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City of Clayton Threatens to Tow 49cc Scooter/Moped

October 11, 2006 Parking, Scooters, St. Louis County 25 Comments

clayton_scooter - 11.jpgThe note wasn’t very friendly. Here I was attending a luncheon (Society of Professional Journalists) and my wee little moped parked at the tail end of a parking space seems to have offended the City of Clayton’s sense of order. You will recall a month ago I had a similar issue in Clayton while attending a different luncheon, see post. In that case, I was parked on a really wide sidewalk, out of the pedestrian path, and the parking enforcement person came up as I was leaving. At that time I was told I must park in a full metered space.

So yesterday I am heading to Clayton for this event and I just can’t bring myself to take up an entire full space. Plenty of spaces were available and I could certainly afford the pocket change to feed the meter. The issue is two-fold: use of space and personal safety. In short, a “vehicle” that is only a few feet long and weighs less than 200lbs only needs so much room. It certainly does not need the amount of space a 3-ton SUV requires. And it is that 3-ton SUV that has men concerned — will it see my scooter before rushing into a parking space?

clayton_scooter - 02.jpgLooking around the area I found this sweet little left over spot along a parking zone on Forsyth. This last parking space is considerably longer than those immediately in front of it. In this little left over section I was out of the way of all pedestrians, including those at the adjacent bus stop, and cars had plenty of room to come and go from the main space. My only alternative would have been to ask the restaurant management if I could have parked somewhere on their private property but looking at the situation that would have likely involved compromising one of their pedestrian entrances. So, I went with the little bit of left over street.

clayton_scooter - 03.jpgWell, we weren’t into the panel discussion too long before I glance over and spot the parking enforcement vehicle near my scooter. I can see the guy writing something out and place it in my helmet. The scooter is technically a moped — under 50cc — so it is not registered. Without a plate he was unable to issue me a ticket.

That is Clayton City Hall you see in the background.

clayton_scooter - 07.jpgFor a different vantage point, here is my scooter relative to a car parked in the last space. In the background here is Bar Napoli where our luncheon was being held.

I was on the city hall side of the street because after reading the oh so friendly note I decided to pay them a visit. They have a customer service counter just inside where you can pay tickets and such. I explained the issue and even showed them pictures. They were all in agreement, if it is self powered it must be parked in a full metered space. They gave me the card of the parking control supervisor, Beverly Overbey, and I left my card.

clayton_scooter - 09.jpgAfter leaving city hall and returning to my scooter I thought I’d see just how it looked in a full size space. Given the availability, I centered my scooter in a space a couple over from where I was parked for lunch. As you can see, it looks a bit silly taking up so much space.

I wasn’t really sure the best way to park either, parallel with the curb as shown or at some sort of angle. I had to park in such a way that an approaching motorist would see the scooter before whipping into the presumed vacant space. Just for the few moments I was there getting a couple of pictures I was nervous someone would run over the scooter by accident.

clayton_scooter - 10.jpgI made one more stop in Clayton and used a full space. This time an approaching vehicle would be able to see my scooter because I was on an end. So where am I? My attorney’s office! He just happens to use a 50cc Vespa as his daily transportation but is able to park his scooter in back when at the office. I’ll talk more about Clayton’s ordinance and what my options are in a bit. Meanwhile I scooted out of there quickly before I went on the clock.

Clayton’s ordinances are pretty cut and dry. If it has a motor and is self-propelled it is a vehicle and must be parked at a full-sized metered space. Clayton’s Parking Control Supervisor, Beverly Overbey, called me later in the afternoon to discuss my concerns. She says she conferred with their Chief of Police and if it has a motor it cannot be parked anywhere except in a full space or private property. But something interesting came up, she said a previous Chief had told her that say 3 motorcycles could share a single space but the current Chief says no, each must be in a different space. You see, the big motorcycles have some of the same concerns as I about the safety of their vehicles. By parking together they take up less space and their is safety in numbers.

Technically, per the state of Missouri, a moped is a motorized bicycle but not all look like it. However, a number of motorized assist bicycles of gas or electric power are on the market and have been for some time. So I asked, what if I had a motorized bicycle that was able to be self-propelled, could I park it at the bike rack in front of city hall? No, was the answer. So Clayton really does not distinguish between an electric bicycle, a massive Harley or an even bigger SUV. The difference, of course, is that an electric bicycle or my little moped is easily moved, stolen or crushed if parked in a regular parking space suitable for an SUV.

