For our purposes the law is a muddle of confusing, ineffective and widely ignored regulations. This page attempts to cover the more useful current regulations that can be used to help clear pavements of parked vehicles and other urban clutter (road works signs on pavements, adverting boards etc) in England and Wales.
The article provides a brief historical background to how the current situation developed, followed by regulations orders by how effective they are, starting with the ones that actually have teeth and leaving the ones that are generally too vague to be of any use until later. The unenforceable ‘should nots’ and ‘DO NOTs’ from the Highway Code are not included as these have no legal weight at all and are mainly a distraction. The final section gives a map showing which places have adopted civil enforcement powers.
road “in relation to England and Wales, means any highway and any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passes“. Road Traffic Act 1988 (Section 192) make it clear that this including private roads, private car parks and driveways used by the public (such as supermarket car parks, campsites etc where the laws of the road still apply).
footway is the modern legal term for ‘that part of the highway set aside for pedestrians’, commonly referred to as the pavement, and ‘footpath’ is the modern legal term for other pedestrain thoroughfares. Notice however that back in 1835 and 1847 when some current legislation was passed the term ‘footpath’ was used more generally. I will use the more common term ‘pavement’ in this article.
Remarkably, there is apparently no legal right in law to leave a vehicle, or any other private property on the highway. The DfT website is silent on the matter, however Suffolk County Council is clearer stating that “There is no legal right for anyone to park on a public road or outside their property“. Similarly, Surrey County Council states that “in common law, drivers have the right to pass and re-pass along the road. There is no legal right to park on a road, verge or footway“.
It is also illegal to drive on or across the pavement other than to gain legal access to a property, and has been since before cars were invented! Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835, which is still in force, states that an offence is caused by: “driving on any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers“, which covers driving of a ‘horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge‘. The definition of carriage was extended to cover the new-fangled velocipedes and bicycles in Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1888. Case law or whatever no-doubt extended this to cover road locomotives and motorcars as they arrived in this country.
Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 makes it illegal to ‘tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway‘. Regrettably this clause failed to include ‘carriage of any description’ in the list. It is therefore illegal to ‘park’ a horse, cow or any other swine on the pavement, but not a motorcar or indeed a bicycle!
Back in 1926 the AA Members Handbook warned drivers not to leave their vehicle unattended on the highway (page 74,196 etc). The 1931 version of the Highway Code stated that “No vehicle should be left standing on the highway for a longer time than is reasonable in the circumstances.” The Road Traffic Act 1930 and Road Traffic Act 1960 included detailed instructions about how authorities could create legal on-street parking bays (with the implication that parking elsewhere was ‘obstruction’ and therefore would not be allowed). These parking restrictions were however widely ignored and were repealed in 1972.
The Road Traffic Act 1974 attempted to place pavement parking more firmly into legislation and included a clause that would have banned all parking on pavements (Section 7). The act even received Royal Assent, however a succession of transport ministers failed to enable this part of the Act and gave excuses in parliament for its non-implementation for 37 years and then repealed it in 1988 (see my post ‘The sorry tail of the Road Traffic Act 1974’). Pavement parking was however successfully banned in London in 1974 by the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974 (section 15) and has been illegal in the city ever since.
The Highways Act 1980 (section 66) included an obligation on councils to “provide in or by the side of a highway … a proper and sufficient footway as part of the highway in any case where they consider the provision of a footway as necessary or desirable for the safety or accommodation of pedestrians.”
In December 1986 the Department of Transport published a discussion paper, ‘Pavement Parking – Curbing an Abuse’. It received 450 comments but then nothing happened! (other than the repeal of the neglected 1974 act two years later as already mentioned).
In 2001 a parliamentary select committee on ‘walking in towns’ reported that “In contrast to the changes made to every town and city to ease motor transport, walking has been made ever more unpleasant. Pedestrians have been treated with contempt. In a myriad of ways when we walk we are treated with less respect than when we drive.”
A ban on parking in mandatory cycle lanes was included in the Traffic Management Act 2004 (schedule 7 part 1 4(2)h) which has never been enabled. In 2010 Lord Adonis explained in parliament that the DfT was still ‘liaising with the Local Government Association‘ on the matter. This particular delay is much more of a problem for cyclists than for pedestrians, but it indicates that the DfT and transport ministers are still failing to act even when it is given the powers to do so by parliament.
