Rob Atkinson: Pavements can be an obstacle course

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There is a growing concern that some pavements around our district are becoming something of an obstacle course.

This is particularly the case for those who are blind or partially sighted, due to a variety of avoidable obstructions that present a real danger to anybody with impaired vision.

These obstacles include advertising boards, cafe furniture and wheelie bins, all of which can present a risk to anyone unable to see clearly – but a particular problem is that of cars parked partly on the pavement. Anybody colliding even at walking pace with such an immovable object as a parked car stands a significantly high risk of sustaining injury.

Organisations such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) have become involved in campaigns to get people to park more considerately, avoiding harm to those with visual impairments.

Ironically, many of those parking vehicles with two wheels on the pavement do so in an honest attempt to reduce the extent to which on-street parking can block roads, causing traffic congestion. However, while the intention may be well-meaning, the consequences for blind or partially-sighted pedestrians can be painful, or worse. Those with limited vision, who cannot see an obstacle until it is too late, frequently sustain injury when colliding with parked vehicles. There is also the problem of wheelchairs, prams and mobility vehicles being unable to get through a reduced pavement width, and having to venture into the road to get around the obstacle, with all the dangers of moving traffic that such a manoeuvre presents – again, especially for those who can’t see too well.

Last March, a report was published warning that inconsiderate motorists who are mounting kerbs and parking on the pavement could soon face a £70 fine.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, said that laws allowing local authorities to ban pavement parking in London should be rolled out across the country, to crack down on motorists endangering lives.

The ban on pavement parking has already been in place in London for the past 40 years. Under existing measures, motorists are barred from pavement parking unless expressly permitted by a council in the capital. Elsewhere, though, the rules appear to be much less stringent, with mounting the kerb not forbidden apart from cases where vehicles are causing an obstruction. In those cases, Traffic Regulation Orders can be used by local authorities to ban pavement parking on certain roads but it is a time-consuming, expensive and bureaucratic process.

What’s really needed, of course, is an awareness of the potential problems and also some consideration in how people choose to park their vehicles. It’s true that cars and vans are not the only offenders, with the examples of advertising boards, wheelie bins and so forth cited above. But cars are such very solid objects that they are far more likely to cause significant injury. Improperly parked vehicles which have been left mounted upon the kerb are literally accidents waiting to happen, and a needless addition to the dangers faced by anyone, blind or partially sighted, trying to negotiate their way safely around our busy towns. See www.rnib.org.uk/onmystreet for more about this topic.

Caroline Verdon: Your stories of DIY injury disaster made me wince