Iowa City could do away with free moped parking


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Bicyclists may soon be able to reclaim downtown bike racks and sidewalks in Iowa City.

Tonight, the Iowa City City Council will vote on whether to establish moped parking permits and fees for the small vehicles that some say are plaguing downtown.

“I’ll vote in favor of [new moped parking],” Councilor Mike Wright said. “It’s frustrating to see two mopeds take up a bike rack. I notice it more because I am a bicyclist.”

In response to complaints of mopeds overcrowding bike racks, Chris O’Brien, the director of Iowa City Transportation Services, along with John Yapp, the city’s transportation planner, prepared a proposal for the City Council to review.

The letter outlined several options the council will have a chance to discuss tonight, with one possibility being requiring permits for selected parking areas around downtown. Another option O’Brien and Yapp presented is free two-hour parking in these areas instead of permits.

Both solutions would cost the city about $1,000 to stripe the new parking areas.

A third solution could require using metered parking, which would cost $50 to provide informational stickers at bike racks.

Todd Becker, 20, who uses his moped every day for convenience and to save gas, is wary of the possible changes.

“I feel like the main perk of having a moped is that you can park for free,” the University of Iowa junior said. “It’s a quick and efficient way to run on your own schedule.

UI Student Government City Council student liaison Raj Patel feels strongly about the future of the situation, as well.

“Mopeds are a mode of transportation for, if not hundreds, then thousands of students on campus,” Patel said. “I think it is important to promote because they are economical and green.”

The last option is “leaving [the situation] as is”, said Councilor Terry Dickens.

“I think that if we start committing [moped users] to putting [their mopeds] in certain areas, people will be less likely to use them,” he said. “The only reason I would change it, is to add more bicycle racks.”

Bryan Ilg, a co-owner of MopedU, said he has concerns about the future of mopeds in downtown Iowa City.

“I think it would create a terrible situation for parking,” he said about possibly requiring mopeds to park in metered areas. “That would be pretty miserable for everybody.”

But if permits were required, MopedU would provide it with its rentals, said the former UI student. Semiannual or annual permits would be required for all moped and motorcycle owners to use the proposed on-street location, costing $25 and $50, respectively.

“I personally think that mopeds parked in bike racks aren’t that big of an issue right now,” Ilg said, adding that the business tries to provide a “no hassle environment”.

Transportation officials recommend “implementing permit parking areas for mopeds/motorcycles,” according to the proposal.

“I could see a permit system working positively to promote moped use, if we work with the university and if the lots are centrally located and close to campus,” Patel said.

Approximately 93 parking spaces would be created, according to the proposal, with possible expansion over time if needed. Parking between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. would be prohibited for all motorists and would apply to the new permit areas, carrying a $15 fine for each violation.

Mopeds and motorcycles will still be allowed to park at metered spaces and in paid parking areas, but with the existing free parking converted and expanded to permit parking only.

If the council votes in favor of the suggestions, transportation officials said, they hope to apply the project done before the fall semester. Two additional votes on the ordinance will be needed.

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