Five Facts Everyone Should Know about parking
The five facts everyone should know about parking
Before we get to the nitty-gritty, if you only take in five things about parking, remember ...
There's no standard 'single yellow' parking restriction
You can sometimes park on a single red or yellow line, but many assume there are standardised times – that's a mistake. There's no shortcut so always check the accompanying road signs. Generally speaking, you'll be barred during peak daytime hours but are usually OK at some point on evenings and weekends.
When it comes to double yellows you simply can't park, though you can sometimes stop to load or unload. There are also some exceptions for Blue Badge (disabled) holders. With double reds, you can't even stop, unless you are a Blue Badge holder and are dropping off a passenger. See the full red lines and yellow lines guides below
Watch your wheels
Make sure your motor is completely within any defined spot, such as a residents' or pay-and-display bay. If just one wheel is outside, you could get a ticket.
In London, especially, unless signs specifically indicate it, don't park on the pavement and keep your car as close to the kerb as possible. If more than 50 centimeters from the kerb (unless within a bay) you could get a ticket. This also means double parking is prohibited unless you're loading or unloading for no more than 20 minutes.
Proudly display your permit or ticket
If you have a special permit (such as a residents' or disabled permit), a warden must be able to see it and clearly read it otherwise you'll probably get a ticket. The same goes for any voucher or pay-and-display ticket you've bought. While this sounds obvious, permits can fall off after a few months' wear so make sure they are securely fastened. Plus, if you simply load one parking ticket on the next on the dashboard so there's a whole pile, making the current one difficult to distinguish, that can get you a fine.
Also, if you have a residents' or other permit, note the renewal date as, if you miss it, and you park outside your home, it's likely you'll get a ticket.
Bank holiday rules alter by council
Many people wrongly assume you can park where you want on a bank holiday. Some councils will allow you to park in a residents' bay or on a yellow line but others won't. Sadly, there is no hard and fast rule so, if unsure, check the council website for the area you wish to park in or the message on the parking meter or ticket machine. If unsure don't do it. See the bank holiday restrictions section.
Beware EVERYTHING in private car parks
Most of this guide is about parking on public roads but the rules change on private land or in private-run car parks – whether in supermarkets, hospitals, housing estates or elsewhere. Here, you're entering the land of the cowboys, where you can be asked to pay huge amounts without reason, or for just minor 'offences', so always check signage (it may be hidden) and be ultra cautious.
If you get an unfair ticket, as is common, DON'T automatically pay it. The firm has no right to fine you; all they're actually doing is invoicing you – though it'll be dressed up like a fine. See the fight private parking tickets guide for full info.
Where can I park?
The first rule is to use your loaf. Don't do anything stupid such as parking on a zig-zag, bus stop or taxi rank, or blocking traffic or entrances, otherwise you can hardly quibble if you get slapped with a ticket.
But for the law-abiding majority, parking rules are full of jargon and are difficult to understand so we've answered your key questions below:
Important note before you begin
Parking rules across the country are confused, even official sites like Direct Gov or Transport for London can contradict. We’ve worked through as much original source material as we can, but rules may very in different parts of the country, so it's important you always double check your local rules before acting if you’re not sure and see this as a starting point only.
When can I park on a yellow line?
Sadly, it's impossible to give a universal definition of when yellow line restrictions apply as they change from street-to-street.
Parking chiefs say the variations are because some streets are more busy than others and some have more demand for parking than others.
Double yellow lines
What they mean. You cannot park on one at any time, regardless of whether there are signs or not.
Any exceptions? Sometimes, you are permitted to stop temporarily when loading or unloading goods (see below).
Single yellow lines.
What they mean. You cannot park on one during certain controlled times. Those times will be signposted (as in pic, below) but they will change from street-to-street.
If the signs do not indicate a day of the week, the restrictions apply at the same time every day, including bank holidays. Even when they indicate a day, they apply on bank holidays, unless otherwise stated.
Any exceptions? Sometimes, you are permitted to stop temporarily when loading or unloading goods (see below).
Single yellow line and restrictions sign
Parking zone sign
What if I can't see a sign?
In some cases, the signs won’t be anywhere near the yellow lines they apply to, which makes life particularly difficult for motorists.
In such cases, you'll need to read the restrictions which are put up at the entrance to the parking zone (see pic, right) you are in.
Yet you could have passed that five minutes previously, and even then, you probably weren’t looking for it so don't know where the zone begins.
One fall-back is to use the local residents' permit restricted times or paid-for parking restricted times (which should be sign-posted close by) as an indication to know when you can and can't park on a single yellow line – though this isn't fool-proof.
When can you load or unload on yellows?
