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Govt mulls tougher fines for drivers who block footpaths

BLOCKED: This is sort of parking the Gibraltar Government is keen to crack down on, as it highlighted the impact of blocked footpaths on people with disabilities. Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The Ministry of Equality is considering tougher fines for drivers who block pavements and footpaths with disregard for the impact on disabled people.

The move was revealed as the ministry stepped up its awareness campaign to highlight the difficulties faced by people with disabilities due to the actions of some “selfish” drivers.

As far back as 2018, the ministry launched a Respect the Space campaign as a reminder to the public that accessible parking bays should not be misused by drivers who do not hold a Blue Badge.

But while the ministry has had some success with that campaign, the problem persists and is wider than just the misuse of parking bays reserved for people with disabilities.

The Ministry of Equality said it was “aware and concerned” of instances where vehicles illegally parked on a kerb or footpath impeded wheelchair users, people with other mobility impairments, the visually impaired and even people pushing a stroller or pram from travelling safely on Gibraltar’s streets.

Blocking a footpath forces pedestrians to step onto the road in order to move around the obstructing vehicle, resulting in them having to share the road with oncoming vehicles, the. ministry said.

For wheelchair users in particular, the problem is serious because they would need to remain on the road until they find a dropped kerb that will give them access back onto the pavement.

Dropped kerbs are designed to allow wheelchair and mobility scooter users access to a crossing point where a road separates a footpath.

But the ministry said it was “disheartening” to see the number of vehicles that park in front of dropped kerbs, blocking the only crossing point available to wheelchair users and the visually impaired.

“When blocking a dropped kerb with a vehicle, you are literary cutting off access to the other side of the road for some people,” said the Minister for Equality, Samantha Sacramento.

“It is very disappointing that people need to be reminded to be considerate to others, especially when their indiscriminate abuse of parking situations affects people with disabilities, but it is our collective duty and responsibility to do so.”

“I am hopeful that this can be achieved through raising of awareness and discussion.”

“The increase of fines for vehicles abusing accessible parking without a valid badge has had some success and I have asked the Ministry for Equality to consider similar tactics to curb this selfish practice and I look forward to receiving their recommendations.”

The Ministry of Equality’s strategy focus on the misuse of Blue Bays resulted in the increase of fines for illegally parking in an accessible bay to £500.

On Monday, it urged drivers to be considerate of the needs of people with disabilities, while stressing too that accessible parking bays should be used when the Blue Badge holder is in the vehicle.

“Consideration should always be taken by other drivers of the importance of accessible parking for people with disabilities,” the ministry said.

“Using these parking spaces - even for a few minutes - or obstructing them by parking parallel or behind an accessible parking space removes the positive impact these parkings are designed to afford.”

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