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SLU Claims Ownership of Grand Sidewalk

March 31, 2006 Bicycling, Midtown, Parking, Scooters 18 Comments

Scooter at Dubourg HallToday I attended the ULI Competition presentations at Saint Louis University. Being such a nice day (although windy) I decided to take my scooter. Plus, I knew parking would be an issue so why not ease the issue with the compact scooter?

During the lunch break I walked to Nadoz at the Coronado. Finally at nearly 3pm it was time to leave (I’ll tell you the winner in a separate post). What do I find on my scooter? An orange “tow warning” from SLU’s Parking and Card Services which read:

“You have parked on Saint Louis University property and violated the Parking Policies and Procedures Regulation as checked below:”

Within the “other” section they wrote in “parking on sidewalk.”

While inside I had chained my scooter to the sign post at the curb — the only place I could find in the vicinity of Dubourg Hall on Grand. I went inside for hours knowing my scooter was most likely safe from theft as well as not blocking the public sidewalk.

Scooter at Dubourg HallBut is it really a “public” sidewalk. I called the phone number on the card, 314-977-2957. The woman on the end said that the sidwalk along Grand is SLU property and they control it. As such, I was not permitted to park my tiny little 49cc scooter on their sidewalk. instead, I am supposed to get a visitor parking permit and parking in a regular parking space in one of their numerous garages or surface lots.

In reviewing SLU’s parking information online a couple of things become clear:

  • St. Louis’s most “urban” campus focuses on cars. I found no reference to bicycle parking or suggestions to visitors to save on parking hassles by taking the bus and/or MetroLink.
  • They do not distinguish between a tiny moped that is easily carried away and a full-size motorcycle.
  • Bicycle parking is limited, I actually saw none today while I walked through the campus to lunch. I’ll have to go back to see how much they do have.
  • But who exactly has authority over the sidewalk? If I had parked my scooter within the inner campus I’d certainly see where they have control. But the sidewalk along a public street — Grand Blvd?

    Is this sidewalk truly public?

    – Steve


    Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

    1. Scott K says:

      The sidewalk is typically a public right of way – because it is within an easement. However the property owner is responsible for maintaining the easement. I know technically in St. Charles County, that you can’t block the right of way with a car. A scooter… That is a good question for a legal scholar. Perhaps you should e-mail one of the law professors at SLU.

    2. Midtown Molly says:

      The sidewalk belongs to you, no matter what Larry Biondi, Vince Schoemehl or Mike McMillan may tell you. The last I checked we did not live in a theocracy!

    3. Becker says:

      Silly theocracy comments aside:

      I don’t know (and doubt) if legally SLU can claim the sidewalk or street as their property. It may be that they feel if they own all of the property on both sides of the street (they do) that the sidewalk is then theirs. That has been the policy of the city in regards to SLU in the cases of Laclede from Compton to Grand and Spring.

      During my time at SLU it did also appear that the university had some legal authority over on-street parking throughout the campus, including Laclede and Olive.

      [REPLY – It is not uncommon for a municipality to grant the right for an adjacent institutional use to meter and control on-street parking spaces. But, I’ve never heard of a city giving up control of sidewalks. – SLP]

    4. Jim Zavist says:

      Steve – You’re only about 10% right on this one . . . I doubt SLU “owns” the sidewalk or should be able to give you a ticket. Then again, what are they going to do if you don’t pay? Withhold your grades?!

      Bigger picture, no matter how small or cute your scooter may be, it’s still a motor vehicle powered by an internal-combustion engine, and no more belongs parked on the sidewalk than a UPS delivery truck or a Harley or an automobile! Sidewalks are for pedestrians (and possibly parking, but not riding, bicycles). If SLU hadn’t ticketed you, the city should have. Multiply what you did by 8, 10 or 12 on the same block and you get the chaos of many european cities. There’s on-street parking available, as well as parking lots. Use them, and leave the sidewalks for people walking!

      Even bigger picture – A few posts back you were looking for the city to come down hard on someone who put in (god forbid!) vinyl windows in his home in a historic district. Why is this any different? Are the tickets you receive any less valid? Is there a double standard at work here? Sure, no one likes getting busted by the man, but we’re all human and we all make mistakes. If you break the law, you should be prepared to pay the price . . .

