Look around you... lots of people think it’s OK to park on the path

It's prohibited to park on a foot-way - so it is stated in the Road Traffic Regulations... but that's not stopping some people, so says Ailin Quinlan in her weekly column
Look around you... lots of people think it’s OK to park on the path

KEEP OUR FOOTPATHS CLEAR: It is illegal to park your vehicle on a footpath blocking the way. Picture: Denis Minihane

SO yes, in case you’re wondering, there’s a good reason for my invoking the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations, 1997 in the first sentence of this column. It’s because according to this legislation, it is prohibited to park on a foot-way. It says it very clearly. It says lots of other things about parking very clearly as well, but let’s just stick with the foot-way reference for the time being.

I had to look it up recently (a) because I was cross and (b) because I was virtually certain that I was right. And there is a very good reason for this kind of thing being prohibited, as I discovered during an early-morning power-walk on the footpath of a fairly busy road.

It was a nice generous footpath, and perfectly comfortable to walk along until, that is, I came up behind the large van parked smack across it. And when I say smack across the footpath, I mean it was quite literally taking up the whole pavement. As I approached this sizeable vehicle, I debated what to do — cross the wide road to the pavement on the other side before I reached it? Pop briskly out around the back of it into heavy oncoming traffic and, presumably, get myself killed in my attempt to reach the pavement at the far end of the van? Since it was still only around 7.30am and nothing bad had happened so far that day to make me think a walker’s imitation of a kamikaze pilot was a good idea, I decided to just cross the road altogether. However at the same time the van’s rear lights came on. It was moving! Great! So I kept walking along the footpath. The van moved off the pavement and out onto the road — and stopped again, this time parking alongside the pavement where it actually should have been all the time.

As I passed by, the driver looked out the open window at me. I was going to say thanks for moving off the footpath, and keep going, but then I thought — suppose he hadn’t moved? This had happened before on other walks, where I had come across vehicles parked right up on the footpath like that — they completely obstruct your progress and force you to squeeze past on the inside or else go out around and into a busy road.

So I cordially asked the guy in the yellow high-vis vest if he was aware that it was illegal to park like that on a footpath. He dodged the question, countering that he had moved the van for me, which in fairness, he had.I agreed that he had, but I also pointed out that if he hadn’t seen me, I would have been forced out into the face of busy traffic.

I said again, that it was illegal to park on top of a footpath like this. No it wasn’t, he said. Actually, I said, it was illegal.

“You’re wrong,” said this presumably licensed driver:“It’s not illegal.”

It was illegal, I repeated, at which he lost patience and started to swear at me. Yes, yes, you can see where this was going; he was clearly not going to accept that he was wrong and I was not going to accept that he had the right to obstruct a pavement. So I went away. I went away because life is too short, and to be honest, if you actually look around you’ll see cars and vans and four-wheel-drives parked on pavements everywhere up and down the country. Everyone’s doing it — in fact, sometimes people park them completely on top of the pavement overnight, so their wheels are not even touching the road. If you don’t believe me, look around a little, especially in the evenings. However, the fact that everyone’s doing it does not make it legal.

I also went away from that interaction, in the full knowledge that if that van-driver had been me (a pedestrian), and if I had been the person sitting in the driving seat of an illegally parked vehicle taking up the whole of a wide pavement and refusing to admit it was illegal, he would in the face of such effrontery, immediately have taken out his phone, photographed the van in a way that showed its registration and brought it to the attention of the nearest garda station. Just to prove that he was right. And yes I had my phone in my pocket. I could have done it. But you know what, I just didn’t want to. Because he had moved the vehicle for me. So he wasn’t all bad apart from the illegal parking, the swearing and the fact that, like many a man before him, he was never going to admit he was wrong and apologise. There has to be something about the way we rear boys in this country, that results in adult males feeling for the most part that they can never be wrong, and that thus, if they are accused of doing something wrong (and especially if they are accused by a woman) then the automatic thing to do is deny, deny, deny and then verbally abuse the female driver or pedestrian they have wronged.

A male friend told me once about how he saw a male motorist in front of him do something very dangerous; something which very nearly caused a crash with another car, this one driven by a woman. The shocked woman swerved and beeped. The male motorist honked his horn, rolled down his window and stuck his two fingers out at her. Not content with that he then stuck his head out the window screaming at her, and followed her, honking and harassing her all the way up the dual carriageway. When they were all eventually stopped at the traffic lights — they were complicated urban ones that took a while — my friend quickly got out of his vehicle and went over to the car driven by the angry male. He told the man that if he didn’t leave that woman alone he’d be sorry. My friend as it happens is tall, with the muscles of a body-builder and some tattoos on his neck and arms, which is probably a help in situations like these. At any rate, he didn’t get any abuse. He didn’t expect to get any grief either, he said complacently.

“That’s so unfair!” I declared. He grinned at me. He would let me in on a secret, he said: Male drivers rarely give other male drivers abuse — they just feel they can pick on women. “It’s that simple,” he said.

And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

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