Like a bumper sticker-coated car, the moped is a common sight on Madison streets.
But for some local lawmakers, the vehicle’s prevalence in pedestrian rights-of-way has created safety, equity and aesthetic concerns, prompting a proposal to ban moped parking on Madison sidewalks and terraces.
“We have terraces, and we create those terraces, presumably, to have that available public space, whether it be for trees, grass or whatever,” said Ald. Ledell Zellers, 2nd District, the proposal’s lead sponsor. “What we end up with in some cases is a wall of mopeds.”
But opponents say the plan undercuts the purpose of owning easily maneuverable mopeds and would add to the squeeze for on-street parking in the city’s core.
The plan is poised to go to the City Council on Aug. 1 and, if approved, would take effect on Jan. 1. A violation would result in a $60 ticket.
Drivers looking to park their mopeds would need to find private space, on-street spots, public parking garages or designated moped parking areas, and the proposal lays out how these areas can be established.
Randy Knudson, who has owned Scooter Therapy on the Near East Side for 26 years, said the advantage of owning a moped is how it can be easily parked.
“The vast majority of people who come in here are looking for something they can park like a bicycle,” he said. “If you have to park it like a car, it negates the main reason people get them.”
City ordinances currently let people park mopeds on terraces and sidewalks as long as the vehicle isn’t impeding pedestrian traffic, the same as bicycles. A 2011 state law, though, lets municipalities regulate mopeds as motorcycles and create parking rules, which is what the proposal intends to do.
Building and business owners would be allowed to create designated moped parking areas, pending city approval. They could only be on paved sidewalks and terraces and could not interfere with or obstruct pedestrian travel, bus stops, loading zones, access to on-street parking or visibility for on-street traffic.
Anyone could use them free of charge.
A previous version only allowed for parking areas in a contained set of streets near the UW-Madison campus. But the plan was revised, allowing parking areas in five zoning districts that include parts of Monroe and Regent streets, East Washington Avenue and the Downtown core.
Zellers said the change was made after the Transit and Parking Commission raised concerns in May that the original idea was “a little bit complicated and too focused.”
Earlier this month, the commission approved the revised plan 5-3.
One of the opponents at the meeting, Ald. David Ahrens, 15th District, argued the restrictions should not apply to the city as a whole.
“Shrunken to the area of concern, it might make some sense, but approached as a whole city-wide effort, to me, it’s overkill,” he said.
Zellers said the “same levels of essentially protection” should be throughout Madison.
“I can’t figure out why we wouldn’t want to do it city-wide,” she said. “If somebody lives outside the central city and say there’s a big party or something, would they want somebody to park their moped on their terrace?”
The proposal has gained the support of Ald. Zach Wood, who represents the campus; Ald. Mike Verveer, whose district is the core of Downtown; Ald. Rebecca Kemble; and Mayor Paul Soglin.
Wood said he’s heard both support and opposition to the change from his constituents.
“It’s a long-standing concern on campus about both safety for pedestrians and concerns about a lack of bicycle parking, often times taken up by mopeds,” he said.
Haley Showalter, a junior at UW-Madison, said she understands restricting parking on grass terraces to protect them, but disagrees with barring mopeds from paved terrace and sidewalk space if there is room.
David Dryer, the city’s traffic engineer, said state Division of Motor Vehicles records show about 2,000 mopeds registered in Madison. But he said the actual number in the city could be higher based on students who bring mopeds from their hometowns.
The city has 48 motorcycle/moped parking spots in seven parking garages or lots in the Downtown area, while the university and private developers offer space as well.
Tyler Brandt, a university senior studying political science, called parking in the city a “commodity,” which is one of the main reasons he drives his moped when he can instead of his car.
“It’s kind of ridiculous, because it’s hard enough to get around the city as a student,” he said.
“The vast majority of people who come in here are looking for something they can park like a bicycle. If you have to park it like a car, it negates the main reason people get them.” Randy Knudson, owner of Scooter Therapy