Chris Fullard says leaving his home most days means getting through an obstacle course. He lives on Mount Drummond Avenue in Harold’s Cross, where drivers nosey up to park with two wheels on the pavement.
Fullard’s white cane, which he has used since he became blind in 2009, sometimes gets caught in the wheels of parked cars, he says.
The cars belong to residents without driveways and non-residents as there’s no paid parking on the street, says Kevin Brophy, who grew up on the street and now lives there.
Fullard will try to veer away from parked cars to the other side, but may be blocked by a bin, he says, so he tries not to go out on bin days. “Before I go out, I’m worried, how am I gonna get back?”
While it’s illegal in most cases for cars to park on footpaths, Dublin City Council has up to now treated residential areas outside the canals differently when it comes to enforcement, says a council report to the transport committee.
It’s been telling the contractor responsible for enforcement that if a car is parked on the pavement but there’s still at least two metres of footpath free, leave it alone, says the report.
That’s because of situations – as on Mount Drummond Avenue – where there is limited or no off-street parking for residents, it says.
At a meeting of the council’s transport committee meeting on 25 May, Dermot Stevenson, a parking enforcement officer with the council, asked councillors what the policy should be going forward – and they settled, for now, on a new one.
The new policy is to leave a vehicle alone if there’s at last 2.5 metres of footpath free.
“The 2.5m is a guidance rule which was agreed by the members of the Transportation SPC,” a council spokesperson said Tuesday. The report that outlines the guidance has been sent from the committee to the full council for review, they said.
Footpath parking is illegal, but “Dublin, in many areas, it would not be practical to enforce this law rigorously”, they said.
Given concerns of disability groups, and concerns around social distancing, the council’s current policy of leaving be cars that have left a two-metre space on the footpath may no longer be appropriate, says Stevenson’s report.
He asked for guidance on what transport committee members “would wish to see the prioritisation of parking enforcement resources in residential areas outside the canals”.
He set out three options. One was to continue to prioritise offences when there wasn’t two metres clear.
Another was to extend the priority to 2.5 metres of space. A third was to enforce all cases of footpath parking regardless of space left on the footpath.
At the meeting, Green Party Councillor Carolyn Moore said she preferred a strict regime. “I just think you have to go for a straightforward, we do not tolerate parking on footpaths.”
When footpath parking is tolerated, it leads to further parking and double parking, said Moore, pointing to Crumlin Road as an example.
The enforcement crews are already stretched enough, said Moore. “I don’t know if people are expected to get out of a van and actually measure have they left two metres,” she said.
There should be no exception to the rule at all, said Martin Hoey, the traffic and transport representative of Dublin City Council Public Participation Network.
“That should not only just be for cars. Any vehicle partially blocking a footpath should either be removed from the area, or fined as quickly as possible,” he said.
Gary Kearney, a disability activist, says he would rather all footpath parking was enforced, but he knows that there have to be limits.
“That causes resentment. The last thing you want is the disability community resented by people on top of everything else,” he says.
Kearney says two metres is the minimum amount of space needed by vulnerable road users. “The goal is to get nobody parking on the footpath, but I don’t think that’s feasible in the foreseeable future.”
In response to a query on whether 2.5 metres is enough space to leave clear on a footpath, Clare Cronin, a spokesperson for the Disability Federation of Ireland, said that organisation “always discourages parking on the footpath”.
“Parking on the footpath forces pedestrians including people with wheelchairs, buggies, and those living with sight loss into the road and into oncoming traffic puts them at risk of injury, “ she said.
Daniel Céitinn, a Sinn Féin councillor, asked if it was in effect permitting parking on footpaths even though the council don’t have obviously a legal basis to permit that.
He asked: “Has there been a legal challenge up to now, or has it just sailed under the radar?”
Stevenson, the council parking enforcement officer, said that many residents leave the two metres between the car and the building line.
“If we go in and absolutely blitz residential areas where people are parking up on footpaths, that might be seen as being disingenuous and affect an awful lot of people adversely, who we are trying to assist in getting around the city,” he said.
At the end of the discussion, most members agreed that there should be a change in policy, and that drivers who leave less than 2.5 metres on the footpath in residential areas outside the canal should face enforcement.
When it comes to enforcement, clamping the vehicle doesn’t remove the obstruction, Stevenson said, so it would be best to remove it, he says.
On 1 June, Dublin City Council started a pilot to issue on-the-spot fines for vehicles parked illegally.
That should help with clear abuses of footpath parking, such as delivery drivers parking on footpaths, said Stevenson.
“We do speak in regards to An Garda Síochana an awful lot and we do blitzes for traffic offences with them,” said Stevenson.
“One of the ones we do on a regular basis is the disabled badge. We catch an awful lot of offenders and have those permits revoked,” he said.
A Proactive Approach
Enforcement should start incrementally, says Green Party Councillor Janet Horner, starting with the worst cases of footpath parking.
“But we are trying to work towards a system where everyone understands footpath parking is unacceptable,” she says.
Horner says the council should take streets where footpath parking is the only option for residents, on a case-by-case basis.
“Identify if there are potential solutions where currently people are footpath parking, rather than just fining residents and then waiting hoping that they are going to figure it out themselves,” she says.
Back on Mount Drummond Avenue in Harold’s Cross, outside Brophy’s house, there is a car missing a wing mirror and with deflated tyres, which he says has been parked up on the footpath for 10 months.
Between the wall around Brophy’s garden, and the car door, there is 1.89 metres of clear space.
Another car on the road has left 1.52 metres of clear space. The entire width of the footpath is 2.74 metres.
Brophy says he wants a paid-parking system. Non-residents, frequently builders and locals, presumably looking to avoid paid parking, draw up onto the footpath, he says.
Fullard says it’s mostly people who don’t live on the street who block the footpaths.
“I’ve got loads of bangs and cuts from bins, falling over them, it can be a problem,” he said. “They just park anywhere they like.”
His neighbours typically park while leaving enough space on the footpath, Fullard said.
There’s no other space to park a car other than on the footpath, says Eimear Deegan, a local resident.
“Residents need to put one wheel in the path out of necessity to leave space for emergency vehicles and bin trucks to pass,” she said.