We wish to be able to enjoy the full width of the pavement. We are happy for others to ‘enjoyed the freedom of the car’ only if they can arrange for somewhere to park it safely and off the pavement.
We aim to peacefully and creatively build visibility for the issue to the point where the authorities are obliged to act effectively and create simple, clear and easily enforced legislation that makes it illegal to park wholly or partially on pavements everywhere and then enforce it.
This won’t be achieved immediately. We will need car clubs in every urban area reducing the need for people to own so many cars. We need to reduce the speed to 20mph speed limits on many residential roads and get more people onto bicycles and off the pavement. Cycle hire schemes are wildly successful in many capital cities at present including Paris and London and need to be encouraged.
We need to create a vision of how all out lives will be improved by not messing up our neighbourhoods for each other. We need to get a lot of people demanding change. We will need re-invent our streets again as places to meet people and for children to play. Some cities are trialing car-free days where major routes are closed to traffic each year allowing people to briefly experience the freedom. Times Square in New York is now free of motorised traffic. Paris, New York, London and an Autobaun in German have all had car-free days.
How can we achieve that?
Our main role is to encourage and support individuals and groups around the country to engage with the issue and to do Something. We will listen out for what people are doing, we will also experiment with our own ideas and will pass on what works.
We must keep it fun, engaging and light. Emma Goldman, the Russian activist was spot on when she said: ‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution’. For sure, some situations do need to be challenged, however everyone should be ready to lighten it up, respond calmly, explain politely and if necessary leave. It will not be helpful to get angry or cause damage to anyone’s property however badly behaved the owners are!
To be absolutely clear, we do not endorse anyone causing permanent damage to vehicles or to anything else.
We have parliament on our side! Parliament passed a law in 1974 that create the necessary powers but then failed to ensure that it was enabled and spent the next 35 years giving reasons why they hadn’t done so.
In 2006 the transport select committee said “We accept that the problem of vehicles obstructing footpaths country-wide is a large one and a major effort would be required to enforce the law. But the ‘do- nothing’ response of the Department is no longer a credible option.”
We need to encourage them to try and again and follow it through this time. May it will be 3rd time lucky.
Why Pedestrian Liberation?
Because much of our modern urban environment was created by car drivers with a primary aim of accommodating the needs of the car drivers and his vehicle ahead of the needs of the pedestrian. That is now changing slowly but the car driver is still the dominant force and politicians know it or we wouldn’t have a government pledging to ‘end the war on the motorist’.
Many laws are still skewed in favour of motorists, if a cars parks on the pavement and a pedestrian squeezes past, then it is the pedestrian who will be in trouble for causing criminal damage if they leave any mark on the vehicle. New legislation coming in will soon make it illegal to clamp a car parked on your property – if you don’t want people parking on your land then you will need to put up a fence. When cars travel too fast it is pedestrians that get hurt. If a child behaves childishly and steps into the street it is them rather than the driver of the car that hits them who gets the blame. Speed cameras are painted yellow to be ‘fair’ on motorists.
And then of course, if pedestrians don’t keep quite and ‘behave’ and start challenging drivers and authorities in relation to speeding or parking they are met too often with incredulity, challenges such as ‘whats it got to do with you’, or worse. No single incident has exposed the ‘oppression’ of pedestrians more clearly that the case of the blind man in Wales being arrested and locked in minutes after threatening to let down the tyres of a car that had been blocking the pavement for hours despite many phone calls to the police previously asking for them to be moved. This is a perfect example of this Alice-in-Wonderland upside-down world that we currently all live in.
If we want anything to happen then we are going to have to create a huge social movement challenging this situation, which is, of couse absurd and unjust. We will be successful sooner than we think!
Pedestrian Liberation was started in June 2010 in Ipswich, Suffolk. We started it because of the appalling level of pavement parking in the town.
Contact: @pedestrianlib or mail[at]pedestrianliberation.org