The exceptions to yellow line restrictions come when you're loading and unloading heavy or bulky goods (that cannot reasonably be carried from a legal parking spot), or dropping off or picking up passengers.
Unless explicitly stated, or if there are no markings on the kerb, you can usually load and unload for up to 20 minutes, and pick up and drop off passengers as long as you're not blocking any roads, junctions or traffic.
Some councils allow a little longer than 20 minutes but if you're unsure assume 20 minutes is the maximum, to be safe.
What if a warden's around?
However, if a traffic warden spots your car, and you are not clearly loading or unloading for five minutes, you could get a ticket so it's worth constantly checking. If you get a ticket when loading, then see the parking ticket appeals guide.
Watch for the blips
If there are any small yellow lines at a right-angle to the kerb, known as 'blips', the rules vary. If there are two sets of blips it means you can't load at any time.
Single & Double 'blips'
When can I park on a red line?
On some urban main roads you will also see red lines, often referred to as 'red routes'.
Here, the restrictions are greater than on a yellow line.
Double red lines.
Double red line
You cannot park, stop to load or unload or drop off/pick
up passengers on one.
What about on bank holidays?
Red route restrictions are usually enforced on public holidays.
If you have a Blue Badge and are dropping off or picking up a disabled passenger, you can stop briefly.
Single red lines.
You cannot park, stop to load or unload or drop off/pick up passengers on one during designated periods as determined by nearby signs (usually 7am-7pm). At other times, you can park on a single red line.
If you have a Blue Badge and are dropping off or picking up a passenger, you can stop briefly.
Red route bay sign
Red route bays
There will also be boxes marked-out with a broken red line within single or double red routes that you can use to stop in to load or unload at designated times. Again, check exactly what the restrictions are on nearby signs as they will vary.
If the box is white it means you can park but only during the specified times.
Some will only allow stopping for short periods (anything from 10 minutes to two hours) and you won’t be able to simply drive off and come back straight away as there may be a specific period in which you are not allowed to return after leaving.
Red route clearway sign
Red route clearways
This is part of the red route network, usually on dual carriageways, where stopping is only allowed in marked lay-bys.
Residents' parking bay rules
These are designed, as the name would suggest, for local residents to ensure they have a spot to park near their home.
However, they are free to park in outside restricted hours (usually during evenings and/or on weekends).
Permits only sign
If you don't have a permit
You can only park in a bay outside restricted hours, which will be signposted (see example pic, right). Make sure your car is completely within any bay to avoid a ticket.
What about on bank holidays?
In some areas, bank holidays are treated as a normal working day in which case restrictions apply as usual. In others, they are treated as a Sunday, and in others you are completely free to park.
You'll need to check the relevant council’s rules via its website. See the DirectGov website to find local authority pages.
If you have a permit
You can park in a bay at any time unless the bay is suspended (see below). Also watch out for metered or pay and display parking mixed amongst residents' bays as you may not be able to park for free in them. Read the notices on the overhead signs, meters or pay machines.
Keep your permit visible
Even if you have a permit it is also your responsibility to display it clearly so make sure it's upright and the holder is sticky enough to keep it up. Even if you have legitimately bought a permit but fail to clearly display it, you may lose any appeal against a ticket you make.
Residents' bay parking suspensions
Suspended bay sign
It's not all plain sailing for residents as they also need to beware the curse of the dreaded suspended bay. A council can shut off any parking spot for an indefinite period to allow roadworks, tree-cutting, domestic moves, etc (see suspended bay example pic, right).
While the bay is suspended, no-one can park there or you risk a ticket or being towed away. The suspension warning sign should be placed on the nearest parking sign plate, tree or telegraph pole.
You’ll normally get a few days' notice but in emergencies, a bay could be suspended with less than 24 hours' notice.
What if the bay gets suspended while you're on holiday?
The regulations state it is your responsibility to check for any suspensions and to move your car if necessary otherwise you’ll get a ticket, or worse.
If you're going on holiday and notices warning a bay will become suspended are only erected once you've gone, it can be a real pain in the backside.
The warden will understandably issue a ticket and proof of travel will not necessarily get you off the ticket.
Councils can play hard-ball on ticket appeals.
You’ll have to rely on the council's discretion when appealing as, technically speaking, you have committed an offence (see parking ticket appeals for how to do this).
If your appeal is rejected by your council, the independent arbitrator can only recommend the council cancels your ticket, but it cannot force it.
Some councils are particularly unsympathetic to this problem and insist it is motorists' responsibility to check their car is parked correctly. They say you need to make specific arrangements to get someone to check the car if you plan to leave it parked in a residents' bay. Yet if you're away with the family, ensure a neighbour is insured before asking them to move it.
