Pavement car parking: #BadlyParkedBike

This article was published in 2016, in Newsletter 124.
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Is this ‘badly-parked bike’ actually causing an obstruction? Or is it just a clear sign of people’s desperation at the lack of secure cycle parking?

This is the question that emerged in late October, when Cambridge Police launched a poorly executed campaign about inconsiderate bike parking, encouraging people to tweet their own examples and adding the #BadlyParkedBike label. We share concerns about bikes that really are badly parked.

What they got back instead were photos of cars parked on the pavement, causing an obstruction, marked #BadlyParkedBike, subverting the original message. The flood of badly-parked car photos highlighted the situation that the police have taken almost no action on pavement car parking, despite continual complaints over many years about this.

Poorly positioned cycle parking in Mill Road.
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The problem of pavement car parking is endemic around the city. It causes far more problems for pedestrians. It costs the taxpayer money in terms of repairing pavements – which are not designed for the weight of cars and, especially, not of commercial vehicles. Yet this kind of obstruction has so far seen the police unwilling to tackle the problem – see the discussions on the old ‘Shape Your Place’ website at The culture of pavement car parking is ingrained.

Actual badly-parked bikes

We are fully supportive of any efforts by the police and others to deal with the genuine problem of inconsiderate people who block pavements with their bikes. This causes real problems for pedestrians, in particular the disabled.

We are fully supportive of any efforts by the police and others to deal with the genuine problem of inconsiderate people who block pavements with their bikes

There is no excuse for anyone to cause an obstruction with their bike – however much of a rush they are in, or however poor the lack of parking.

The example that we put out on our Twitter account shortly after the police’s tweet shows an example of actual inconsiderate parking of a bike.

We have been supportive of efforts to remove old signage poles that encourage poor parking practices and critical, for instance, of the cycle parking installed recently on Mill Road that is in the middle of the pavement. We believe this should be relocated in the side road opposite, within its main carriageway.

A genuinely badly parked bike.
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In an attempt to control the backlash, the police then started a new #DaftParking hashtag.

However, all this did was to highlight the failure to treat the problem seriously. Why is a bike blocking the pavement ‘badly parked’, but a car parked similarly merely ‘daft’?

We hope that useful dialogue can take place about the general problem of bad parking, whatever kind of vehicle causes it.

Pavement car parking on the police’s doorstep

To demonstrate the endemic nature of badly-parked cars, one of the Campaign’s Committee cycled to East Road, at a spot just round the corner from the police station where pavement parking is commonplace. In ten years of cycling past on a daily basis, the Committee member concerned cannot recall seeing a single vehicle being ticketed. Hopefully, official statistics might show otherwise.

Upon arriving in East Road, there was already one vehicle causing a clear obstruction on the pavement. And within 15 minutes, three more appeared. Below are the four tweets we put out. The presence of endemic, illegal car parking right on the police’s doorstep, that is not prosecuted, gives the impression of double standards when compared to the ‘badly-parked bike’ campaign, a campaign which we would like to be able to support fully.

L: Three vehicles parked on pavement and cycle lane. 50m from police station. 11.28am. [NB this shows a Virgin Media van, not an emergency vehicle.]
R: Lorry in bike lane; bikes by poles as no parking. 30m from police station. 11.31am.
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L: Another van stops in cycle lane. Car on pavement. 40m from police station. 11.35am.
R: Courier van on pavement rather than sideroad nearby. 60m from police station. 11.40am.
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The law is a mess

What is actually blocking the pavement here, the bikes taking up a quarter of the pavement, or the cars taking up half the pavement?
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Part of the problem is that the legal situation regarding pavement car parking is a mess. The law forbids people to drive on the pavement – in fact this is the same law that forbids cycling on pavements (a remaining clause of the Highway Act 1835!). However, there is no law specifically preventing parking on pavements. (London does have such a law, but London has a whole pile of highway legislation that does not apply elsewhere.)

So the law basically requires evidence that the car has been driven there. One would think that its presence is evidence enough but, as journalist Carlton Reid has said, ‘it would be up to the courts to decide whether a driver was telling the truth should he claim his car was placed on the pavement with the use of a crane’.

Simon Hoare MP (North Dorset) this year introduced a Private Members’ Bill to Parliament, called the ‘Pavement Parking (Protection of Vulnerable Pedestrians) Bill 2015-16’ which aimed to simplify the law and state explicitly that parking on verges and footways is a civil offence, unless in a marked pavement bay. So Local Authorities would still be able to create pavement parking bays, as exist currently in Romsey. This is a ward flooded with cars on pavements, in every possible space, to the detriment of people walking there. See Newsletter 123 for views on the problem this creates.

However, he was persuaded to withdraw the Bill, after receiving an assurance of a meeting to discuss the issue. Transport Minister Robert Goodwill has apparently indicated that further evidence of the problem is needed if the government is to support any change. This sorry state of affairs suggests that little progress will be made.

Lack of cycle parking

Proper cycle parking helps clear pavements. It would be great to have vocal support from institutions like the police and from Councillors.
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The police’s original ‘bike tree’ image merely highlights the inadequate provision of cycle parking. As can be seen, there is no obstruction to pedestrians – there is a wide pavement behind.

The police campaign was apparently intended to be about bikes being parked insecurely, e.g. not attached to anything – it seems this was their intention from the beginning but the message obviously got lost.

We have campaigned strongly and consistently for secure cycle parking over many years. Not only does this provide proper security for cycles, it has the major benefit that it gets rid of fly parking on pavements.

But our efforts seem to have little official backing. It took two years to get a tiny amount of cycle parking installed in Romsey – see Newsletter 119. But in campaigns like these, it would have been useful to have support from a wide range of institutions.. Such cycle parking provides both security for bikes and makes the footway (now mostly occupied by cars) passable for pedestrians and the disabled.

In recent meetings the cycle theft liaison group have come to a consensus that suitable facilities are required. This is very welcome.

Martin Lucas-Smith