In 2006 The Parliamentary select committee on ‘parking and enforcement’ reported that ‘Parking on the pavement is likely to cause a grave danger to pedestrians. In particular, it creates hazards for people with disabilities and visual impairments, older people, and those with prams or pushchairs … 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. To periodically examine what is widely accepted as a problem and then fail to take any positive measures is not the quality of response that the general public has a right to expect from the Department‘.
In 2009 Parliament published a useful parliamentary briefing paper on the subject of pavement parking from which I have been quoting above.
Civil or police enforcement – who is in charge?
Given that there is no clear blanket ban on pavement parking it is necessary to rely on a patchwork of regulations that can be applied in certain circumstances. To make things more complicated, some of these regulations are always the responsibility of the police, but others are more normally the responsibility of the council where they have taken on ‘Civil enforcement powers’. See below for a map detailing those authorities.
Civil Enforcement is encouraged because it allows the police to concentrate on more serious issues and gives the authority control of an important part of its traffic management remit. The main disadvantage of civil enforcement is that you need to have the right person for each situation. That being said, there are situations where both parties will be able to respond because their is both a civil offence and obstruction. Obstruction is very hard and expensive to prove so lets deal with that one last. Here are some of the more useful bits of legislation:
Parking on a pedestrian crossing
It is an offence to stop or park on pedestrian crossing, including the area marked by the zig-zag lines. Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997′ (Section 18 and schedule 4), also Highway Code (rule 240). The police can enforce these even in Civil Enforcement areas by the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007 (Section 7.1). The importance of this regulation seems to be well understood. Take video evidence if you can and submit it to the police.
Parking wholly of partly on a share-use path
The Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an immediate offence to park ‘wholly or partly’ on a ‘cycle track’ (Section 21). The definition of a cycle track is given in the Highways Act 1980 as a being a share use path usable be cyclists and possibly also pedestrians but not motorised vehicles (Section 329). Highway Code “You MUST NOT stop or park on … a cycle track“. (rule 240). This regulation is very clear, but the police/council may not actually be aware of it. Take photos and talk to them about it. I am not clear a present if this is a police of council matter.
Stopping within a ‘School keep clear’ zone
The Highway Code says “You MUST NOT wait or park, or stop to set down and pick up passengers, on school entrance markings when upright signs indicate a prohibition of stopping (see ‘Road markings’). (highway code rule 238).
Notice the highlighted text ‘when upright signs indicate a prohibition of stopping’, which is actually a way of saying that the yellow paint can be ignored by motorists in places where there aren’t any parking restrictions indicated on any ‘upright signs’. And… before a council can install the signs they need to go through a reasonably expensive legal process for each school, and in my town the council saved money by not doing so!
Needless to say.. some parents seem to think that the school zone is being kept clear for them to drop of their kids for school or alternatively attack the police with missiles! Where it is illegal, the ‘Communities’ Secretary Eric Pickles wants to ban councils from using the more efficient CCTV vans to enforce these regulations.
Parking on the pavement or verge alongside yellow lines
It is an offence for vehicles to be parked wholly or partly on the pavement if the highway at that point is marked with yellow lines that are in force at the time. The only exception is if the vehicle is actually parked on private property the far side of the pavement. Private property is normally indicated by a change in surface.
Highway Code Rule 238: “You MUST NOT wait or park on yellow lines during the times of operation shown on nearby time plates (or zone entry signs if in a Controlled Parking Zone)“. Yellow lines can only be enforced by Civil Enforcement Officers in areas where Civil Enforcement is in place and not by the police (The Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007 – Section 7.1) The police can enforce yellow lines in other area.
Unfortunately motorists often plead, sometimes successfully, that parking on the pavement or verge beside yellow lines in a particular area is an established practice. Councils will then have to expend significant effort to regularise the position of pavement parking beside yellow lines uniformly to be successful. Take notes about where parking on pavements beside yellow lines has become ‘normalised’ and take it up with your councillor or the council. Take photos and raise the issue with you local paper and see if they will run a story or a campaign.
Parking on a section of highway marked with double-white lines
It is illegal to park on a section of highway marked with double white lines. (Highway Code rule 240, The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 section 26). It is my understanding that this restriction includes the pavements and verges as well as the carriageway. This regulation is potentially very useful in places with double white lines but seems to often be ignored at present.
