Stu Bykofsky: For ticketed scooter riders, it's a vicious cycle

Rick Slowicki and other scooter and motorcycle riders say they're being plagued by parking tickets in Philadelphia because of confusing and contradictory regulations. (Jonathan Yu/File) , sitting on his Vespa in a designated scooter parking zone, is riled by scooter-parking inconsistencies.
Rick Slowicki and other scooter and motorcycle riders say they're being plagued by parking tickets in Philadelphia because of confusing and contradictory regulations. (Jonathan Yu/File) , sitting on his Vespa in a designated scooter parking zone, is riled by scooter-parking inconsistencies. (Lissa Atkins)
Posted: August 05, 2010

IF RACKING UP parking tickets were a competition, Jennifer Welsh would be a medalist.

She marched into the city-run Bureau of Adjudication on July 26 with 10 tickets - unearned, she says, claiming that the state-appointed Philadelphia Parking Authority finds novel and perplexing ways to ticket, at $76 a pop, her baby-blue Vespa 150cc scooter.

She says she never even got seven of the tickets, which might have blown away or been snatched by a mischievous passer-by. It's hard to tell.

The examiner vacated two of the tickets but fined her $600 for the rest, which had a face value of $860, a total of fines plus late fees, which were dismissed.

Welsh showed me contradictory tickets, both written at the same place - 7th and Walnut. She was ticketed last Nov. 11 for not using the bike rack, then was cracked for $76 on July 21 for using the bike rack. (PPA spokeswoman Linda Miller tells me that using a bike rack is legal.)

Two days after her adjudication appearance, the 28-year-old South Philly lawyer was ticketed in the same place again for using a bike rack. The ticket was marked "repeat offender."

Repeat offender?

That term was new to Miller, who doubts that parking-enforcement officers could write that on handheld, ticket-spewing computers.

Good point - that gem may have been written by a Philly cop, which complicates the problem. Some tickets are written by parking-enforcement officers (PEOs), some by cops and perhaps some by Darth Vader.

Miller knows there is confusion in a pilot program launched in November that created metered spots for motorcycles and scooters.

Meanwhile, Welsh and other motorists are harassed for using vehicles that are easier on the environment than a car.

In June, I wrote about Rick Slowicki, who also racked up unearned tickets and talked about mass confusion among PEOs.

Jeweler Rena Vander Heide, 62, has been scooting around Center City on her Buddy 50cc since February 2007. In the early going it was fine, but lately she's become a ticket magnet, including some for parking legally at bike racks.

"The problems seem to be a lack of communication and consistency on the part of PPA enforcement," says Vander Heide, who lives in Bella Vista.

Edde Mendes agrees. The 37-year-old Mantua resident, a founder of the Motorcycle & Scooter Coalition of Philadelphia, has been meeting with various city and PPA functionaries for years to get the enormous ball of yarn untangled. He has received empathy but no relief, even though the number of motorcycle/scooter riders has doubled in the past decade.

Mendes, a finance director for a health-care information-services firm, rides a 1993 BMW K75 and says that most motorcycle/scooter drivers are young professionals who enjoy the fun and inexpensive two-wheeled transportation, but the blizzard of tickets is neither cheap nor fun.

Since it got squat from the city, the coalition is working with private garages to offer discounted parking. "We . . . are not necessarily looking for a free lunch, but a fair shake," he says. "Private facilities are much more receptive, which makes me wonder what on earth are my taxpayer dollars accomplishing?"

Confusion over parking rules exist even in the "official" PPA policy that starts off by saying "Pennsylvania law prohibits" scooters from parking on sidewalks. It is "prohibited," yet permitted?

Outside the area bounded by Arch (or is it the Parkway?) and Locust, from Broad (or is it 12th?) to 20th, motorcycles and scooters may park on the sidewalk, with the OK of the property owner and within the building line.

I inserted the parenthetical questions above because PPA material has it both ways.

Within the zone described above, they must park only in metered spaces and on only about a dozen streets. Outside that zone, they can use the sidewalk.

Don't worry if you can't understand it.

Who can?

If representatives of the PPA, police, the mayor's office of transportation and the Motorcycle & Scooter Coalition sat down - taking a lead from President Obama - I think they could thrash it out over beers in one afternoon.

Until then, there ought to be a moratorium on ticketing scooters and motorcycles because the parking rules are as muddy as the Mississippi Delta.

E-mail stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. For recent columns:

http://go.philly.com/byko.

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