A while back I blogged about the ‘toilet van’ that is regularly parked across a pavement near where I live. The latest arrival is a burger trailer which now appears to have taken up permanent residence half on/half off a pavement on a road close to a local shop which is used by over 1,000 pedestrians a day during term-time. I wrote to the local police a few weeks ago asking them to do something about this, and to various other very badly parked vehicles with no response – and the trailer is still there. In case anyone is interested, authorities have the power to remove “any structure [that] has been erected or set up on a highway“, including “any machine, pump, post or other object of such a nature as to be capable of causing obstruction notwithstanding that it is on wheels”.(Highways Act 1980 Section 143)
Just spotted this grit-bin plonked down across a pavement by Hampshire County Council. Shame that they couldn’t find anywhere for it which wasn’t blocking the pavement for buggy and wheel-chair users, especially as they had been to the effort to create a dropped kerb. The hedge could do with a trim as well.
Back in Ipswich, I spotted Ipswich Borough Council doing more repairs to the local pavements which is good, however I can’t help thinking that they could have organised the barrier around their roller and portable toilet a bit better. To their credit they did adjust it to reduce the problem after I had taken the picture, but why wait for someone to point it out? They continue to leave signs illegally obstructing the pavements, but that isn’t news any more so I will leave the pictures this time.
Talking about toilets, I recently also spotted this portable-toilet/van which now regularly left parked half-way across the pavement in a nearby residential area. Do these companies check where their staff are going to park them before suggesting that they take them home?
Localism, the new coalition policy, is about allowing local people more say on what happens in their local area. The government’s plain English guide to Localism explains that “Instead of local people being told what to do, the Government thinks that local communities should have genuine opportunities to influence the future of the places where they live” (page 11). By contrast, mob rule (or, it give it it’s official name Ochlocracy) is a form of government where a vocal and intimidating group impose their will on a community. The Wikipedia article on Ochlocracy defines it as “government by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of legitimate authorities“. I note this recent article in the Financial Times on the risks of mob rule titled “Risk on the rise as political leaders give in to mob rule” showing how the current banking mess could descend into something very scary.
So.. when the police explained to me that they were not giving the owner of these vehicles pictured below a ticket because a number of people in the area didn’t want them to were they acting in the spirit of localism, were they being intimidated into not performing their legal duties or were they just being pragmatic? Is it the police’s job choose where to apply the law and where not? Before deciding not to put a ticket on the vehicles did the police do diligent door to door inquiries to see if there were any disabled people or old people who would like to get out safely, or children, or parents who walk to school but find the parking in the area just too difficult? I am sure they didn’t. The police do however have a newspaper cutting of the April 1 event we staged on the same street highlighting the difficulties that parents with young children have using the pavement on their noticeboard which they take round schools. It seems hard to square that with allowing 100% blockage of the pavement because a few neighbours want it.
Fyi, these vehicles are breaking numerous very clear laws – in particular parking against the flow of traffic at night and parking at night without sidelights (a special rule for commercial vehicles over 1525kg curb weight) – and these streets are unlit between midnight and 5am. There are also the harder to prove offenses of ‘driving on the pavement’ and ‘causing an obstruction’.
I was poking around some government websites over the weekend relating to ‘encroachment’ when I came across this delightful example of how discrimination against pedestrians (and indeed cyclists, motorcyclists and lorry drivers in this case) works. It comes from the ‘Homes and Communities’ section of DirectGov and expresses clearly attitudes which are common but normally unspoken:
“An encroachment is where an activity unlawfully takes over a section of a public roadway; for example, a garage forecourt over-extending on to the public highway. If a person without lawful authority or excuse in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage of cars along a highway, they are guilty of an offence. In such cases the highway authority (your local council) has legal powers to enforce their removal. To report any obstructions, contact your local council.“
OK, so that means that it is OK to willfully obstruct the free passage of pedestrians, wheelchair users, people with buggies and cyclists! Nice! Here is a screengrab of the webpage taken this morning.
I have already used the feedback box to suggest that they change this page and make it more inclusive. Others may wish to do the same.
Ipswich Borough Council staff are disrupting pedestrians near to road works by leaving signs on pavement with only 800mm clearance (which is about the width of an external door to a house and less than the legally required 1 meter for road works signs). Only when pressed did they confirm that they knew the law about 1 meter clearance. Their justification was that they were concerned about the risk to motorists if the signs were further into the road – no concern at all that I heard about the risk to pedestrians and old people from leaving them on the pavement. I have reported this on fixmystreet which the council monitors and responds to.