      [REPLY – The next comment did a pretty good job of responding to your points. Actually, I thought this would be brought up much sooner. In terms of the difference between this and vinyl windows: my scooter adds much needed street life whereas the windows detract from historic character. Big difference.

      My scooter on the sidewalk illustrates a lack of consideration for various modes of transportation besides the car. At SLU it is expected a motorcycle (Harley or otherwise) is supposed to occupy a vehicle space. How efficient is that? Why not have spaces designated for motorcycles as in other cities. Especially around a campus. But no, Biondi has managed to sterilize this area to the point of sucking any life out of it. They’ve managed to keep the sidewalks free of bicycles, scooters and pedestrians. I would love for our city to be overrun by too many bicycles and scooters on the sidewalks. To have so many pedestrians crowding the sidewalks that us scooter riders don’t feel like we can take even a small sliver. I hope we get to that problem someday.

      I have parked on the street before but mostly when next to other scooters or motorcycles. And only when many eyes are watching the scooter to prevent theft. You see, my vehicle, unlike a UPS truck or Harley, is easily lifted by two people. I must chain it to something significant when it is not being watched. – SLP]

    5. jefferson says:

      surely we can distinguish between chaining a bicycle or small scooter on the sidewalk and a UPS truck or Harley. As long as it’s not blocking the flow of pedestrians (I see very few in the picture above) I don’t see a problem here. If the law doesn’t allow this, it needs to be amended. If it gets to the point where there are 200 bikes/scooters on the sidewalk and people can’t get by – “chaos” as Jim says – then you revisit the law and come up with a new solution. But c’mon, one little scooter on the sidewalk, this shouldn’t be an issue.

    6. dutchtowner says:

      As someone else posted, maybe the city should have ticketed you instead — but there is no question that you should have been ticketed.

      You wrote, “my scooter adds much needed street life…”

      Your parked scooter adds nothing, except an obstacle on the sidewalk. You may think the mere presence of this affectation chained to a sign post creates a vibrant urbanist shangri-la, but it doesn’t.

      You are in DuBourg Hall for hours, so are the people who drove cars and parked in nearby lots and garages. I know you think you are better than them, but please explain how you parking several feet from a building entrance — thereby spending very little time outside — makes the streetscape more lively than them parking blocks away and walking to the building.

      “My scooter on the sidewalk illustrates a lack of consideration for various modes of transportation besides the car.”

      Or it demonstrates your laziness and refusal to park in a lot and walk.

      [REPLYYou’ll need to sit with me sometime in a coffeehouse as people walk by and see my scooter, or any scooter. They stop their conversation and take an admiring glance. I’ve had a number of inquiries about scooters. The other day while I had it out front of The Gelateria a guy from KC said he had one in blue. The scooter brings a smile to people’s faces and sparks conversations that would not otherwise happen. That is a very urban thing.

      To park a tiny scooter in a full size parking space is wasteful. First, the guy in the SUV would be pissed and likely run over it. Or it would get stolen for not being secured.

      I was not blocking the sidewalk at all. Not a bit. Had I ridden one of my six bicycles I would have parked it in the exact same spot as no other provisions were made.

      If we are going to be a grown up city we must give consideration to all types of transportation and make provisions for these. Had a scooter/motorcycle area been designated nearby I would have been glad to park there (provided I could lock the scooter to something) and walked.

      Another piece of this is we must make things obvious for those new to an area. SLU may have some small motorcycle spaces somewhere around the campus but it was not on their website nor was it obvious to me as an outsider. – SLP]

    7. DOLE says:


      I think your scooter was not in the way and does not cause ‘chaos’. I think your scooter adds character and is visually appealing. People that equate it to a huge commercial delivery vehicle are grasping at straws.

      As a student at SLU who is chained to a car, I applaud you for your stance. I know the frustration of dealing with DPS as it relates to parking issues.

