Cars obstructing footpaths are not only illegally parked, they put other people at risk says disability advocate John McIntosh.
“Motor vehicles that are parked over footpaths are a potential hazard for everyone, especially for people with disabilities, people with mobility issues, older people, children and parents with prams.
“In many cases pedestrians may be forced to walk on the road into oncoming traffic – something that young children don’t have the skills to judge very well – or they may have to walk over gardens or uneven terrain which poses a hazard for those of us who are unsteady on our feet.
“And many mobility items like wheelchairs or scooters just aren’t designed for off-road conditions.”
Both the Land Transport (Road User) Rules and the NZ Road Code say it is not legal to park a vehicle on any footpath or in front of any vehicle entrance – even if it is your own driveway.
You are allowed to park a cycle, mobility device, or ‘wheeled recreational device’ on the footpath as long as it is not in the way of other users of the footpath and there is no sign that says otherwise.
If a vehicle is parked illegally they risk being served an infringement notice by the local council. The council could also have the vehicle towed, especially if it is parked in a way which is causing a major problem or safety hazard.
Although inconsiderate drivers are one part of the problem, McIntosh says there are other factors at play such as poor urban design.
“Educating vehicle users to be more aware about how they impact on other road and footpath users is vital. But we also need to be smarter about the way we design these spaces.
“Things like wider footpaths and wheelstops to prevent bumpers encroaching over paths would go some way to make the environment functional for both road and footpath users.”
Peter McLean, who is a mobility scooter user, says vehicles parked on footpaths is more common than most people think. He encounters obstructed footpaths at least once a week.
“I had an episode the other day. I had to virtually go right out on to the road. It’s just not safe.”
Peter hosted the Daily Challenges show, a weekly radio programme on Waikato access radio station FreeFM. The aim was to talk about the challenges people face living with a disability and how it impacts on their life.
He agrees that footpath design and maintenance adds to the problems.
“Every person at the council that deals with footpaths should get on one of these [a mobility scooter] and see for themselves.”
And Peter’s advice for drivers?
“Just be aware of others.”