Scotland bans parking on sidewalks

Car on sidewalk and bike lane in Glasgow
CC BY 2.0 Car on sidewalk and bike lane in Glasgow/ Lloyd Alter

One would think this would be obvious, that sidewalks are for people, not cars.

In Japan, you are not allowed to buy a car unless you can prove that you have a place to park it off-street. In New York City, 140,000 cars have placards and park wherever they want. When I was in Scotland last year, I took particular note of how many people parked their cars on sidewalks, or this even more egregious half-in-sidewalk, half-in-bike lane. It was everywhere. As Living Streets Scotland notes, this is a serious problem: "Pavement parking is a pain for everyone, but it’s particularly an issue for those with mobility problems, parents with pushchairs and older people, who may fear leaving their homes as they feel unsafe."

But at least they are trying to do something about it. The Scottish Parliament just passed a bill banning parking on the sidewalk, or as they call it, the footway. Stuart Hay, director of Living Streets Scotland, is happy:

This is the first nationwide ban put in place in the UK and represents the culmination of over a decade of campaigning by Living Streets Scotland and disability charities. People in wheelchairs, parents with pushchairs and older adults who are currently forced into oncoming traffic when faced with vehicles blocking their path will now be able to enjoy a new freedom. It also stands to offer huge savings to cash-strapped councils currently charged with fixing footways damaged by vehicles parking on them.

life in the fedex laneLloyd Alter/ Life in the Fedex lane/CC BY 2.0

There is an exemption that will be a problem; delivery vehicles are allowed to stop for up to 20 minutes, which is a very long time. Hay complains:

Our concern around the blanket 20-minute exemption for delivery vehicles remains. This clause undermines the goals of preventing obstruction and pavement damage, whilst the enforcement of a waiting time is incredibly impractical.

He's right; trucks and delivery vehicles are often the worst sidewalk and bike lane blockers. The police aren't going to stand around with a stopwatch for 20 minutes. Besides, the drivers all say, "I'll just be a minute," and meanwhile, cyclists and parents with strollers are forced out into traffic. There shouldn't be any exceptions.

Dockless electric car carelessly left blocking sidewalk© Dockless electric car carelessly left blocking sidewalk/ Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Really, everyone complains about dockless scooters left on the sidewalks, but dockless cars and trucks littering sidewalks are just as big a problem that is almost totally ignored. We need laws like this one everywhere, and we need serious enforcement too. Unfortunately, in cities like New York where the police are among the worst of the sidewalk and bike lane lawbreakers, it is hard to get them interested.

Scotland bans parking on sidewalks
One would think this would be obvious, that sidewalks are for people, not cars.

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