Obstructing the pavement with road works signage
The official guidance which states that “in no circumstances must the width of the footway be reduced to less than 1m, preferably not less than 1.5m” (Traffic Signs Manual, chapter 8 clause D4.4.1 pdf). An impressive percentage of signs on the street fail the 1 meter test.
Carry a tape measure and a camera ideally and complain about any signs that leave less than 1 metre on FixMyStreet or directly to the relevant council or contractor. In time the authorities and contractors will learn that they have to be more careful.
Parking across a dropped-kerb
This would be useful if one knew if it was in force in any particular area however it seems to be impossible to find out where it is in force. To explain…
Councils and police can ticket vehicles that blocked dropped kerb used to “assist pedestrians crossing the road” and also in places where the carriageway “has been raised to meet the level of the pavement” under the Traffic Management Act 2004 (section 86), but only in the area has asked for and been granted ‘Special Enforcement Area’ status.
Unfortunately it seems to be impossible to find a map or list on the web showing which parts of the country have this status and which haven’t. I can’t even find out if my own town is a ‘special enforcement area’ or not and have had to ask them by email! The Highway Code Rule 243 still only says ‘Do not’ rather than ‘You must not’ because it is not universally applied.
Leaving ‘things’ (including advertising boards) on the highway
According to the Highways Act 1980 ( Section 148 and Section 149) it is an offence if ‘a person deposits any thing whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway without lawful authority or excuse or if the thing “constitutes a nuisance” ‘ or constitutes a “danger to users of the highway (including a danger caused by obstructing the view)” then they they can remove it without delay and recover the cost of removal from the owner. This can be used by councils (sometimes) to removed advertising boards.
Unfortunately, this clause is however used far more by councils to make local residents remove posts and painted rocks placed on the verge to stop vehicles parking on them than to remove the cars which I believe could also be covered by the regulation. With A-frames most councils seem to have pretty much given up – one can even find companies selling ‘pavement signs’ openly on the web.
Take photos and send them to the council or put them on Fixmystreet.
Leaving ‘structures’ on the highway
Section 143 of the Highways Act 1980 gives authorities powers 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”. This is interesting. This covers things that ‘are capable of causing an obstruction’ with no requirement to prove that it was an ‘unnecessary obstruction’ and a ‘willful obstruction’ and that anyone was actual obstructed all of which make other obstruction regulations pretty much useless. Does the phrase ‘any other object of such a nature as to be capable of causing obstruction notwithstanding that it is on wheels‘ include motorcars, caravans, motor-homes etc I wonder. I have written a blog post on this one.
Leaving wheelie-bins on the pavement
It is apparently illegal to leave wheelie bins permanently on the pavment under (Environmental Protection Act 1990 section 46(1)). However, the wording of the relevant section seems unclear to me. What is clear is that council have authority to fine people or confiscate bins from people who leave their bins out permanently.
Heavy good vehicles – additional restrictions
Heavy goods vehicles (ie, goods vehicles with a gross weight of over 7.5 tonnes) are banned from parking on the pavement or verge by the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Section 19 and 20) except for unloading in situations where the vehicle is not creating a danger and not creating an obstruction and is at no time left unattended. There only exceptions are to save a life and other similar but unlikely situations. I have yet to discover how one knows if a particular HGV (which include all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and all have the letters HGV on their tax disks) is over 7.5 tonnes.
Night time – additional restrictions
There are a lot of regulations relating to parking at night, most of which appear to be completely ignored at present where I live. This is what the regulations say:
- At night vehicles MUST NOT be parked facing against the direction of the traffic flow. (Highway Code rule 248, Road Vehicles Construction and Use Regulations 1986 Section 101, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24)
- Vehicles MUST display parking lights when parked on a road or a lay-by on a road with a speed limit greater than 30 mph or within 10 meters of a junction. (Highway code rule 249-250, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24)
- Goods vehicles with an unladen weight (or kerb weight) of more than 1525 kg [which includes Ford Transit vans and the like] must always display parking lights at night regardless of the speed limit. (Highway code rule 250, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24)
Take notes and forward details to the police. Use this as part of a general awareness raising campaign about the law even if it doesn’t make a lot of difference to a pedestrian if the vehicle on the pavement has lights on or is point this or that direction.
Selling vehicles on the highway as part of a business.
Businesses can’t sell vehicles from the side of the road. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 (Section 3). “A person is guilty of an offence if at any time he leaves two or more motor vehicles parked within 500 metres of each other on a road or roads where they are exposed or advertised for sale“.
