Most important rules Parking on pavements: where is it permitted and where not?

Bonn · 55-Euro parking tickets in Oberkassel that would otherwise never have been issued, blocked pavements - what is actually allowed when parking according to the Highway Code and what is not? We explain the most important rules

This traffic sign allows on-street parking on the pavement.

This traffic sign allows on-street parking on the pavement.

Foto: dpa/Sina Schuldt

A veritable flood of parking tickets is currently pouring down some streets in Bonn. In places where residents and visitors have been able to park their vehicles completely unmolested for years, the public order service is now handing out an extremely high volume of fines. In conversation with local residents, Oberkassel city councillor Fenja Wittneven-Welter (SPD) recently emphasised that it was primarily about pavement parking: "The practice that has been going on for decades has never been legal, but now it is being punished.“

As in other major cities in Germany, there is a huge shortage of parking spaces in Bonn. Which is not surprising given the current number of car registrations. The official Germany Atlas puts the number of 18 to 65-year-olds in Germany at 50.9 million, compared to the figure of 49.1 million passenger cars given by the Federal Motor Transport Authority for January 2024.

Parking on pavements: Generally permitted or prohibited?

But what does the German Road Traffic Act (StVO) actually say about parking on pavements? The rules do not seem entirely clear. According to the StVO, parking on pavements is not generally prohibited. However, this does not mean that there are no sanctions to be feared if you park your vehicle there. In principle, section 2, paragraph 1 of the StVO always applies, which states that vehicles must use the carriageway. Driving on pavements, which is almost impossible to avoid when parking, is therefore generally prohibited.

Where can you park?

As far as parking is concerned, paragraph 12, section 4, is particularly important. This states that the right-hand hard shoulder of the carriageway must be used for parking. As a rule, this also applies if you just want to stop; in any case, you must stay on the right-hand side of the carriageway. There are exceptions for taxis. If the traffic situation permits, they may allow passengers to get on or off alongside other vehicles that stop or park on the hard shoulder or on the right-hand side of the carriageway. This clause therefore generally excludes parking on the pavement.

What amount is due for parking offences?

According to the catalogue of fines, 55 Euros are due for an offence. If you obstruct another person or park for longer than an hour, the fine is 70 Euros and one point in Flensburg. If you park on the pavement for more than an hour and also obstruct someone else, you will be fined 80 Euros and one point. This also applies to surface parking if the vehicle is only half on the pavement.

When do exceptions apply?

Exceptions to this are regulated by corresponding traffic signs. Parking on pavements is permitted if there is a parking space marking on the pavement. The traffic sign "Parking on the pavement", which shows a car half standing on the pavement under a white P on a blue background, also indicates that parking on the pavement is permitted. The respective design of the sign can specify how vehicles are to park on the pavement.

The beginning and end of the parking zone are marked with white arrows. This traffic sign with the number 315 is one of the so-called guide signs. However, traffic sign 315 only allows vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of up to 2.8 tonnes to park on the pavement. This category includes not only lorries, but also heavy cars such as the VW Touareg, the Mercedes G-Class or the BMW i7. Vehicles may also not be parked over manhole covers and other closures.

The difference between stopping and parking

Stopping is a voluntary break in driving on the carriageway or hard shoulder that is not prompted by a traffic sign, traffic lights or the traffic situation. You may stop anywhere where this is not expressly prohibited. If you stop for longer than three minutes or leave your vehicle, this is considered parking. It is important to ensure that the stopping or parking bans are observed. So if you park your vehicle in a no-parking zone in order to rush to the bakery to get a bread roll, you may be penalised as a parking offender. You must also park in a space-saving manner and leave enough room to get in and out of the car and to manoeuvre.

Federal Administrative Court on pavement parking

Although the StVO prohibits parking on pavements as a matter of principle, many authorities have tolerated it up to now. At the beginning of June, the Federal Administrative Court (BVG) in Leipzig ruled on a complaint, according to which residents can now take action against this under certain circumstances. The background: five residents in Bremen no longer wanted to tolerate the situation on their doorstep and took their case to court back in 2016, initially without success. They are or were property owners in streets where many cars regularly park on pavements.

According to the BVG ruling, residents are entitled to have cities and local authorities check the situation on site if there is not enough space on the pavement in front of their own front door. However, the BVG states that the parked cars must significantly restrict the use of the pavement, and only then must cities and local authorities examine the situation. However, the judgement does not directly mandate cities and local authorities to take action. It would be sufficient, for example, if "the local authority prioritised the most affected streets with a concept", said Henning J. Bahr, a specialist lawyer for administrative law, to the German Press Agency.

Original text: Bernhard Hartmann/Translation: Mareike Graepel