Should the Iowa City City Council approve a plan to revamp moped parking?


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Mopeds are not cars — left in a street parking spot, they sit isolated in a wide swath of asphalt — but they aren’t bikes, either: Their frequent tethering to bike racks dominates the space, enough that the Iowa City City Council will debate a measure this evening to curtail their parking.

The measure would bar moped riders from parking at bike racks, institute a $50 parking fee for all moped and motorcycle users, and establish 93 parking spots around the city — effectively enshrining mopeds (and motorcycles) as a distinct class of vehicle. We can’t continue to cultivate an ambiguous position for mopeds in the vehicle hierarchy, and this would benefit all forms of traffic in Iowa City.

Moped use is on the rise; high gas prices and efficiency have created a greater demand, met in part by the new MopedU moped-rental service. When classes are in session, many bike racks are overcrowded by mopeds and inaccessible to bikers. The city, which has frequently expressed a commitment to encouraging bike use, is in a bind: how to accommodate the rise in the number of mopeds while maintaining the bike-friendly, pedestrian-friendly culture of Iowa City?

Requiring riders to obtain a parking permit — and creating spaces scattered across the city — is a good way to go.

I admit, I am a little uncomfortable with the cost of the permits. The City Council needs to justify this charge; if $45 per person is the amount required to build the moped parking zones, then the cost is understandable, but if the city is simply trying to gain revenue from a existing behavior, then the permits should be cheaper or free.

The new moped regulations will help owners. Often, the uncertainty about how exactly to behave when parking a moped can lead to an expensive ticket or high towing costs. With the new moped parking areas, moped owners will have a clear place to leave their vehicles.

And throughout the course of one year, $45 isn’t terrible. Compare it with the cost of plugging meters, and the moped parking areas won’t change the fact that it’s easier to find a parking space in a moped than a car. On balance, the overall benefits of the moped parking areas outweigh the inconveniences of having to buy a permit.

Tonight’s council vote is the first of three required. I hope the councilors all approve the measure.

— Will Mattessich


Mopeds are economical and environmentally friendly for everyone, so why are city officials now trying to discourage moped use?

The City Council is deliberating a permit-type system for mopeds similar to the University of Iowa’s current system. With the permit, riders would be able to park at an estimated 93 parking stalls throughout the city, instead of using city bike racks, sidewalks, or metered parking spaces.

However, the exact locations of the estimated parking stalls are yet to be determined — and this is where the problem begins.

Ninety-three parking stalls spread throughout the city is pretty vague language. Do officials mean the entire city, or do they mean downtown? If the language is meant to encompass the entire city, then that’s too much ground to cover with only 93 spaces. If they are only referencing downtown, then where do they propose to put these stalls? The city needs to have a definitive blueprint before the establishment of a permit system.

Even then, the city needs a plan on how to regulate and guarantee available spaces. If its system will resemble the university system in any way, then the issue of availability arises. Many university moped lots are overcrowded. The popularity of some lots over others creates overcrowding and ticketing issues. Unlike bike racks, where bikes can be chained and piled upon one another, mopeds must stay in their own stall. But sometimes the occupied stalls are filled with mopeds without permits, and permit holders are denied a spot. If they double up or park next to a stall, they are then issued a ticket. This would occur at downtown moped lots also — creating revenue but penalizing law-abiding moped users.

Additionally, the payment system would be unfair. UI students would be forced to pay for a university permit and a city permit. Riders who generally stay out of downtown but occasionally need to park there because of an appointment or what have you would be forced to pay for only a few visits. Overall, the proposed system is flawed and needs serious rethinking before it should be considered by the council.

— Emily Inman

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