Take photos and put them on fixmystreet and if nothing happens complain to your local council.
Driving on the pavement
The offence of ‘driving on the pavement’ is potentially the most powerful weapon in the book and could immediately be used to great effect if the police wished to and had broad support in doing so. This offence was introduced way back in time by the Highways Act 1835 (section 72) which states that is an offence is caused by: “driving on any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers“. You may be interested to know that it covers any ‘horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge‘ – it is the ‘carriage of any description’ which is useful even though cars had not been invented at the time. Highway Code Rule 145 states: “You MUST NOT drive on or over a pavement, footpath or bridleway except to gain lawful access to property, or in the case of an emergency“. Since January 1999 a fixed penalty notice can be issued which is handy because it makes if much simpler for the police to action. The offender get issued with a ticket with fine and points attached unless they appeal in which case it goes to court. This regulation cannot be used if the police don’t see the offence because they don’t have the power to insist that the keeper of a vehicle tells them who was driving at any particular time in relation to driving on the pavement (which they do in relation to speeding offences).
Unfortunately this powerful comprehensive regulation and very simple efficient process appears to be little used at present and I believe it won’t be until the general population consider pavement parking to be socially unacceptable in the same way they most people now consider smoking in a restaurant or letting your dog mess the pavement to be unacceptable. Only then will the police feel confident that they have public support for acting. It would be interesting to see parents hanging around outside a school with their kids waiting for the police officer to disappear before getting into their cars to drive off.
Leaving a vehicle in a position where it may cause a ‘danger of injury’
The Road Traffic Act 1988 (Section 22) says that it is an offence “if a person in charge of a vehicle causes or permits the vehicle or a trailer drawn by it to remain at rest on a road in such a position or in such condition or in such circumstances as to involve a danger of injury to other persons using the road.”
Unfortunately these regulations seem to be ignored at present as it is hard to prove that a particular situation is dangerous enough to be worth prosecuting and risking have the court decide against the prosecution. Councils and police have wildly different views on what might be a cause a danger and what might not be.
Using a Vehicle in a manner causing alarm, distress or annoyance to a member of the public
Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 provides that if someone drives a motor vehicle in a manner which “is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public”. I am not clear if this could be used for a stationary car, but I have on a number of occasions been threatened by motorists in moving vehicles.
Parking partly on a pavement beside a cycle lane
The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 makes it illegal to stop or park a car in a cycle lane (being a lane marked out in the carriageway with a solid white line for the use of cyclists. The Highway Code says “You MUST NOT stop or park on… cycle lane” (rule 240) and a cycle lane is defined as being a ‘lane marked out by painted lines within the carriageway‘.
Provision was made in the Traffic Management Act 2004 (schedule 7 part 1 4(2)h) to allow civil enforcement of this offence, however it ha never been brought into force. In 2010 Lord Adonis said that the DfT was still ‘liaising with the Local Government Association‘ on the matter (six years after the Act was passed!). It is still not in place in 2013. Without this being enabled the only people able to enforce this are the police, who tend to be more interested in other matters.
According to the DfT councils are required to “take reasonable steps to change practices, policies and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service” and that “These requirements apply to facilities and services in the pedestrian environment”.
They remind councils that “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.”
They also say that “The Equality Act 2010 provides important rights for people with disabilities not to be discriminated against or harassed in accessing everyday goods and services like shops, cafes, banks, cinemas and places of worship… including the right not to be discriminated against or harassed in relation to the use of transport services which includes access to travel infrastructure such as railway stations and bus stations. You also have a right to reasonable adjustments”.
These are of could very general regulations may be difficult to apply in an particular situation but could be used to bring a general case against a council for failing in its duties.
Street works – Avoidance of unnecessary delay or obstruction
Street Works contractors are are required by the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 to not “create an obstruction in a street to a greater extent or for a longer period than is reasonably necessary, the street authority may by notice require him to take such reasonable steps as are specified in the notice to mitigate or discontinue the obstruction“. (section 66) The above covers areas outside London – for London the legislation is apparently covered by the Greater London Authority Act 1999.
