The doubling of fines for motorists who park on footpaths which comes into effect from Tuesday is a welcome move, according to wheelchair user and advocate John Fulham.
However, he said the move would be more welcome if it came with commitments to enforce targets. “The footpath is our safe space but it is being eroded,” he said.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, who is strongly supportive of moves – particularly during Covid lockdown – to reassign road space from private cars for use by active and public transport, said he was “very pleased” to announce an increase in fines from €40 to €80.
Parking on footpaths, he said, “puts vulnerable pedestrians, such as wheelchair users and those pushing buggies, at significant risk by forcing them off the footpath and into traffic” .
“These increases should help improve the safety of all vulnerable road and footpath users, by creating a more effective deterrent to these specific forms of illegal parking.”
The National Council for the Blind of Ireland’s head of communications June Tinsley said “the increase in parking fines is a welcome deterrent but it will be meaningless without adequate enforcement”.
She said parked cars, “like other temporary obstacles” , pose a significant challenge to people who are blind or vision impaired.
She noted that e-scooters posed another concern to the visually impaired with “a recent NCBI survey finding that 57 per cent of service users reported e-scooters reduced their confidence to walk or access the community”.
According to Léan Kennedy, advocacy and policy officer with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, the fear of e-scooters is even more stark. She said “89 per cent of our clients are concerned about the use of e-scooters in relation to their safety”
For Mr Fulham, public engagement manager with the Irish Wheelchair Association, the move to legalise e-scooters “generates valid concerns” amongst the disabled community regarding their safety. “We welcome the increase in fines for illegal parking but we hope the new Road Traffic and Roads Bill which legalises the use of personal mobility devices does not simply provide another obstacle,” he said.
All three disability groups have called for e-scooters to be prohibited from use on footpaths . They also want to see a “universal sound solution, which is robustly tested and researched”, to allow pedestrians to hear e-scooters approaching.
They have also called for a maximum speed limits of 12km/h to apply with lower speed limits of 6km/h in certain areas.
The Road Traffic and Roads Bill is expected before the Oireachtas Transport Committee in coming weeks. Committee chairman Kieran O’Donnell said the members are aware of the position of the disability groups and were “looking forward to engaging with Minister Ryan and his department”.