    8. Brian says:

      Well, first of all, I see no license plates on Steve’s 49cc scooter. This means that under MO state law, it is not a “motorcycle” but rather a “motorized bicycle” and is subject to laws as if it were a BICYCLE, not a motorcycle.

      If Steve had parked a BICYCLE in that exact same spot, would he have been ticketed? I hardly think so.

      And as he pointed out 2 (probably really only 1 if determined) people could toss that Metro into a truck or even the back seat of some hoopty ghetto roller and take off with it. If it weren’t secured to some immobile object someone surely would.
      Just as surely if he had taken up an entire 20 feet of streetside parking some jackass in his Suberban Useless Vehicle would have come along and run right over it (or moved it and broke the mirrors off/drooped/scratched it, kicked it over, shoved it into the street, or any number of offences commited against scooter riders taking up desireable car spots). Hell, I’ve seen people use their cars to shove over ANOTHER CAR in crowded city streets! I have no doubt that there are a lot of people who wouldn’t think twice about running over some “little plastic moped toy” as they think of them.

      Until StL gets it’s ass in gear on this issue (pun intended) and we see things like the corner spots diveyed up into 5-6 motorcyc/scooter stalls with an electronic meter such as in San Francisco – we scooterists areforced to take whatever precautions are nessesary to protect & secure our property.

      Gee, better pay that ticket Steve or you won’t be able to graduate! lol

    9. Jim Zavist says:

      Coming from Denver, I have a different perspective. Scoters can proliferate with unfortunate consequences. Google “Auraria + scooters” and/or see the following:


      Look out below. Scene and herd: Think the Auraria campus is tough on illegally parked scooters? The University of Denver just dunned Summer Smith a fast $500 after she parked her scooter (considered a “motor vehicle”) on the sidewalk outside the Coors Fitness Center. “I was wrong, I admit that,” she says. “But good God, let the fine be commensurate with the crime.” Had she committed vandalism, for example, “willfully and maliciously defacing university property,” she would have been tapped for only $100, and standard parking fines run from just $15 to $30. But it turns out that Smith, who locked up alongside several other scooters, hadn’t parked on just any sidewalk: The walkway was made of brick pavers, which ups the fine to a mandatory $500. And that’s not all, according to http://www.parkingdu.edu: “The repair costs to the brick(s) may be assessed to the violator.” Smith managed to plead her ticket down to $30; she’s looking for a new health club.

    10. Brian says:

      Funny that you quoted the above, but not this:
      “The legal definition of both the state and the city is that you can park them at a bike rack.”

      But Auraria is a kingdom unto itself. It has its own police force and makes its own rules. So while the City of Denver defines scooters under 50 cubic centimeters as “motorized bicycles” and allows them to park on the sidewalks — as long as they don’t obstruct pedestrian traffic — Auraria doesn’t have to.”

      And this, which speaks of the concerns both Steve and I raised in earlier comments:
      “It’s almost as easy to steal a Trek as it is to swipe a Vespa, and the motorcycle parking doesn’t provide a place to lock up. In fact, someone took Koskinen’s Vespa for a three-day joyride and then dumped it an alley, and one of his friends had hers stolen out of an Auraria parking lot. “Someone drove up in a truck and threw it in the back,” he says. “

    11. Jim Zavist says:

      My point is I support appropriate parking. Should we have designated motorcycle / scooter parking? What about pregnant-woman parking? How about jumbo-size spaces for dually crew-cab pick-up trucks?

      We already have ADA-mandated parking for people with disabilities. Where do we stop? Or should we just decide on a universal space that works for everyone?

      Just parking where you choose is not the answer. What may be cute to you may be an eyesore to someone else. And parking your fat (but cute) scooter at a bike rack isn’t the answer, either – it would take up multiple bike spaces simply due to its girth!

      Much like how you want vinyl windows out of historic districts, I want clutter off our city streets. Scooters chained to lamp posts aren’t much different than newspaper racks/boxes chained to the same item. They add visual clutter and they’re a perfect example of an individual staking a claim to the public way at the expense of everyone else.

      And, unfortunately, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Bicycles don’t come with saddlebags and floorboards, motorcycles do.