Here are some photos of the signs in question. The good news is that there is a 100% clear rule that they are breaking in this case. No excuses about it being a ‘necessary obstruction’ or a ‘willful obstruction’. It is however a very clear example of the contempt that pedestrians are treated with and is, I am sure, repeated across the country. Incidentally I am still waiting for May Gurney to ask for their signs backwhich they left blocking a pavement over a week ago!
The following day all consideration of pedestrians had disappeared.
I spotted this royal mail van holding up two busy double-decker buses (with a capacity of over 100 people between them) parking on double yellow lines/no waiting area in Ipswich town centre yesterday. I pointed this out to the driver who took pleasure in getting out of the vehicle again, pointing at the royal crest on the driver’s door saying that this was royal business and they could ignore these irritating little rules; it appears that he is right, along with drivers of diplomatic vehicles they appear to be able to do what they like. I asked him to go and explain that to all the people in the buses but he declined. You will notice from the picture that there is plenty of space to park on the other side of the road avoiding any hold-up. I subsequently spotted two more Royal Mail vans up on pavements in the town soon afterwards. This is not an isolated incident, these folk up in Darwen are also getting pretty upset about their local mail vans as well.
A common theme about this whole parking malarkey is that too many people seen to think that just because it isn’t actually illegal then it must be OK to do it. Here is why it matters in this case. The map below shows where the the van was parked against a background map highlighting bus intensity (yellow is the highest, blue is lowest). Here is the location on Google Streetview. The second photo shows the van in question. Buses cost about £1 per minute to run btw ignoring for now the disruption to the many passengers who uses these popular routes.
Map produced using soon-to-be-released features on ITO Map using bus data from Traveline, base mapping from OpenStreetMap & contributors, and building outlines from Ordnance Survey Settlement Line from VectorMapDistrict.
Here is the other van parked up on the pavement in town the same day.
The law has protected pedestrians and other road users over the years from virtually every intrusion into the footway and carriageway except that caused by parked cars. There are some gems contained within section 28 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, all of which carry fines of up to £1,000 and a stay in prison of up to 14 days if one is found to have caused an obstruction, annoyance, or danger. Major sins include beating one’s doormay in the street after 8am and fastening a horse so that it stands across the footway. Those at risk include everyone who…
- Causes any sledge, truck, or barrow to stand longer than is necessary on the highway for loading or unloading goods, or for taking up or setting down passengers (except hackney carriages or ‘public carriages’ but then only in designated places)
- Places or leaves any furniture, goods, wares, or merchandize, or any cask, tub, basket, pail, or bucket on any footway
- Hangs up any goods, wares, merchandize, matter, or thing whatsoever, so that the same project into or over any footway, or beyond the line of any house, shop, or building so as to obstruct or incommode the passage of any person over or along such footway
- Places any blind, shade, covering, awning, or other projection over or along any such footway, unless such blind, shade, covering, awning, or other projection is eight feet in height at least in every part thereof from the ground:
- Fixes or places any flower-pot or box, or other heavy article, in any upper window, without sufficiently guarding the same against being blown down:
- Throws or lays any dirt, litter, or ashes, or nightsoil, or any carrion, fish, offal, or rubbish, on any street, or causes any offensive matter to run from any manufactory, brewery, slaughter-house, butcher’s shop, or dunghill into any street.
- Beats or shakes any carpet, rug, or mat (except door mats, beaten or shaken before the hour of eight in the morning):
- Fastens any horse or other animal so that it stands across or upon any footway
- Rolls or carries any cask, tub, hoop, or wheel, or any ladder, plank, pole, timber, or log of wood, upon any footway
- Cleanses, hoops, fires, washes, or scalds any cask or tub, or hews, saws, bores, or cuts any timber or stone, or slacks, sifts, or screens any lime:
- Makes or repairs any part of any cart or carriage (except in cases of accident where repair on the spot is necessary)
- Keeps any pigstye to the front of any street, not being shut out from such street by a sufficient wall or fence, or who keeps any swine in or near any street, so as to be a common nuisance
- Cleans, dresses, exercises, trains or breaks, or turns loose any horse or animal
- Shoes, bleeds, or farries any horse or animal (except in cases of accident)
- Slaughters any cattle, except in the case of any cattle over-driven which may have met with any accident
So… it appears that if the Mercedes was a horse or indeed any of the following (barrow, basket, bucket, cask, furniture, goods, horse, merchandize, pail, sledge, truck, tub) and if it was found to have caused obstruction, annoyance, or danger then the owner would be liable for a fine or up the £1,000 or even up to 14 days in prison!