One option is some councils allow you to park in specific car parks reserved for those going on holiday, while another is to drive to the airport and leave your car nearby (see the Cheap Airport Parking guide).
Parking in paid bays & council car parks
Paid-for bays include pay and display, council-run car parks, voucher parking and metered bays. During controlled hours (usually during working hours on Mondays-Fridays, plus weekends in busy areas), you'll need to pay.
But there's more you need to know:
Nipping off for change isn't fine
Make sure you have enough coins with you as many parking ticket machines do not accept notes or cards.
Sadly, if you get a parking ticket you cannot technically appeal on the grounds you were getting change.
Beware the 'no return' sign rules
With all paid-for parking, watch out for maximum time limits or no return limits in some bays to ensure you don't spend too long there.
If you can park somewhere for an hour but it says 'no return' within two hours it means you must leave at least two hours between parking spells.
The '3 minute amnesty' isn't universal
Some councils won’t issue a ticket within three minutes of any paid-for parking expiring. This is largely to deal with the fact the motorist’s or warden’s watch may not display the same time.
However, not every council offers this amnesty as it does not form part of any regulation. So don’t count on it but use it to your advantage if you get a ticket within three minutes of the elapsing of your paid-for marking period. See the Appealing Parking Fines article for more information.
Sometimes you can pay by phone
In some built-up areas, you can pay for your parking by phone. It works by setting up an account by phone or text and then letting the council know when you're parking and how long you want to stay there for. Your chosen credit or debit card will then be charged.
The advantage of this method is you can top-up your payment if you want to stay longer without retuning to your motor. The disadvantage is, in some cases, you'll have to pay a fee for each payment.
Many of these schemes require you to call 0870 or 0871 numbers, which cost more than a normal phone call so factor that in.
What if the meter or machine's broken?
If the meter or pay and display machine is broken or has a cover placed over it, it usually means you cannot park there during controlled hours.
Though for pay and display, if you can find a nearby machine that works and operates under the same time restrictions and cost, you can get a ticket from there.
However, to be safe, check the rules written on the machine as it will state if it's legal to park there if out of action.
What happens on bank holidays
Other than in busy shopping areas, you can usually park in a paid-for bay for free but, again, check the machine or sign to be safe.
Residents and disabled (Blue Badge holders) permit holders sometimes get some free time on a local paid-for parking space during restricted periods, so check the rules if you have one.
Keep your ticket visible.
As with residents' permits, if you buy a pay and display ticket it is also your responsibility to display it clearly. Make sure the ticket is upright and stuck to the window rather than left on the dashboard, to ensure any passing warden can clearly see it.
Also make sure it's sticky enough to remain on your window.
What if there are no road markings?
In rural or suburban areas you’ll usually be able to park for free when not in a busy part of town where there are no road markings. But there are still some basic rules you must follow which means you cannot park anywhere without markings:
Avoid parking near the top of a hill otherwise you may not be seen by approaching vehicles.
For the same reasons, never park on a bend.
Ensure you're not on a red route clearway. If you can't see a red route clearway sign, or simply weren't looking for one, this generally means you cannot park on busy roads, so stick with residential streets or roads where many other cars are parked.
Don't park within ten meters of a junction.
Don't park where the kerb has been lowered to allow vehicles to access a driveway.
What does 'waiting', 'loading', and stopping actually mean?
You'll see these phrases on many parking signs and it's important to understand what they mean so you're not caught cold.
Waiting. This basically means stopping your car by the roadside and either parking (when you leave your car) or waiting while still in your car.
Loading. This is defined as someone stopping to load or unload bulky or heavy goods (not shopping). The goods must be of a type that cannot easily be carried by one person in one trip. If they can, the vehicle should be parked legally and the goods carried to the premises. Picking up items that could be carried easily, however great the value, does not constitute loading. The activity should be continuous, adjacent, reasonable and timely.
Stopping. This covers every type of stopping your vehicle (other than if stuck in traffic) except for in emergencies or to pick up an obstruction from the road.
Can I park on the pavement?
You must not park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it.
What if I'm disabled?
You can get what is known as a Blue Badge. This allows you to park for free in parking meter and pay-and-display bays. Badge holders are also exempt from getting clamped and are exempt from some other parking restrictions, as long as they are not causing an obstruction, but check the relevant sign to be sure. For instance, they can park on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours in England and Wales, except where there is a ban on loading or unloading. Visit the DirectGov website for more information on who qualifies for one.
When can I park in a doctors', hospital or disabled bay?
Unless you have a valid permit, the answer is never. So don't park in one as you'll be blocking someone else's space and you risk a fine.