Caroline Spelman MP visited a street scene set up in Parliament last week by the charity Guide Dogs to learn more about the challenges that people with sight loss face when walking the streets.
At the event, the MP for Meriden dodged a pavement parked car, stumbled across a variety of street clutter, and visited a “shared space” area lacking safety features such as kerbs and pedestrian crossings. They heard from guide dog owners that dealing with these obstacles can leave them scared and reluctant to go out.
According to a Guide Dogs survey, 97% of blind and partially sighted people have encountered obstacles on the pavement. The most common obstacles were cars parked on the pavement: 9 out of 10 have had problems with pavement parking. Pavement parked cars force pedestrians into the road to face oncoming traffic. This is particularly dangerous for people with vision impairments, parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and other disabled people.
In separate research by YouGov for Guide Dogs, two out of three drivers (65%) admitted having parked on the pavement and nearly half (46%) were confused by the law on pavement parking.
Guide Dogs is campaigning for a law to make pavement parking an offence, except on streets where local authorities agree that it is safe for pedestrians. This is already the case in London, but elsewhere across the country, councils struggle to tackle unsafe pavement parking.
Caroline Spelman MP commented:
“There is clear evidence that across the UK, the vast majority of blind or visually impaired pedestrians have experienced problems with parked cars obstructing the pavement. This situation presents a clear danger to them, as well as wheelchair users and people with pushchairs, who face potentially life threatening risks if forced to walk in the road.
“Having discussed this issue with representatives from the Solihull Guide Dogs Branch, I am aware that this problem has also been reported in our area and am pleased to be able to get behind this campaign to push for a change so that we may make our pavements more accessible and safe for everyone”.
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, commented:
“Too often, our streets can be cluttered with dangerous obstacles for blind and partially sighted people.
The worst offenders are cars parked on the pavement. If you have a vision impairment, pavement parked cars aren’t just a nuisance, they can force you to step out into the road and put you in real danger.
Outside London, the law on pavement parking is unclear and difficult to enforce. We want pavement parking to be the exception so pedestrians can rely on their path being clear. When drivers themselves don’t know the rules, that is a strong sign the law needs to change.
Back in 2015, the Government committed to look into every option to tackle this serious problem. We hope that they will now follow up with a new law on pavement parking.”