Parking mopeds in purgatory

BY EMILY INMAN | APRIL 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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At Van Allen Hall, vehicles overwhelmingly crowd the available parking. Mopeds are piled upon one another, falling to the side like dominoes at the slightest movement. Many of these vehicles don’t have the proper licenses, and even responsible, permitted riders have to squeeze just to fit inside the white spray-painted trapezoid along the building.

The city of Iowa City is considering creating specific parking spaces and/or lots for mopeds. The impetus for a renewed discussion was numerous complaints by bicyclists, who often find their racks occupied by mopeds. As of yet, there hasn’t been any official plan of action on the city’s part. From the moped riders’ perspective, however, both the University of Iowa and the city need to do more to ensure satisfactory moped parking.

On any given day, moped parking lots at Van Allen, the Main Library, Currier, and Kinnick Stadium are all full. The spots are designated by white paint and a sign that clearly states they are for UI motorcycle-permit parking only. But this doesn’t stop those without UI permits from using the parking spaces. Then, riders such as me, who pay for permits, are left circling campus with nowhere to park.

One day, I parked at the corner of the Van Allen moped trapezoid. The front half of my moped was inside the designated area and, unknown to me at the time, my back wheel was outside. When I returned from class, I had a ticket for something like “improper use of a parking spot.” But the moped parked directly next to me, without a permit, didn’t receive a ticket.

I guess I was technically parked illegally, but I would have had room enough to park if it had not been for the illegal moped next to me.

Some days, the overcrowded parking causes riders to have to park at lots several blocks away from work or school. Other days, the riders have to return the moped home and head out again on foot, because there just aren’t any open spots.

Sometimes, I even wonder if the UI issues more permits than there are available spots.

During our period of inconsistent warm and cool weather last month, more than half of the moped lot at Kinnick Stadium was covered in snow left there by a careless plowing job. Instead of moving the snow to an appropriate, out-of-the way location, the snow was just dumped over the moped lot — kind of like when a drunken sorority member vomits on a Clinton Street sidewalk and no one bothers to clean it up. Then, it warmed enough for moped driving weather, but only a handful of spots were available at the Kinnick lot. And nothing was done about the pile of snow and ice. It remained that way until the last bit melted away.

I paid for my permit, and I have a right to use the lots — all of the lots.

It’s a great idea for the city to designate and make available moped lots. But the city only has limited space available in accessible downtown locations. The UI also needs to start thinking about expanding its moped lots. There is room near the current Main Library lot; officials could even put in a new lot behind the IMU.

There is also room in front of Van Allen. All officials would have to do is get rid of the ugly grassy area out front where the hippies hang out and women let their dogs poop — a few slabs of cement, some white paint, a seemingly pointless placard, and there you go.

Speaking of pointless placards, the UI should also look into ways of regulating the moped parking by ways other than the current UI Parking and Transportation employees. The school could install a gate system with a key card or a meter-type system with key cards for permit holders.

But project planning isn’t my job.

The UI needs to pay attention to the growing number of moped riders and current limited parking. While the city has good intentions, the campus still remains central to the issue. But the city and the university could come to some sort of consensus regarding parking planning issues — at least starting the moped issue. Until then, the university shouldn’t lag behind the city.

The UI needs to address the moped boom and begin development projects this summer.

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