Should scooters and mopeds get a sidewalk parking pass?

Posted at 12:22 AM, Jun 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-07 16:02:04-04

RICHMOND, VA. (WTVR)—Do you have a scooter? Have you been getting ticketed for parking?

A lot of riders want to park them off the street, onto a sidewalk, where they won’t get hit and they have something to lock their rides to, like a sign or utility pole.

But now Richmond police are writing tickets for that.

“It’s not the same a four-wheeled vehicle” when it comes to theft, says Chelsea Lahmers, owner of Scoot Richmond. “You can just pick one up and put it in the back of a truck.”

Armed with city code Section 102-222, some Richmond officers are ticketing scooters parked on sidewalks.

But since there isn’t a windshield or a wiper to hold the ticket, they can just blow away.

One rider we spoke with went to court for one ticket and found he had another on file. He said he successfully fought both of them, telling the judge there’s nothing to lock his scooter to on the street.

There’s been a crazy rash of scooter thefts. Even the police recommend you lock them.

Virginia Commonwealth University provides sidewalk space for scooters.

Like so many riders, Kaitlin Luck doesn’t trust motorists enough to leave it on the street outside of her West Main Street residence.

“I don’t want a car to hit it,” she said. “So I think it’s better on the sidewalk. Definitely.”

Lahmers recalls parking her scooter on the street outside of downtown bank. “I came out and the bike was on its side. They just backed into it and left it there.”

Richmond police spokeswoman Karla Peters tells me it’s up to the officer’s discretion whether to write a ticket or a warning. She was not aware if scooters under 50ccs are considered motor vehicles under city code, since they require no drivers license or tag to operate.

There’s plenty of grey area when it comes to scooters and mopeds.

“The law states that a motor vehicle cannot park on the sidewalk,” Lahmers explained. “And the motor vehicle is defined as being a vehicle that has a license plate. Which means that, technically speaking, a moped, scooter that has an engine less than 50ccs is not considered a motorcycle, it does not have a license plate, in theory, it’s okay to park on the sidewalk.”

Lahmers says it’s important to park where it’s not blocking foot traffic or anywhere else where it’s in the way. And it’s not good to tempt fate by chaining your scooter to a no-parking sign. “Obviously, you have to use common sense.”

In a cruel twist of fate, police recommend you license even the little scooters to help police catch thieves. But that opens you up for a ticket, since they now have a name and address with which to write a citation.

There are many who believe scooters and mopeds should get special sidewalk treatment - like bicycles - because they don’t pollute and can get 100 miles to the gallon or more. And since you’re risking your neck to be more efficient and take up less space – you should be able to park where you live or work or play.

There are even those of us who believe motorcycles should get the same pass.

This is the latest example of unexpected parking enforcement that has left many scratching their heads.

Last week, the owner of The Camel nightspot was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice for trying to give his customers time to move their cars when police were ticketing them under an anti-cruising ordinance that hadn’t been enforced in a decade.

Parking regulations in some areas of the city, the lower Fan for example, are complicated and so punitive for visitors, some residents are afraid to invite their friends over.

And just when people are flocking to a revitalized city, ticketing and towing seems to be more aggressive.

During last Sunday’s very successful Broad Appetit event, for example, 19 tickets were issued and 17 vehicles were towed, police reported in response to a request for information from CBS 6.  
Parking enforcement netted the city about $3.9 million dollars last year. And there are important safety and fairness issues involved in that enforcement.

But how much revenue – and good will – does the city lose?