Pavement parking is allowed throughout most of the country, with London being one notable exception. However, that doesn’t mean you can park where and how you want without risking a fine, or worse, as we explain here.
The law on parking on pavements is enshrined in the Highway Code and covers all road vehicles. Rule 244 of the Code states: "You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it."
Roadside signs are key here, including ones in London. Despite what the Highway Code says, you could face a fine if you don’t park partly or wholly on the pavement in the capital city, if, for instance, the road would be too narrow for traffic to pass through otherwise.
That said, heavy good vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes are prohibited from pavement parking at all times, unless it’s essential for loading.
There may not be a blanket ban on pavement parking outside of London, but that doesn’t mean drivers are free to leave their cars where they want. The police can get involved in the following circumstances:
A vehicle or trailer is left in a dangerous position
A vehicle or trailer blocks roads anywhere in England and Wales
A vehicle is driven on the pavement
Councils have a free hand to impose fines on drivers for parking on pavements, providing they employ signs pointing out any restrictions. These often go hand in hand with other parking restrictions, including yellow and red lines, and Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ), which often restrict parking to permit holders, often local residents.
However, they are often put in place to ensure pedestrians, particularly wheelchair users, children and parents with prams can go about their business without needing to walk in the road because a car is blocking the pathway.
Parking on the pavement is more than just an inconvenience. It can intimidate some people, particularly visually impaired pedestrians, making them anxious about leaving their homes, and potentially needing to step onto and walk along busy roads.
Pavement parking also wreaks havoc on walkway surfaces, which are not designed to bear the weight of vehicles. Local authorities spent around £1bn between 2006 and 2012 on pavement repairs.
Penalties differ depending on whether it is the police or council who issues the fine. But if you find a yellow plastic envelope attached to your windscreen after parking on the curb you can expect one of the following:
A Fixed Penalty Notice, which can be issued by the police, local council or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, charging you £50 or more
A local council-issued Penalty Charge Notice, typically from £50 to £130
Both Fixed Penalty Notices and Penalty Charge Notices can be paid by cheque or online. They are usually halved if you pay within 14 days, or 21 days if the ticket was issued by post.
Local council-issued Penalty Charge Notices and police or DVLA-issued Fixed Penalty Notices can be appealed, but the process for each is different.
Fixed Penalty Notices can only be appealed through the courts, potentially leading to high costs if you lose
A Penalty Charge Notice can be challenged by contacting the council that issued the fine. More than half of the fines contested are ripped up, but if you lose you could see your fine rise by up to 50%
Citizens Advice advises drivers to not pay the fine if they are intending to appeal, as payments are seen as an admission of guilt
Although ignorance of the rules on pavement parking is never considered viable grounds for challenging a fine, drivers can consider an appeal if any other the following apply:
You needed to move off the road to avoid blocking traffic
Parking signs were vague, obscured, or not placed within the vicinity of your vehicle
You fell ill while driving and needed to pull over
You left the road to avoid an obstruction or to allow emergency vehicles to pass
Pavement parking may be lawful in most of the UK, but recent public campaigns have thrown a spotlight on the issue, and in some parts of the country, measures have been taken to change the status quo.
A total ban on pavement parking in Scotland will come into force in 2021, when the Transport (Scotland) Act comes into force. Delivery vehicles will have a partial exemption, being able to park on the pavement for up to 20 minutes at a time
The Welsh government has set up a task force to consider whether a total ban on pavement parking is desirable
The widespread ban on pavement parking in London may be extended to the rest of England if the findings of a March 2020 House of Commons Transport Select Committee report on the issue gets the green light and progress to become law
Despite the proposed and possible changes to the law on parking on pavements, narrow roads and a rising population of vehicle drivers means a total or widespread ban on pavement parking is unlikely, to ensure emergency and other vehicles can travel at will.