Pavements are for people

Action on vehicles blocking pavements is long overdue, says Green councillor, GAVIN CORBETT 

My dad was not really a complaining type. As an apprentice bricklayer he broke his back at the age of 18, walked with callipers and crutches thereafter and spent the last 20 years of his life in a wheelchair.  And he just got on with it.

But what used to bug him was finding cars parked where they should not be.  An able-bodied person in disabled bay, for example.  Or a car parked up on a pavement blocking his way.  As a parent of young children in a push-chair I came to share his frustration.

Thumb Gavin-at-City-Chambers-close-815x1024That is why I am delighted that, at long last, the Footway and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill is starting its passage through the Scottish Parliament.  The pressure group Living Streets Scotland has been working with a really impressive range of charities – from Guide Dogs Scotland to Barnardos to Age Scotland – to establish a clear principle in law: that pavements are for people.

I wrote in support of the Bill, in its earlier guise, three years ago and I have been disappointed that it’s been stalled in the twilight of devolved versus reserved legislation since then.

My support was as a matter of fairness.  However, it was also personal.  Just before I became a councillor there was a serious fire near where I live.  My youngest son’s classmates was in one of four families displaced for two years while their houses were rebuilt.  One of the main talking points was the way that car-parking on corners and pavements caused a potential hazard for emergency vehicles. Fortunately, in that location, double yellow lines have now been introduced which free up corners and spaces again but the problem is still widespread elsewhere.

And during that time I also learned some strange facts: that pavement parking is unlawful in London but not elsewhere in the UK; and that driving on a pavement is illegal but not being parked on one (yes, quite how you get there is puzzling).  More obviously, parking on pavements cracks surfaces and breaks kerbs, with higher costs for council tax payers and tripping dangers for older residents.

Of course just prohibiting something is not enough. Enforcement is an issue. However, I am sure that the vast majority of people who routinely park on pavements know they should really not be doing that and will self-regulate.  For those who wilfully ignore the new law, when it goes live, then there does have to be a consequence, of course.

My dad’s not around to enjoy the vistas of unblocked pavements, sadly. But this is one law he’d toast.

This post was first published by the Edinburgh Evening News on 26 May 2015