Seattle considers fine for illegally moving scooters
The Seattle City Council is considering a $38 fine for anyone caught moving someone else's parked scooter.
Seattle Times staff reporter
To see where in Seattle you can find on-street scooter parking: http://web1.seattle.gov/seastats/doServices.aspx
To suggest where new scooter parking spaces should go: http:www.seattle.gov/council/clark/scooters.htm
Eric Zytowski is fairly certain people have moved his parked motor scooter while he's been inside a restaurant.
"You park your vehicle, you come back to it, and sometimes it seems like it's not exactly where you left it," he said.
It's an odd phenomenon, brought on by the rising popularity of scooters and the dwindling availability of parking spaces in Seattle. Moving a little 150-pound scooter just a few feet over to make room in a prime parking spot has proved too tempting for some desperate motorists, leaving scooters vulnerable to damage and undeserved tickets.
But the Seattle City Council may come to the rescue with a new law that would impose a $38 fine on anyone caught moving a scooter that isn't theirs.
The council's Transportation Committee approved the fine Tuesday, and the full council is expected to vote next Monday.
"If we are seeing that there are cases around the city that people are saying, 'That's cute that you have a scooter, but my car belongs there,' that's not OK," said Councilmember Sally Clark, who proposed the legislation.
The law — tricky to enforce because police would actually have to catch the person moving the scooter — is meant as a first step toward improving the parking situation for Seattle's growing scooter community.
With gas prices rocketing past $4 per gallon, the 60 to 100 miles that scooters get per gallon are attracting commuters who want a more economical alternative.
Nationally, the Motorcycle Industry Council reported a 66 percent increase in moped sales from January to June, compared to the same time period in 2007.
In King County, there were 1,118 new registrations of two-wheeled vehicles in June — up 33 percent from 841 last June.
More than 55,000 motorcycles and motor scooters are registered in King County, said Steve Stewart, who manages the motorcycle-safety program at the state Department of Licensing.
At Vespa Seattle, sales manager Steve Calvo said his store is one scooter away from being sold out and has a waiting list. Demand, he said, has outweighed supply for the past three months.
"We've never had this issue before," Calvo said.
As more people ditch their gas-guzzling vehicles in favor of scooters and motorcycles, their parking situation worsens, especially in more "scooterish" areas of town like Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, Clark said.
Susan Richardson, who owns a scooter-rental company and acts as an unofficial spokeswoman for the city's scooter-riding community, said her customers have noticed the disappearance of "nooks and crannies" where they used to park. Scooter owners are also complaining that motorists move or knock over their parked scooters, steal parking stickers from their headlamps or some combination of those offenses.
Zytowski unsuccessfully fought a parking citation after someone stole his parking sticker.
"It's pretty low," he said, "but it's a pretty easy crime."
Councilmember Tim Burgess drives a dark-blue Vespa from his Queen Anne home to City Hall.
"I've had people swipe my parking sticker off of my headlight," Burgess said. "That's happened to me now twice. But I've never had anybody pick up and move my scooter."
Burgess supports the law as well as other measures to make scooter parking easier.
Dan Nolte, an aide to Clark, said the Transportation Committee is talking with the city's transportation department about creating designated motorcycle and scooter parking spots, a quarterly parking pass instead of stealable street parking stickers and discounted street parking rates for scooters and motorcycles, which take up less space along the sidewalk.
In the meantime, Nolte said, the hands-off-the-scooter rule seemed a "no-brainer."
The proposed law would cover all motor vehicles, in case someone decides to move a Beetle or a SmartCar, but is mainly intended to protect scooter owners.
Seattle already has a law against moving someone else's vehicle to a spot where parking is prohibited, but the new legislation would penalize people who moved a vehicle at all, even within or to another legal parking spot.
It's a property issue, said motorcycle and scooter advocate Garrett Johnson, of the Cycle Barn Motorsports Group.
"Can you imagine if people got into unlocked cars, popped into neutral and rolled it away so they could take parking spots?" Johnson said.
Noelene Clark: 206-464-2321 or email@example.com
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