Parking on Pavements: Everything You Need to Know

Jack Dreyer | Monday 25th September 2023 3:00pm

A row of cars parked up, with one of them on the pavement.

We recently wrote about whether and when you could park on single & double yellow lines in the UK but we also get asked quite frequently whether you can park on pavements. Especially in areas with lots of terraced housing and narrow streets, it’s not uncommon to see cars parked partially or entirely on the curb. Is this legal?

Let’s find out.

The law is surprisingly vague

At present, the law is surprisingly vague about whether you’re allowed to park on pavements or not. Fundamentally, it depends on where in the UK you are.

Any pavement parking has been legally prohibited in London since 1974. But this is actually not illegal elsewhere in the country because it’s not legally prohibited. However, many local authorities have been granted “Civil Parking Enforcement” powers, so you can still be fined if parked in a way that doesn’t meet local authority rules.

In the rest of England, regional authorities with Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) powers can still issue fines for pavement parking when:

Vehicles are parked in contravention of waiting restrictions (e.g. yellow lines).

A TRO and authorised traffic signs/bay markings clearly state it is not allowed, or the vehicle parked classifies as a ‘heavy commercial vehicle’ over 7.5 tonnes.

Unnecessary obstruction of a highway is still illegal

A key instance, however, when parking can be illegal, is when a car is “unnecessarily obstructing a highway”. Technically, this means that pavements are also included because pavements are technically the paved parts of a highway, sharing a border with a ‘carriageway’ (a road).

This has actually been law since the Highways Act 1980, but it can only be enforced on a criminal level by police officers. The Highways Act gives police officers the right to fine people they deem to be “wilfully obstructing the free passage of a highway” and even to arrest someone in the process of doing so.

This mentions obstruction through depositing of excavated material like soil, but also applies to pavement parking.

A person walking on the pavement, with cars parked on the road next to them.

Is pavement parking a problem?

Because it’s not a criminal offence, it’s also not hugely enforced in many areas of the country due to either the lack of local authority CPE powers or the lack of resources to enforce in largely domestic areas.

What’s more, pavement parking (at least partially) is actually necessary to maintain the free flow of traffic in areas with narrow streets. In these cases, where the local authority hasn’t implemented any parking restrictions, neglecting to park on the pavement is likely to cause more problems than doing so.

The fundamental question then, is whether pavement parking is even a problem?

Well, the majority of local authorities responding to the government’s survey certainly reported it as being so. Perhaps they simply meant that it’s a frequent occurrence, but it absolutely can be a problem for pedestrians.

This includes pedestrians hit while someone is trying to park on the curb but, most frequently, pavement parking becomes a huge obstacle for sight-impaired pedestrians or those who require wheelchairs. When their path is blocked, they have to go into the road in order to get past — needless to say, this can be extremely dangerous for them.

What can I do?

Fundamentally, like with any parking, you need to use your good judgement given the context in which you are parking.

In London, you can’t park on pavements anywhere. Elsewhere, if there are no signs permitting pavement parking, you shouldn’t do so unless parking in the road will block the road. Be mindful, however, that you leave enough space for people to pass on the pavement – navigating roads is quite frequently a case of good sense and good manners. Usually, roads so narrow as to require significant parking on the pavement will have parking restrictions anyway!

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