This comes last because it seems to be very ineffective. The police can deal with obstruction very simply by issuing a fixed penalty notice. The problem is proving that the obstruction was unnecessary and willful it seems. It is generally agreed that a pavement is obstructed if someone entitled to use the pavement is not able to do so because of an obstruction. If two people have to walk one in front of each other then this is apparently not obstruction. If it is not possible to pass with a double-buggy or in a wheelchair then it is only obstruction if you have a double buggy or a wheelchair and are not able to use it. If as a result of extreme pavement parking no one even bothers to try and us it then there is apparently no obstruction. However… of course, as soon a someone does try to use one then there may be obstruction but nothing will be done unless the police are there and deemed it to be obstruction – they may however say it isn’t because a pedestrians could walk in the carriageway.
Do press for effective the creation of effective guidelines by the local police. If there aren’t any then see if the local newspaper will start a campaign or at least run a story. With a change of heart by the police and courts this legislation could actually be useful!
Obstruction is covered by:
- Town Police Clauses Act 1847 (Section 28) “every person who, by means of any cart, carriage, sledge, truck, or barrow, or any animal, or other means, wilfully interrupts any public crossing, or wilfully causes any obstruction in any public footpath or other public thoroughfare“
- Highways Act 1980 (Section 137). “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence“
- Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 (Regulation 103) “No person in charge of a motor vehicle or trailer shall cause or permit the vehicle to stand on a road so as to cause any unnecessary obstruction of the road.”
- Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 22) “Cause vehicle to be left in a dangerous position. £60 endorsable“
- Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 42) “Cause unnecessary obstruction by motor vehicle /trailer £30 non endorsable” – also Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (schedule 2)
- Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 22A) “A person is guilty of an offence if he intentionally and without lawful authority or reasonable cause—(a)causes anything to be on or over a road … in such circumstances that it would be obvious to a reasonable person that to do so would be dangerous.”
“It appears that for an obstruction to be “unnecessary”, there must be an unreasonable user of the road; and the question whether a user is unreasonable involves consideration of all the circumstances, including the length of time the obstruction continues, the place where it occurs, the purpose for which it is done and whether it does in fact cause an actual as opposed to a potential obstruction: Evans v. Barker (1971) Parliamentary briefing 2010 (PB2010)
“Where a car was parked in a bus bay for five minutes but no bus was actually obstructed, it was held that there was no evidence to justify a conviction under this regulation“:Brown v. Cardle, 1983 S.L.T 218; 1982 S.C.C.R. 495 PB2010
“A vehicle left on a road for an unreasonable time may constitute an unnecessary obstruction” Solomon v. Durbridge (1956) But.. “If the vehicle is left only for a reasonable time, then even if it amounts to an obstruction the defendant is not to be convicted of an offence under this regulation”: Evans v. Barker, supra (car parked in Oswestry on market day between 2.45 p.m. and 4.00 p.m., 20 foot width of road left clear).PB2010
“To constitute an offence there must be proof of an unreasonable user of the highway: Gill v. Canon and Nield  2 K.B. 674. Nagy v. Weston  1 W.L.R. 280; ” PB2010
Police should act with fairness, integrity and impartiality
Police Act 1996 (as amended by the Police Reform Act 2002) and now reads ‘with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality.‘ (section 29 and schedule 4). It was suggested to a recent Select Committee on walking in towns that the manner in which the police tolerate the law-breaking by motorists goes against this promise of fairness.
Odd-ball local Acts of Parliament
Believe it or not, a number of places apparently have had their own Acts of Parliament banning pavement parking. The parliamentary briefing paper of 2006 mentions Exeter, Hereford and Worcester as well as London. In addition to these Act I have also discovered that Surrey has it own curiosity. Personally this just reinforces my view that this whole legal area is a mess. How are people expected to know how to law varies in these random places?
- Exeter: Pavement parking is banned by the Exeter City Council Act 1987 (section 30).
- Hereford: The city actually makes no mention of any such Act in their 2010 Parking Enforcement Annual review and I have been unable to discover what Act the parliamentary briefing was referring to.
- London: Parking on pavements, verges etc is banned by Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974 (section 15)
- Surrey: They doesn’t have a blanket ban of pavement parking, but the Surrey Act 1985 (section 5) makes it possible to make parking on verges is illegal simply by placing an appropriate sign on a particular verge saying ‘no parking‘.
- Worcester: makes it clear that a vehicle ‘Parked with one or more wheels on any part of an urban road other than a carriageway (footway parking)‘ will be at risk of an immediate PCN (code 62). I have not been able to discover the title of the relevant Act.
Civil Parking Enforcement areas
There is a list on this site or you can use the map. Beware that small unitaries don’t show up on this map.