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Do the Brits understand the term “footway” differently from the Frogs?

June 25, 2009

One of our readers has advised us of an interesting case of a bike parked outside a parking bay. With this tax that we now have to pay to park our bikes in over-crowded bays in Westminster, with no proper security devices as promised except the crappy ones that we saw the other day, and the risk of having our machines damaged by idiots who couldn’t careless, the motorcyclist thought it would be a good idea to park like in Paris, on a little piece of private land, adjacent to the footway. As you can see on the picture below, the bike was parked in such a way that it wasn’t causing any obstruction to pedestrians.

private parking

The motorcyclist assumed that the little piece of land on which their bike was parked was indeed off the footway, as if one had walked on it, they would have gone straight into the wall and caused themselves a few injuries. However, the CEO who was discreetly observing the situation from a little further behind didn’t agree. As soon as the motorcyclist left the bike, within seconds the CEO jumped on the occasion to attach a nice PCN (“Penalty Charge Notice”, or “fine” for those of you who are not familiar with the UK terminology). You can sort of see the PCN attached to the windscreen. Here was the reason stated on the piece of toilet paper issued by the CEO:-

“Code 622 – Parked with one or more wheels on or over a footpath or any part of a road other than a carriageway – two wheels on footway”.

The motorcyclist, who was a French national, did not appear to have a good grasp of the English language, so checked the French translation for the term “footway” and then checked the definition in the on-line English dictionary: “a way or path for people going on foot“. Then, as they were used to park in this manner in Paris before and they believed their bike was not obstructing anyone, they thought there was definitely something wrong with this PCN. How on earth was the bike parked on “a way or path for people going on foot” when the piece of land in question was right next to the wall and off the footpath where pedestrians were supposed to walk?

The motorcyclist then decided to contest the PCN on the grounds that the bike wasn’t parked on the footway but off it (we have unfortunately not been given a copy of the original appeal) and here is the answer received from Kevin Goad, Assistant Director, Parking Services at Westminster City Council:-

“I have carefully considered the points you raised and reviewed the details of the case in full. I can confirm that this PCN has been cancelled”.

Phew, thanks for that, what a relief! He said he had reviewed the details of the case in full… did he mean he carried out some research to find out what the term “footway” means in English? Well, let’s examine the rest of the response:-

“Your vehicle was issued a PCN as it was parked on the footway. The evidence supplied by the Civil Enforcement Officer shows your vehicle parked on part of the footway…”

Well, was the bike parked on the footway or on part of the footway? Was the CEO feeling a bit dizzy that day that they could see the bike playing musical chairs? And what’s Mr Goad’s definition of “footway”? Is his understanding of “footway” a piece of private land attached to a residential building, right next to the wall and which the council has no responsibility for? Does he really expect pedestrians going shopping around to walk on it and knock their head against the wall? His response continues:-

“…however it does not appear to be causing any obstruction to pedestrians, therefore you are no longer liable for this charge”.

We would love Mr Goad to show us the definition of the word “footway” in the Westminster dictionary, because, in our opinion, either a vehicle is parked on the footway, where people go on foot, and in which case it does cause obstruction to them, or is parked off the footway, in which case it doesn’t cause any obstruction to pedestrians. Or perhaps, in Westminster, it is possible to park on both the footway and part of it at the same time, so that they can decide which way to proceed that better screws up the motorcyclist.

Anyway, have we not been told before that all what Westminster City Council wanna do is take your money, however they do it? When it’s not through their bike parking tax, it’s by misleading and harassing the public, changing the meaning of words as it suits them and trying to mislead those for whom English is not their first language, assuming that they won’t have the balls to appeal the PCN and confront the council.

We wonder whether it would not have been a better option for the motorcyclist to park their bike in a bay nearby, where the signs were covered in a nice and thick summer snow that quietly and unexpectedly had fallen the night before. But the trouble is that the bike might have been damaged in an over-crowded bay.


1st July 2009 – Please join the demonstration and say NO to the bike parking tax in Westminster! For further details, visit

1er Juillet 2009 – Assistez a la manifestation pour protester contre le stationnement payant des deux-roues a Westminster! Pour de plus amples informations, consultez


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