Charity Living Streets has today been promoting a national day of action against pavement parking. #BanPavementParking. Vehicles parked on the pavement are one of the blights of our modern life. Cars, HGVs, vans. All owned by drivers that feel free to block the pavement. To force pedestrians and mobility scooter users out into the traffic. Making it difficult and sometimes impossible for the pavements to be used for their main purpose. Pedestrians and people with limited mobility or sight are relegated to second class citizens. Their rights are secondary to car users, even though pavements are meant for people who are not driving.
Council leaders of all parties in Shropshire have wrung their hands and said nothing much can be done. This is the true mark of a council that believes that the car drivers come first and everyone else second.
Update. The petition is now closed. More information from Living Streets.
In London, the practice of parking on pavements, except for loading, has long been illegal. The government is now consulting on extending the ban nationwide.
Our two local councils have different approaches to a ban. Ludlow Town Council has supported a London style ban. Thanks! Shropshire Council, ever the promoter of the Car as King, only wants extra enforcement powers for its traffic wardens. More fines and presumably more wardens.
Shropshire Council’s cabinet discussed a potential pavement parking ban at its 2 November meeting. This discussion was prompted by the Department for Transport’s consultation on stricter rules or an outright ban on pavement parking.
The cabinet, supported by leaders of the opposition, plumped for a do little option of increasing enforcement but not extending the prohibition against the anti-social behaviour of parking on pavements.
The cabinet’s excuse for its pusillanimous policy is the limited nature of the questions asked by the Department for Transport. That was a pathetic car-centred response. Shropshire Council just ticked a few boxes and not moved policy forward. It’s still gives a green light for pavement parking.
Pauline Dee, independent member for Wem, summed up the general view that if parking on pavements was universally banned, it would impede traffic. Alan Moseley leader of the Labour Group said that we need more flexibility and most residents parked responsibly. There were only occasional problems. Really Alan? Gwilym Butler, cabinet member for enforcement, complained the Department for Transport consultation was too prescriptive. He called for local devolution. Roger Evans, leader of the Lib Dem backed that sentiment but said there will be an environmental and health impact that should be reviewed. Butler warned the cabinet that implementing a stricter ban “could alienate more people than we please.”
Yes. It’s only about votes. Pleasing the crowd. Not seeing those squeezed out because our streets are becoming impossible to navigate unless you are in a car. Unless cars park on the pavement to allow you to drive without impediment. Cabinet members don’t see the person struggling to get by on the pavement. One of the reasons that they don’t see them is that many are not there. They have become confined to their homes. They find it too hard to go out without a door-to-door taxi because they cannot use the pavement that should be exclusively for people not in vehicles.
While I agree that local devolution of pavement parking bans would be good in principle, I don’t trust council leaders on this. All the language at the cabinet meeting was about the needs of car drivers. Members seemed to tremble that drivers could be slowed down for goodness sake!
Shropshire Council is giving out the wrong message. It should be saying that parking on pavements is wrong in principle. Instead, it is saying that it is wrong only if you get caught by its Civil Enforcement Officers (traffic wardens to you and me).
It is time the council dumped this upside down thinking. Dumped thinking that people cocooned in their vehicles are the superiors to all other users of highways. Dumped thinking that because “only a few” people might be inconvenienced”, it is okay.
That thinking is discriminatory but the entire cabinet discussion on pavement parking had that thinking at its core.
That sort of thinking traps people in their homes. It prevents active travel and activities during travel.
That sort of thinking would not be allowed in any other area of public life. Where was the equalities assessment? None. The council said equalities were not relevant because of the way the DfT phrased the question. That’s a “Get Out of Jail Free” card worthy of 1980s thinking. If there is not obvious discrimination through the windows of councillors’ cars, there must be no discrimination. That’s a mindset I had hoped we had left behind in the twenty-first century.
But as it wanted as ever to promote cars over other users, Shropshire Council’s cabinet shamefully hid behind the restrictive nature of the DfT’s questions.
A council with a bold agenda and an ambition for active travel would have squeezed as much as it could into the answers to those questions. Instead, the council squeezed as much out of every answer it possibly could. It provided the bare minimum in its response to the DfT it could get away with. That bare minimum will be to the disadvantage of everyone who relies on using pavements as a normal part of their experience. A day to day experience that seems totally alien to leading Shropshire councillors.
I utterly despair. I wonder when any member of the cabinet last travelled to work or a social event on foot, on a bike, or was even able to experience the difficulties that people using wheelchairs or mobility scooter have every day.
The cabinet could have come up with a policy on pavement parking. It did not do that. The cabinet and party leaders are stuck in their cars when they travel and stuck in the past in their attitudes to active travel.
Too often the travel distances we experience in Shropshire are used as an excuse for lazy thinking. We have poor public transport because political leaders don’t use it. If they had experience of buses and trains, they would have a sharper focus on improving public transport. We have huge issues with people getting around on the pavements dedicated to them for the same reason. Political leaders don’t use them.