      The UPS example was the extreme. But parking a scooter on the sidewalk is no different than parkking a Harley in the same spot. Both owners claim it’s for security. Well there are plenty of parking lots where I don’t feel totally safe parking my car – maybe I should just join you all on the sidewalk!

      [REPLY — Oh good, the clutter discussion. Sorry, but sidewalks free of bikes, newsracks and such are boring, lifeless and utterly un-urban. Give me sidewalks teaming with lots of signs of an active city: bikes locked to anything and everything, newsracks, vendors, cafes, performers, and pedestrians. Then give me streets with cars, motorcycles and scooters parked along both sides. Overhead we see wires for the streetcars and in the street the tracks. Businesses along the street would all have signs of various types and sizes, hopefully with neon.

      Your question about parking misses the point but brings up another. We don’t need designated parking for every type of user or vehicle. But, if my scooter is a vehicle and therefore not allowed on the sidewalk why not have spaces for motorcycles and scooters? You can get a good 4-5 in the space of one car. How urban is that? But, if we were to use the system used in other cities where you ‘pay-n-display’ the on-street spaces are not regulated for length. Shorter cars or motorcycles take up less space than an SUV. It gets adjusted and scooter owners feel like they can safely park in such a situation.

      BTW, I have saddle bags for one of my bicycles. – SLP]

    12. Brian says:

      “Bicycles don’t come with saddlebags and floorboards, motorcycles do.”

      Haven’t seen a lot of bicycles, have you? 😉

      “But parking a scooter on the sidewalk is no different than parkking a Harley in the same spot”

      I think it is very different. A Harley barely fits in the bed of a standard pickup truck (if at all), weighs in excess of 700lbs, and you can hardly park 2 of them side-by-side in a standard auto spot. Hardley-Ablesons are big, huge, heavy, obtrusive penile-enhancements.

      Scooters on the other hand weigh less than your average couch-potato American male, fit easily into a pickup, van, or back of a large sedan/station wagon, and you can easily get 5-6 of them in a standard auto parking spot. They can also easily be parked in what would normally be wasted-space in ill-designed parking areas, such the slashed triagle-space at the ends of car rows, or in that one spot with a lamp post smack in the middle of it at my work. All of which are typiclly emblazoned with huge “NO PARKING” lettering. Tell me, how pissed do you get when you think you’ve found a prime spot in a busy parking area and start to pull in, only to see at the last second some sort of micro-car or motorycle/scooter taking up that space? Wouldn’t you like for that motorcycle or scooter to instead be using a special space that normally couldn’t be used by a car anyway? How would you feel about parking if 99.99% of Americans drove Hummers and you were one of the 0.01% that drove a Mini Cooper? Comparatively that’s what it’s like out there for motorcyclists & scooterists.

      The day some random thug can drive by, see your car, decide he’d like to steal it and walk off/throw it in the back of his own car, you’re welcome to park that car on the sidewalk – unobtrusively – right alongside my scooter. 😉

    13. Becker says:

      All of the points you make about the lack of both bicycle and scooter parking on SLU’s campus are valid.


      Why couldn’t you have parked in one of the SLU lots? You act like there was no place for you to park but there certainly was. There was just no place to park that met with your liking. There have been plenty of times that I would have loved to park near DuBourg Hall but there were no spaces available. I personally don’t mind the 1-1.5 block stroll from the parking lot to the building.

      Does this all boil down to the old, “I’m a bicyclist, dammit!” arguement? That only goes so far.

      [REPLY – Well, I could have parked my scooter in a lot if I wanted it stolen. But, I’m rather attached to it. SLU had created an unsafe environment with reduced activity on the sidewalks so an unsecured scooter would most certainly walk away.

      I love walking and would have gladly done so if a place for me to park and secure my scooter had been provided. What this boils down to is SLU’s administration thinks everyone drives cars. They have a one size fits all policy toward transportation. That is fine in Chesterfield but in an urban context such a narrow view shouldn’t be tolerated. – SLP]

    14. three-one-four says:

      It’s clearly apparent from the picture above that the curb next to your scooter is painted yellow. Given that, I would also bet that the other side of the sign on that post happens to read, “No Parking.”

