Julie Pilsworth and her guide dog Maeve (Image: Doug Jackson/Pinpep)
Ministers must crack down on dangerous pavement parking that can affect the safety of around 85 percent of visually impaired pedestrians, charity Guide Dogs insists.
It claimed vehicles obstructing footpaths cause major difficulties for people with a vision impairment – and has launched a petition calling for the law to be toughened up.
For those relying on guide dogs, their only option is often to put themselves at risk by stepping into busy roads to avoid parked cars.
Clare Williams, from Smethwick in the West Midlands who owns guide dog Quita, said pavement parking has turned day-to-day tasks into a “scary obstacle course”.
She explained: “It is not just a nuisance, it’s dangerous for all pedestrians but especially those of us with visual impairments. In my experience, simple tasks like going shopping can turn into a scary obstacle course as my guide dog helps me to negotiate cars parked on the pavement, meaning we have to walk in the road.”
The charity, which trains dogs to support people with a vision impairment, said despite the Department for Transport holding a consultation in 2020, no progress had been made.
Eleanor Briggs, from Guide Dogs, said: “Cars blocking the way undermines those with impairments’ confidence to get out and about.
“This daily threat can mean people can’t safely get to work, education or to see friends.
“We welcomed the Government’s recognition of the problem but now is the time to make good on their promise and give local councils the power to tackle problem pavement parking in their areas.”
(Image: Doug Jackson/Pinpep)
According to YouGov, some 95 percent of local councillors in England said pavement parking created a safety risk for pedestrians with a vision impairment, and 70 percent admitted the problem exists in their area.
Guide Dogs’ demand for a new law is backed by 57 percent of the public and 74 percent of councillors. A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Everyone should be able to navigate streets without obstacle.
“Local authorities have powers to prohibit pavement parking with local laws. In 2020, we launched a consultation to better equip councils to take action. The response will be published in due course.”
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‘I’ve been brought to tears by abuse’ Pavement parking is a daily battle for blind mobility chair user Julie Pilsworth and her guide dog Maeve.
When drivers park on the pavement, the 45-year-old, from Grimsby, often cannot fit her chair through the gap between a parked car and a wall.
Maeve is trained to stop if she does not believe the chair can fit through so Julie often has to turn back to find a drop curb to exit the pavement.
She said: “I am not able to step into the road like other guide dog owners. It would be dangerous because the chair would tip.
“Sometimes I have to go 20 minutes the other way before I find somewhere suitable.
“Due to my health problems, it is a big issue if I’m struggling for time as I have conditions like bladder incontinence.” Julie has also experienced the anger of inconsiderate parkers.
She said: “I’ve had verbal abuse a number of times for telling a driver I cannot get past. I’ve been brought to tears.
“I have been so scared because obviously I couldn’t see enough to know what was going on. You don’t know if they are going to attack you.”
Comment by Hannah Trussler – Guide Dogs’ Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager When will the Government crackdown on dangerous pavement parking?
It not only poses a serious threat to public safety, as cars blocking pavements can force people on to the road and into the path of traffic, it has a huge impact on the lives of people with a vision impairment.
Delays to people’s journey while safely navigating these obstacles result in being late to work or social occasions, or something as serious as medical appointments.
Those are challenging enough, but on top of that comes the anxiety a person with a vision impairment faces.
For us at Guide Dogs, who have been helping people with sight loss live independent lives for more than 90 years, this is extremely hard to take.
Living actively, independently and well are values that have inspired and shaped the wide range of services the charity offers today.
We know that there is an appetite for a clear law on pavement parking – 57 percent of people say they would support making such practices illegal except in areas where it is deemed necessary by the local council.
Almost three-quarters of councillors also support our call for this. But not enough is being done.
Our research found 70 percent of councillors say pavement parking is a problem in their area.
With a figure as high as this, we need action to be taken right now to tackle the issue.
The Government had more than 15,000 responses to their consultation on pavement parking back in 2020, including one from Guide Dogs.
And yet three years on, there has been no response.
We hear near-daily reports from people with a visual impairment about exactly how much this issue affects them and how it impacts their lives.
It is time the Government took tangible action to tackle this dangerous practice.