This is a letter I sent to Chicago Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Gerald J. Roper. Matt Siegel informed us that Mr. Roper will soon be meeting with the regional sales manager for Aprilia Scooters and the Chief of the City of Chicago Department of Transportation. 2sb assumes Aprilia is investigating the matter as they plan their boutique at Marshall Fields.
My name is Bryan Bedell. I live on the west side of Chicago and publish a website called 2strokeBuzz.com about scootering. I get a couple thousand visitors a month, the majority from Chicagoland. I’ve been riding scooters in Chicago for several years, and I’ve also organized and participated in many scooter rallies and rides here.
I was very excited to hear from Matt Siegel that you would soon be meeting with the city regarding scooter parking, I would love to attend the event if possible, as an observer, so that I can report the results on my site. I’d also be happy to talk to you anytime regarding scootering and motorcycling in Chicago.
As you probably know, motorscooter sales have been increasing steadily over the last several years. As a scooterist, I’ve noticed probably ten times as many motorscooters on the road in Chicago compared to five years ago.
In 1997, there were only four or five models of motorscooters available in the United States, made by Honda and Yamaha and infrequently sold at motorcycle dealers. Today, Honda and Yamaha sell several successful new scooter models and are often advertising scooters more prominently than motorcycles. Also, three or four scooter-only dealerships have opened, selling dozens of models of scooters unavailable in the United States until recently. Many online retailers also make it easy to have a scooter delivered to your door.
These new scooters generally get excellent (60mpg+) gas mileage and minimal emissions, and even smaller (50cc) models incorporate technology found in top-of-the line ultramodern motorcycles. They are fairly simple to ride (most have automatic transmission), and a great way to commute or otherwise get around the city.
State and local laws are currently somewhat vague, and enforcement is inconsistent regarding parking 50cc automatic scooters, scooterists believe they fit into the “moped” class and thus require no license and may be parked on the sidewalk. While this is a big sales point of scooters, I have heard dozens of 50cc automatic riders complain that the police have ticketed them for parking in spaces where a moped could legally be parked.
If these scooters are not considered mopeds by the law, someone needs to make that clear to the dealers, who have been ordering moped plates for 50cc scooters and telling consumers that they can park their new scooter “anywhere” when it’s clearly not the case. One local dealer went so far as to make laminated signs outlining the moped laws for the rider to place on their vehicles. These signs appear to have been ignored by most police and traffic enforcement officials. Riders who contest these tickets have generally been successful, but contesting sometimes takes months and doesn’t always result in cancellation of the ticket. Further confusing the issue is the proliferation of electric-powered scooters and bicycles and laws banning gas- and electric-powered pushscooters in many areas.
As I see it, the issue of scooter parking in the city is not limited to scooters, but motorcycles as well. Motorscooterists and motorcylists follow the same laws as cars, hold insurance, and buy plates and city stickers, so it seems unfair that little effort has been put forth to accomodate motorcycles or scooters downtown. Even if the 50cc-parking question is resolved overnight, there are many larger scooters and motorcycles that would not benefit from the moped law.
There is virtually nowhere in the Loop or River North to park a motorcycle or scooter legally. Private garages and spaces rarely allow motorcycles (Most will tell you they are forbidden by law). Sharing a space (or parking alone in a space then being joined later by other motorcycles) is illegal. Parking outside a designated space or between cars is illegal. Some of my friends have even complained about getting tickets while parked in a private driveway or sidewalk.
Some solution suggestions:
- Educate the police, scooter dealers, and consumers about the realities of parking in the city. This could perhaps be accomplished by a group of people dechipering the laws and publishing a handbill available from dealers and distributed to police and parking enforcement. This may be a pipe dream, but everyone seems unclear on the laws, and interpretation is often a mystery, and that’s not a good thing.
- Create scooter/motorcycle parking areas in the loop or river north. One solution would be a series of small islands, maybe under L tracks or on traffic islands, with marked spaces for scooters and motorcyles with posts for locking. Many scooterists are rightfully nervous about parking in a metered space because scooters are light and easily lifted into a truck by a couple people. It’s essential to lock the scooter TO something.
- Examine the possibility of private motorcycle and scooter parking. Most people I’ve talked to would be willing to pay to park, but can’t even find a lot or garage that will accept motorcycles or scooters. Those that do generally charge them the same rate as a car and then give them unused space in a corner of a lot. If there’s anything that can be done to remove liablity or safety issues, these lot operators could designate two-wheeled parking in part of their garage and charge half the price of a car for a third of the space. Someone operating a motorcycle-only garage in the Loop would certainly do well if it was conveniently located and well-publicized.
- Another idea is a gated and monitored lot outside the loop, maybe near the city tow yard on the west side, or a series of such lots, near public transportation into the Loop. This would relieve congestion downtown, while increasing access to public transportation.
- Encourage employers who offer parking benefits to their employees to extend these benefits to motorcycles and scooters. Employees with free parking tend to drive, if more of them rode scooters or motorcycles, it would cut down on car traffic.
- Create a citywide pro-motorcycle and -scooter campaign, similar to Mayor Daley’s bicycle campaign. We often joke that if someone would just buy Mayor Daley a motorcycle, there would be free parking on every street. He’s brought many successful ideas back from his trips to Europe, I’m surprised this isn’t one of them. In Europe, scooters and motorcycles are everywhere, and there’s parking to accomodate them. Motorcycle and scooter couriers are popular, and have a wider range and faster service than bike couriers. Millions of commuters ride to work each day.
These ideas may all be naive, but I’m glad you took the time to listen, and I appreciate your interest and your involvement. As I said before, I’d be thrilled to get involved in any way I may be of use.
Thanks again for your help,