedestrians uncertain where it is safe to walk, and we have motorists traveling at speed through pedestrian (?) zones. This chaos has worsened the risk to pedestrians as well as reinforcing the pavement parking menace.

    Please help.

  17. June Bailey August 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Who do I contact about pavement parking in my area? I live in Henbury bristol.

    • Peter Miller August 26, 2014 at 2:08 am #

      Your councillor, MP and local paper would be a good start. Don’t expect anything to happen in the short term unfortunately, but to let them know your views. In time weight of numbers may actually persuade them to act. In the short term they are likely to continue to bury their heads in the sand!

  18. Deborah Atkinson September 10, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    25a High Street
    Hampshire

    Dear Sir
    I am writing to ask about an on going parking situation, which has been going on for properly 30 + years.
    My property is in a village and the original building was built in the 1800’s.
    In times gone by this building was an off a licence “ Eldridge Pope” and the path that went around the building was purposely made wide enough with 2 large trap doors (which have been replaced by concrete slabs )for the drays ( horse and cart ) to deliver the beer kegs.
    There are evidential photographs throughout the decades to prove this.
    It was only our property along this path that had this right of way.
    For many years the local bobby and the traffic warden were understanding to us parking 1 car there …if we parked close enough to the wall, to allow pedestrians to walk by safely . This was fine with us.
    Then is 1990’s someone complained and this was taken to court and full surveys were carried out by the police who back us as they believed this did not hinder access out of a junction in front of the premises, on to the road through the village.
    This property is on a peninsular. On one side of the property is a small village through road and the other side is the main road to and past the village.
    With the car parked close to the wall, visual view form the junction on to the main road is not inhibited. In fact the police report said it caused the driver to be more cautious and resulted in less accident.
    Now that the parking is no longer under the control of the police /highways , but under the control of the council, does this effect the right I have to park outside my property?
    1/ We have for many 20 + years been parking here with due care.
    But I have a Disabled daughter who has Arthritis and is Registered Blind. We need parking outside for many reasons.
    2/Because this was thrown out of court by the c.p.s because it would open the flood gate (as they said).
    3/ Can I still park here?
    4/ Is there a precedence set ?
    I feel this is all going to blow up soon as other tenant who live in adjacent properties have started to park there and I am afraid this could severely effect my Disabled daughter ,if the traffic warden get funny.

    I look forward to your reply.

    Kind Regards

    Deborah Atkinson

  19. Eric D September 19, 2014 at 1:36 am #

    If I remember correctly, “Richard’s Bicycle Book” (Richard Ballantine, 1972) said
    1) It’s not illegal to park on the pavement
    2) It is illegal to drive on the pavement
    3) Being parked on the pavement does not count as evidence of having driven on the pavement

    Not sure if any of these have changed, for the 2000 updated version,or since …

    • Peter Miller September 19, 2014 at 7:34 am #

      Not real changes, expect for the development of the smart phone which means that most us now carry a video camera with us most of the time, with a good time lock and often a GPS reading. Video from the public is also treated as good evidence in court as was proved when the police appealed for video from the public after the London riots. Not heard of it being used, but it changes the game! If there is a notorious spot, then set up your own CCTV!

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