People walking

Pavement parking is dangerous for pedestrians, as it forces people onto the road.

It’s a common problem, but decades of campaigning could be about to change things, helping to make our pavements safer.

Our Learning and Impact Manager Dan Ritman explains how we got here, and what happens next.

Dan Ritman
Front cover of 'Walk' magazine, with a photo of people moving a car

A long campaign

In 1995, the Pedestrians Association (the old name for Living Streets) and our supporters in Camden, North London, had had enough.

The local council had refused for months to enforce its own ban on cars parking on the pavement in Chetwynd Road.

Pedestrians, including elderly and disabled people, and those with buggies and small children, were forced to walk in the road.

So campaigners took matters into our own hands.

Protesters carried cars off the pavement and onto the road, clearing the way for pedestrians (and revealing the terrible damage done to the pavement by the cars).

How had it come to this?

In the early 1970s, members were writing to us in record numbers about a growing problem: cars parked on the pavement.

Our then President, the Bishop of London, stood up in the House of Lords in 1974 and proposed a ban on pavement parking as part of new traffic laws.

With the support of our members who wrote to their MPs, the ban became law.

It was our first pavement parking win! But in fact, it was just the beginning of the story.


Successive governments decided not to implement the pavement parking ban, and eventually repealed the law.

Despite a series of reviews and promises, governments in Westminster took no national action, perhaps afraid of the backlash from motorists.

Similarly, the police refuse to enforce the 1835 law that still prohibits “carriages” driving onto the footway.

Even in London – where a ban was introduced in the 70s – the problem remains, as councils have backed down and exempted many streets from the legislation. And the Camden protest, despite national media coverage, led to yet more government failure.

Pavement parking means cars occupying what should be a safe space for the most vulnerable road users. And those responsible have been allowed to get away with it for half a century.

As recently as 2019, our research found that blocked pavements restrict walking by 2.8 million over-65s in the UK, putting them at risk of inactivity and isolation.

Old black and white photo of woman pushing pram around van parked on the pavement
Man pushing buggy around car parked on pavement

The beginning of the end

Along with you, our supporters, we’ve been campaigning on this issue for fifty years. And at last, it’s starting to pay off.

Over the last decade, we’ve been pushing hard:

  • In 2013, a thousand of you wrote to your councillors, and we gave evidence to a Westminster inquiry.
  • In 2018 we delivered a letter to Downing Street calling out the thousand days of inaction since the government’s last promise to take action in England.
  • Throughout the decade, supporters in Scotland wrote to their MSPs in support of our persistent and strategic campaign against Irresponsible Parking.
  • In 2019, more than 4000 supporters contributed to our submission to the Transport Select Committee on pavement parking in England - a new record for a Living Streets online campaign
  • In 2020, we smashed that record again, when 7,454 of you supported our consultation response

We’ve also collected evidence and kept the issue alive in the media. We’ve worked with Parliamentarians and urged governments to take action.

We’ve inspired supporters to tackle pavement parking in their areas and to contact local politicians.

Our campaign in Scotland led us back to Westminster, where power over parking was finally transferred to the Scottish Parliament.


And finally we’re seeing progress:

With your help, we’ll keep the pressure up, to make sure words lead to action in Scotland and Wales, and that in England the results of the recent consultation are published and a plan of action revealed.

We’re as determined as ever to reclaim the pavements for pedestrians.

Next year will be a critical one for pavements and we need your help.

Support our Christmas appeal and become a Living Streets Member. Together we can finish the job, and reclaim our pavements.


Person in Living Streets character costume doing a 'thumbs down' to pavement parking

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Christmas Appeal 2021