      If you operate a bicycle or scooter on public roads, you are expected to obey the same laws to which motorists are held. That is, don’t park next to a yellow curb, or expect someone to ticket you.

      Traffic and parking laws in this city are not written with your sense of self-satisfaction in mind, and that people gawk at your scooter when you have it illegally parked is irrelevant. Park it legally next time you choose to brag, and work to change laws in the meantime if you feel that way about it.

      As someone above said, there’s a difference between liveliness on the street with newspaper stands and such, and piles of clutter with people chaining objects everywhere they possibly could. One is Michigan Avenue, the other is downtown Bangkok.

      [REPLY Well, a couple of problems with your comment. First, the yellow curb applies to the street, not the sidewalk. Second, when I came out a SLU truck was blocking an entire lane of traffic on Grand, in the no parking zone. Third, the only legal place to park my scooter is a place where it would get stolen. So, if I am to park legally then I won’t ride my scooter, nor will others. I will have to drive my car, use more fuel, and take up more space. Brilliant public policy.

      I’m going to continue my red & white civil disobedience until the folks in charge in this town wake up to the reality that providing parking for all sort of two-wheeled transportation is wiser than continuing to raze historic buildings for parking garages. – SLP]

    15. Softail_Rider says:

      “I think it is very different. A Harley barely fits in the bed of a standard pickup truck (if at all), weighs in excess of 700lbs, and you can hardly park 2 of them side-by-side in a standard auto spot. Hardley-Ablesons are big, huge, heavy, obtrusive penile-enhancements.”

      First….some facts for the blatently ignorant:

      “A Harley barely fits in the bed of a standard pickup truck (if at all).”
      If your ‘standard’ is a S10, Dakota or Ranger then you are talking about an tinker toy truck. If you are talking about a Standard Full Size truck aka F150, Z71 or 1500 Ram. You are sadly…so sadly mistaken.

      “weighs in excess of 700lbs” 2008 FXSTC 621 lbs. look it up.

      “and you can hardly park 2 of them side-by-side in a standard auto spot.” – We’ve put 4 into one spot.

      “Hardley-Ablesons are big, huge, heavy, obtrusive penile-enhancements.” –
      sounds like you have had some girls giggle at you. Sorry to hear you are …ummm….lacking.

      As for your aesthetic argument on your scooter…I can tell you this….my 105th Anniversary Harley Davidson Softail Custom would add a HELL of a lot more aesthetic beauty than that Scooter of yours. It melds a TRUE historical design with modern technology in a package that makes it unique in the world. My Harley is a work of art! Smooth flowing lines. Striking contrasts of matted black that sets off the shimmering chrome accents. It is truly a Spartan view of only the bare essentials for travel. Not one bit of fiberglass on the thing. Since it is all Steel and aluminum construction it is 99.9% Recyclable. Add to that a 50MPG rating and the ability to cruise safely at highway speeds. It is a smart, ecological and economical source of transportation. In all senses, a HARLEY should be allowed to park on the sidewalk too. Everybody that walks by MY Harley ooohhhhs and aaahhhhs at its beauty. While it is heavier, faster, more powerful and can actually haul two people SAFELY compared to your scooter, the wheelbase is not much more than the standard 10 speed bike.

      Just like you I we can park 4 Harleys in the space of ONE car.

      Given your argument, I have just as much right to park on the sidewalk as you do.

    16. Denver says:

      I think the best thing to do is to keep up the civil disobedience is that is what you consider what you are doing to be. In tough times all universities are hurting and I am sure that they would happily take the revenue. BTW…..they will eventually tow you and really hit pay dirt. I am fairly certain this will get them to change the rules.
      If you get tired of this you could follow the rules or not ride your scooter to places that dont accomadate it. No one is making you ride a scooter. You always could ride a bike or drive a car. Personal choice does not dictate what we are allowed to do. In our society laws do. I dont follow all of them either, but when I dont and there are fines or tickets involved I dont complain. I pay them. I consider it the fee for convenience. Maybe you should do the same.

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