Why Parking on Sidewalk Is A Menace for Disabled People


Why Parking on Sidewalk Is A Menace for Disabled People

Editor’s note: Although parking on sidewalks is not as pervasive in the U.S. as in the UK, blocking of sidewalks and crosswalks by vehicles causes major issues for the disabled. JVH

Here in the UK, driving on the sidewalk is illegal, yet sidewalk parking still remains legal in most areas. As we do not have levitating cars, it begs the question of how do vehicles manage to park legally there in the first place? This is a question I’ve often pondered as I come across yet another car completely blocking my path. As a wheelchair user, I cannot just squeeze past, because if I did, I’d more than likely scratch the car or get myself completely stuck.

Instead, I have to backtrack up the sidewalk until I get to a dropped curb, then drive on the road negotiating traffic until I find another dropped curb on the other side of the parked car. Now that I have a new assistance (service) dog I am both wider and therefore far more dangerous when I have to go onto the road.

Although this is dangerous for me, at least I have the benefit of sight. For blind and partly sighted people, a blocked sidewalk can mean their risking their lives by walking into the road just to get by. But it’s not just disabled people who find sidewalk parking an issue; parents with prams and pushchairs, especially double-buggies. also know all too well the problems it can cause.

As a driver, I always try to park my car so as not to obstruct pedestrians, but where I live in Norwich, there are many narrow streets where if you didn’t park on the sidewalk, then the road would be blocked for other users.

This may explain the results of a YouGov market research survey from January 2013, which showed that more than half of motorists had considered the problems that sidewalk parking would cause to pedestrians, but had chosen to do so regardless. This is because, in many cases, there are very few options. For me, the most irritating sidewalk parking is where it was completely unnecessary as the road was plenty wide enough.

The way the law stands in the UK at the moment is that in Greater London, parking on sidewalks is prohibited unless specifically permitted; whereas for everywhere else in the country, it is permitted unless specifically prohibited. However, most local authorities report that measures available to them to prevent sidewalk parking are expensive and insufficient.

The limited geographical scope of Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) means that once sidewalk parking is prohibited in one area, vehicles simply park on surrounding roads. The Transport Select Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, considered sidewalk parking in a recent inquiry. Their subsequent report recognized that “there is a confusing patchwork approach across the country.”

The UK charity Guide Dogs wants to see the Greater London law expanded to the rest of England and Wales. They believe a standardized law across the country would make it clear that sidewalk parking should be the exception, not the norm, for motorists. A national policy would also reduce regional disparity, improve clarity, empower local authorities and properly tackle the problem of sidewalk parking.

Allowing sidewalk parking where it was unavoidable would give some flexibility, although the organization would want to see markings on the sidewalk to allow a minimum space for pedestrians to pass.

Parking on the sidewalk is not just a menace for disabled people, it is also expensive! Between 2006 and 2010, local authorities paid more than $1.5 billion on repairing curbs, sidewalks and walkways — much of the damage was caused by sidewalk parking. In addition, $106 million was paid in compensation claims to people tripping and falling on broken sidewalks during the same five-year period.

The problem of sidewalk parking has not gone unnoticed by Parliament. Last year, a sidewalk parking bill was debated in the House of Commons, but the government said that it did not have enough evidence on the costs and benefits of introducing a law in England and Wales. The government is now doing research to see if it can support this change in law.

However, I am not very hopeful that the law will change anytime soon, and even if it did, I see many roads in Norwich having to be exempt, or there would be nowhere for anyone to park their vehicle. So, for the time being at least, I will have to continue my daily battle with cars parked on sidewalks.

Article contributed by:
Helen Dolphin
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