The problem with footpath parking

A letter to the Wellington City Council’s Infrastructure Committee

I am a pedestrian.  I use footpaths for walking and occasionally for running.  When people park their cars park on the footpath, in such a way as to prevent me from passing, I am forced to walk or run on the road.  If I am on my own, this is an annoying inconvenience and creates a minor risk to my personal safety.  This inconvenience is increased on rubbish collection days when recycling bins, wheelie bins and rubbish bags are also on the footpath.

Recently I became a father.  I like to take my baby son for walks in a pram.  Footpath parking now presents a much greater problem to me, as it must to the hundreds of parents and grandparents who walk with prams in this city every day.  A car parked partially over the footpath is more likely to block my passage when I am pushing a pram than when I am on my own.  Manoeuvring a pram over the kerb is slow and cumbersome.  It is also risky because visibility – both mine and that of drivers – can be blocked by vehicles perched on the footpath.  When pushing a pram I am unable to move as quickly as when I am by myself.  All this means that my baby son and I are at significantly greater risk when we are forced onto the road by a car parked on the footpath.

It is my opinion that the incidence of people parking on footpaths has increased in Wellington during the past few years.  The number of cars parking right over the footpath (so that the whole path is effectively blocked) also seems to have increased.

I assume that footpath parking relates to fear among owners that their vehicles might be damaged by passing traffic.  If this is the case, then I think that is a poor, selfish excuse.  Insurance covers damage to cars and correct (kerbside) parking effectively acts as a traffic-calmer, forcing drivers to take care where roads are narrow.  When cars are parked on the footpath the traffic lanes are effectively widened, which encourages greater traffic speed.  Therefore footpath parking places other members of the community, particularly children and the elderly – the groups most likely to rely on walking as a transport mode because of lack of access to a motor vehicle – at unnecessary risk.  They are forced onto the road where greater traffic speed has been facilitated.

Footpath parking creates a disincentive to walking.  Walking should be encouraged – it is free, healthy, creates no pollution or parking problems, and requires minimal (read inexpensive) infrastructure.  Wellington’s CBD has been made increasingly pedestrian-friendly, improving the experience of the city for locals and visitors alike.  The same thinking now needs to be extended to the suburbs where simply enforcing the existing parking regulations will reclaim the space allocated to pedestrians and make moving around the city a safer and more pleasant experience.

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