I attended a Guide Dogs event at the House of Commons on 3 July to show my support for the campaign to end problem pavement parking.
At the event, I heard from guide dog owners how parked cars blocking the pavement force them to walk on the road, into the path of traffic they cannot see. I heard that some guide dog owners face these dangerous situations on a daily basis, risking their safety every time they go shopping or make the school run.
Research by YouGov for Guide Dogs shows that 54% of UK drivers admit to parking on the pavement, with more than a quarter (29%) of those doing so a few times a month or more. But only just over half (55%) of these drivers think about their impact on people with sight loss.
Pavement parking particularly affects people with visual impairments, parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and other disabled people. According to a Guide Dogs survey, 97% of blind and partially sighted people have encountered obstacles on the pavement, and 9 out of 10 have had problems with pavement parked cars.
Guide Dogs is campaigning to make pavement parking an offence, except in areas where local authorities grant specific exemptions. This is already the case in London, but outside London, councils struggle to tackle unsafe pavement parking because they can only restrict it street by street.
I know that my colleague Sandra White, SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, has done some excellent work on this issue in recent years. Sandra introduced a Member's Bill at the Scottish Parliament to help tackle problem parking on footways which unfortuntely ran out of time when the Parliamentary term ended last year. I am glad that there are now fresh plans in Scotland to introduce a new Pavement Parking Bill, to curb rouge parking and take back our pavements.
No one should be forced to brave traffic by cars parked on the pavement. Blind and partially sighted people should be able to walk the streets without fear. In my experience, listening to people who attend my surgeries, pavement parking affects many people from all backgrounds, not least those with disabilities and the elderly.We should be able to walk the streets without being obstructed by parked cars.
Niall Foley, Engagement Manager at Guide Dogs Scotland, commented on the event, saying:
"Pavement parked cars can turn the walk to work or trip to the shops into a dangerous obstacle course. It’s a nuisance for anyone, but if you have a visual impairment or a toddler in tow, stepping out into the road with moving traffic is just too big a risk.
Our research shows that most drivers who park on the pavement know that it can be dangerous for pedestrians, but many do so regardless. That’s why we need clear rules so that drivers only park where it’s safe.
We know that the Scottish Government is committed to a law to curb unsafe pavement parking. We welcome the consultation on this issue and look forward to them bringing forward a Bill in the near future.”