The council has recently put up signs in the area warning of penalties including fines of up to 50K fines and five years in prison for dumping rubbish on the pavement. Serious stuff! I assume there are referring to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (section 33). Unfortunately they then go and leave wheelie-bins all over the pavement every week after collection! The following two pictures are taken on the same street. The first shows signs warning that dog poo on the pavement costs up to £1,000 and the fines for fly-tipping. The second photo shows how the council leave bins all over the pavement after emptying them for no good reason that I can discover. Cars on the pavement are not being challenged of course.
The official bin-collection policy of Ipswich Borough Council policy is to leave bins after collection ‘at the very back of the pavement on the curtilage of the property … not obstructing residents’ driveways, preventing usage of drop kerbs etc‘. I have asked them why they don’t return the bins to where they found them (which is normally within the curtilage of the property on a driveway) and have also reminded them of their duties to the blind/wheelchair users and other groups under disability legislation. The response was: “We have discussed your interpretation of the Equalities Act with our resident equalities expert and we are of the opinion that we are taking the best possible action in this respect“. Umm… Strange, given that the work ‘pedestrian’, ‘wheelchair’ and ‘buggy’ don’t even appear in the text.
Here is my proposed replacement text: “a) Bins MUST NOT be left in a position where they create a safety hasard. b) Bins MUST NOT be left in a position where the available footway is reduced to less than 1m and should not left in a position where the width is reduced to less than 1.5m. Bins can often be returned to a position just inside the curtilage of the property. Where this is not possible they may be left on the footway or carriageway as long as the conditions in a) and b) are satisfied. Where no viable option exists then alternative provision for the collection of waste will need to be arranged. This policy is to ensure that all road users, including pedestrians, some whom may require additional width (wheel chair users, people with buggies and shopping and those with visual impairments) are able to use the highway safely“.
Here’s the reason why a change is needed. In these two following pictures there is no space for a wheelchair user of parent with a buggy to use the pavement when the current guidelines are following. In both cases it would however be trivial for the bins to be returned within the curtillage.
The law is very clear on this. Lets start with Department for Transport guidance on the ‘Pedestrian environment and transport infrastructure’:
- “Since October 1999 service providers have had to take reasonable steps to change practices, policies and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service … These requirements apply to facilities and services in the pedestrian environment’.
- “Those who are travelling with small children or are carrying luggage or heavy shopping will all benefit from an accessible environment, as will people with temporary mobility problems (e.g. a leg in plaster) and many older people. Thus, the overall objective of this guide is to provide inclusive design and through that achieve social inclusion
- “Manual wheelchair users need sufficient space to be able to propel the chair without banging their elbows or knuckles on door frames or other obstacles. But someone who walks with sticks or crutches also needs more space than a non-disabled walker; so too does a long cane user or person carrying luggage, or a lot of shopping bags, or with small children. Thus providing adequate clear space on pavements, along passages in public buildings, through doorways etc, is of benefit to many people.
And also the DirectGov guidance re the Equalities Act 2010:
- The Equality Act 2010 provides important rights not to be discriminated against or harassed in accessing everyday goods and services like shops, cafes, banks, cinemas and places of worship… The Equality Act 2010 gives disabled people rights not to be discriminated against or harassed in relation to the use of transport services. This also covers access to travel infrastructure such as railway stations and bus stations. You also have a right to reasonable adjustments.
And here is a helpful diagram published by the DfT showing the pavement width required by these different groups of pedestrians. Is it however unfortunate that the diagram is so hard to read which probably goes against their own guidance on legibility, but we can’t have everything!
Finally, here are a set of photos illustrating the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that I am proposing to the council. The photos on the left show where the council leave bins currently and on the right you can see where I am suggesting they should be left to allow free passage (or as good as can be achieved with all the pavement parking!).
I will be sending a copy of this post to the council and ask them to reconsider. If that doesn’t work then possibly the local paper would be interested in taking this on as a local issue.
Back in October 2010 a PC Roderick Lund was awarded £5,000 in damages after suing his own force for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and using unreasonable force in relation to a parking incident! It seems that Lund’s next-door neighbour, who was himself a retired police superintendent reported Lund to the police saying that his car was causing an obstruction. Duty officers arrived, agreed and asked Lund to move it which he refused to do saying that he had had a drink. The conversation became more heated with Lund challenging the duty officers motives; Lund was arrested, led away in handcuffs and detained for 10 hours. I wonder if these officers might like to return and deal with the cars and bins that seem to be regularly left obstructing the pavement of the same street.
Of course, this is all pretty tame compared to South Africa where the police traded blows and drew guns on each other when traffic officers attempted to tow a police car belonging to another force.
At least the people involved in the above incidents lived to tell the tale which was not the case for one off-duty policeman in Baltimore who was killed in a dispute over a parking place in which he was hit on the head by a rock in 2010.