My office just moved to a new building last month. Our old location had motorcycle parking in the garage, right by the building entrance – a pretty sweet deal. My new office comes with a window and a view of green space, but the motorcycle parking is at the far end of an exposed parking lot in a less-awesome neighborhood, and there’s very little space available. Two of my colleagues also ride to work, and together we hatched a plan to sneakily take over the “sidewalk to nowhere” in front of our windows and use it to park our bikes. I figured the Vespa would get away with it, being a scooter. Sometimes it confuses people into thinking it has special rules. But what about the Ducati sportbike and the Honda cruiser that obviously don’t belong on a sidewalk? We’ve gotten a lot of double-takes at our makeshift lot, but no tickets yet.

Parked on the sidewalk to nowhere.

The other impetus behind our protest parking, besides convenience, is the foolish parking rule that requires us to purchase stickers for our bikes in order to park in these lots. This purchase is above and beyond what we have to pay each month to have the hangtags in our cars. I could, in theory, take my hangtag and use it in any car I choose to drive to work and I’d be okay. But to ride the scooter I have to pay more? I hate paying more for something when I get no additional value. I still take up just one space (or in this case, a chunk of sidewalk no one was using anyway).

The university where I work has been making a huge push for greener everything in recent years. We even have an Office of Sustainability with its own Assistant Vice Chancellor, that’s how focused the efforts are. So when the Parking Services people brushed off our complaints, I decided the OoS might ally with us in the name of supporting more eco-friendly transportation. I’m not what you would call a natural activist – I could count on one hand the number of times I have contacted a lawmaker in the last year – but I am a fan of the artfully-crafted argument. I sent this email to their general mailbox and BCC’d my riding buddies:

Did you know that those of us who commute on motorcycles or scooters (>49cc) are required to pay an additional parking fee ABOVE what we already pay to park our cars at work? Commuting on my Vespa is a lot more environmentally friendly than commuting in a big SUV, yet those of us who choose this option are required to pay MORE to do so. It doesn’t make sense that I could move my hangtag parking pass to any vehicle I choose to drive, but if I want to use my parking privileges with my scooter I suddenly have to pay more. It’s not like I can use them both at the same time. And right now at the end of the fiscal year, when the extra motorcycle tag still costs $20 and expires in a few weeks, what’s the point? I could buy three and a half tanks of gas with that $20.

It would be very helpful if the Office of Sustainability could take up this case for those of us who ride motorcycles and scooters. The parking office seems to just say “this is how it is” and not really care, but I hope that since a greener commute is in line with your ethos, you might consider this small but important gesture to the two-wheeled riders of the university.

Thank you.

This is my English degree at work: I used “ethos” in a sentence.

I wasn’t really expecting much of a response since I just sent it to the general inbox – something along the lines of “Ah, yes, very good, we shall see.” While I was pleasantly surprised to get anything back from them at all, I was not too thrilled about the fact that the author clearly missed my point.

Thank you for reaching out.  We appreciate your commitment to more sustainable forms of transportation.

The main reasons there are different stickers for motorcycles are:

  • By selling a specific tag for a motorcycle, it helps the university understand the volume of motorcycles coming onto campus and allows us to make sure there are enough motorcycle parking spaces.  If there wasn’t a separate tag, we would have no way of knowing what the real need is for parking them.
  • Second, if you were to put your vehicle hang tag on your motorcycle, there is a strong possibility someone may be tempted to “borrow” it.  By issuing a sticker specific for motorcycles we eliminate that risk.

I understand that now the weather is warm you are probably ready to spend more time on your Vespa.  You are correct, because permits are now aligned with the FY a permit purchased now would only be good for June, and you would need to purchase another on July 1.  If you wait until July 1, your $18 permit will be good through June 30, 2018.  So, you will be ready to go for next June! 

I am copying in the AVC for Sustainability who may have more insight on how these policies came into place.

I feel like some comprehension is lacking here. Ma’am, I didn’t ask you why I need a sticker. I don’t care about having the sticker. I care about paying for it. And I made sure that the AVC was also copied on my reply:

Thank you for the reply. I do appreciate that the university needs to be aware of who needs motorcycle parking, and the need for a sticker versus a hangtag to prevent theft. What I take issue with is the fact that we have to pay an additional fee to acquire this sticker, when we are already paying for the parking privilege that comes with the hangtag. I could, in theory, use my hangtag in my own car or a rental, and I wouldn’t pay an extra cent. Charging for the sticker is effectively charging me to ride my Vespa instead of drive my car. It’s a fee levied on my choice of a more environmentally-responsible mode of transportation. That’s the part I hope we can look at changing. Motorcycle/scooter parking stickers should be offered without charge to members of the university community who pay for parking passes.

Is it a pretty paltry sum? Sure it is. A minor annoyance? I suppose so. Will anything come of my argument? Likely not. But I’m glad I said something instead of griping to the walls. The principle of it is infuriating enough that none of my coworkers, nor I, have purchased the darn sticker because we all pay for parking already. If I park my scooter on the lot without a pass, I could get a ticket – the kind that they’ll conveniently take right out of my paycheck if I try to avoid the fine. Our building is also home to the Parking and Transportation Office, so their ticket-writers wander the lot all day. I may as well take the same risk and park without the sticker at my own window where I can watch the passers-by coo over how pretty my scoot is.