What has been standard in That London for many, many years might soon be coming to the provinces, introducing a new method of thinking to our towns and villages. No, not ‘being allowed into nightclubs wearing trainers’ or ‘the chance to eat out after 9.30pm’, but something rather more mundane. Something, I might say, rather more ominous.
I give you Rule 244 of the Highway Code. You remember that one. It’s a classic. “You must not park partially or wholly on the pavement in London,” it reads, “and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it.”
It’s the “should not do so elsewhere” part of things that could be changing. “Should not” means that it isn’t technically illegal to stick two wheels on a pavement, so you can, though if you’re causing an obstruction, you can get a parking ticket for it. So use your nous.
This is fairly standard, sensible-sounding stuff, right?
Perhaps not. The Department for Transport is considering whether to roll out a ‘must not’ pavement parking rule for the entire country, except on roads where local authorities issue a specific exemption.
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Apparently, many local councils have been pushing for a blanket ban.
Why? Well, the problem is that, as the Code goes on to explain, “parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams and pushchairs”. Of course it can.
But what parking on the pavement can also mean – and half an hour picking out random villages on Google Street View will give you tens, hundreds, thousands of examples – is that on narrow roads that have pavement or verge width to spare, or near the ends of culs-de-sac where nobody walks, or in areas where car quantities outnumber spaces, it makes life a bit easier for everybody. It can allow traffic to get past more easily, means people don’t have to annoy their neighbours by parking in front of their houses: all while, actually, not blocking paths or inconveniencing anybody in any way.
A law change would remove that ability; remove that discretion: “Sorry, your wheels are on the pavement. You’re ticketed, mate” – whether it’s a nuisance to others, or actually useful to others. Why would you want to make that change?
Along with the blanket ban, local authorities would introduce £50-£70 fines for the offence.
So this is where I – like the AA, who told The Times “we would be concerned if there were a blanket ban” – am worried. Already local councils can ticket drivers who obstruct pavements. Obviously some people park like the entitled, arrogant arses they are. There are places where blocked pavements are a nuisance, where a poorly parked car makes things miserable, even dangerous. These people should be ticketed.
And they already can be ticketed.
Making it an automatic offence means nobody can use their judgment to try to do themselves and others a favour. And, I don’t know, just adds to the world’s apparently increasing trend of assuming everyone is stupid so that the default position is becoming ‘you can’t do that unless we say you can’, instead of ‘you can do what you want, unless there’s a good reason you shouldn’t’. It’s a trend I’m getting pretty tired of.