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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.