Let me tell you about Mark. Mark's a guide dog owner from Macclesfield. He has had both of his lenses removed and has no perception of light in his left eye, so he relies on his guide dog, Venice, to help him to get around. However, even with Venice's help, he can find it incredibly difficult to find his way around his local area, because of the number of carelessly parked cars in the city. In his own words, he's told the charity Guide Dogs:
"I've experienced times when I haven't even been able to get on the pavement because of parked vehicles. It's difficult for Venice to direct me around cars, especially when I don't know the type of vehicle or how long they are.
"I experience it as soon as I step out the house, it can be anyone. A lady even drove up the pavement and came straight towards me and Venice to park her car. She got out and apologised for scaring us, but didn't move her car even though I asked her politely to do so. People just do not understand the danger they're putting vulnerable people in."
Mark has also experienced personal injury as a result of pavement parking: "I was due to go to an appointment in town so I was in a bit of a rush. I thought I could get past a vehicle parked on the pavement, and after I had waited ages to cross the road I decided to risk going between it and the wall. As I made my way down the path, I caught the side of my head against the wing mirror, which caused me quite a bit of pain."
As an MP, I regularly hear stories from constituents and people across the country about the issues which affect their lives, and the things which they would like me, as a lawmaker, to change on their behalf. Sadly, stories like Mark's, highlighting the dangers of pavement parking, are all too common. Badly parked cars can create no-go zones for people living with sight loss, as they are often forced to step out into the road without being able to see oncoming traffic. Thoughtless behaviour from drivers puts pedestrians at risk every day. The charity Guide Dogs has been campaigning to outlaw this practice for some time - after meeting them, I was shocked to discover that, until now, pavement parking is perfectly legal in most of the UK.
Guide Dogs has recently published research which showed just how widespread the problem is. Working with YouGov, they surveyed pedestrians in major cities across the UK. In Manchester, the worst city for pavement parking, 61% of the residents who took part in the poll said that they come across parked cars on the pavement often or always on the street where they live, and 39% say they experience the problem often or always in the city centre.
I'm not always convinced that banning something is the best way to change people's behaviour, but the poll from Guide Dogs also showed me that the factor most likely to influence a driver's decision about where and how to park was changing the law. Two thirds of the people surveyed in the ten cities (66%) considered the law to be very important when deciding where to park, whereas only four out of ten people polled (44%) considering the ability of pedestrians to pass their vehicle to be very important. Even though the people polled recognised the dangers of hazardous parking, this alone didn't seem to be enough to convince them to park more responsibly.
To help combat this problem, I've introduced a private member's bill which, if passed, will outlaw pavement parking. My Bill is due to have its second reading debate this Friday. It's a real opportunity for MPs to express their support and for the Government to recognise the scale of the problem and to take action. I do hope they join me in my attempt to improve the lives of blind or partially sighted pedestrians like Mark across the country.
Simon Hoare is the Conservative MP for North Dorset