The irony here is much of the city block where I was having lunch will soon be razed for the overblown Centene project that will require a massive parking garage to house all the cars they are expecting. I don’t think they have a clue about the correlation between making use of small spaces for small vehicles and the “need” to build costly structured parking.

If we take a look at Clayton’s
Parking Meter Ordinance we see things spelled out clearly in the definitions:

Sec. 21-169. Definitions.
As used in this division, the following terms shall have the respective meanings ascribed to them:
Operator: Every individual who shall operate a vehicle as the owner thereof, or as the agent, employee or permittee of the owner, or is in actual physical control of a vehicle.
Park or parking: The standing of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, upon a street otherwise than temporarily for the purpose of, and while actually engaged in, receiving or discharging passengers or loading or unloading merchandise or in obedience to traffic regulations, signs or signals or an involuntary stopping of the vehicle by reason of causes beyond the control of the operator of the vehicle.
Parking meter: Any mechanical device or meter not inconsistent with this division placed or erected for the regulation of parking by authority of this division.
Parking meter space: Any space within a parking meter zone, adjacent to a parking meter and which is duly designated for the parking of a single vehicle by lines painted or otherwise durably marked on the curb or on the surface of the street adjacent to or adjoining the parking meters.
Parking meter zone: Any restricted street upon which parking meters are installed and in operation.
Vehicle: Any device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported upon a highway, except a device which is operated upon rails or tracks.

It is that last one that got me and my attorney. A vehicle is “Any device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported upon a highway…” Well, it would be illegal (and foolish) to operate my scooter on the highway as it barely breaks 30mph and only after some time and provided I’m not going up a hill. But Clayton, in another section, defines a Highway as, “The entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.”

Basically I don’t feel like I am welcomed in Clayton, unless I drive my car. Many cities would look the other way at a tiny vehicle like mine using a left over space but not Clayton. My co-opting of that tiny sliver of street does not interfere on anyone else’s use of the street or sidewalk. To them it seems to be a big deal.

So I am not sure exactly what to do about it. One thought is to print up some fliers and distribute them to various businesses in Clayton that I patronize, letting them know I can’t come back until Clayton changes their parking ordinance. Another thought is to have a talk with the folks at the Clayton Chamber of Commerce. Oh look, my attorney’s firm (of which he is a partner) is on the Board of Directors as is a former client of mine. Another possible route is to email the Mayor and all six members of the Board of Aldermen. Of course, I shouldn’t leave out the City Manager or the Parking Control Officer.

But I might do something else, or in addition to the above. I had previously thought about trying to round up a bunch of other scooters, mopeds and motorcycles and converge on Clayton during a lunch rush. We’d all park legally and take up lots of room. This would help illustrate the lack of foresight for a municipality that describes itself as a, “chic suburban community with urban flair.” While speaking yesterday with the Parking Control Supervisor, Beverly Overbey, I had a brainstorm: let them tow my scooter. So I asked what the fee would be. Not surprising, she didn’t know. In fact, she didn’t know how they’d even get it towed. She was thinking a flat-bed tow truck would do it but I want to see a single tow truck driver lift the scooter up onto one of those. You can’t wheel it up there because I use the steering wheel lock and the kickstand lock (which keeps the rear wheel off the ground). So, I’m tempted to keep parking in Clayton until I can get them to actually get around to towing it away. Just think of what a great video that will make….

Additional Reading:

Vespa Petition, July 26
Region needs to address parking, April 6


Currently there are "25 comments" on this Article:

  1. Brad Mello says:

    That last option seems like a rather expensive way to make a point. Are you trying to piss off everyone in the STL metro area? I remember sitting on the parking task force for Arlington County as a citizen representative — It was a most mind numbing government task force. We evaluated every parking rule and regulation in the metro corridors of the county and tried to make recommendations as best possible — perhaps that’s what has happened in Clayton, perhaps not — but trying to create a sensible parking plan is often not easy — perhaps making some recommendations, like taking one or two spots and turning them into motorcycle/scooter parking would be more helpful than contemplating a stunt that might just turn your scooter into scrap metal.

    [UR – Good going, call my bluff. Yeah, I can’t see putting my beloved in harms way either by parking as they want me to or allowing it to get towed.

    I have sent an email to the mayor, board of aldermen, city manager and others in Clayton highlighting the issue, offering some suggestions and offering my assistance to look for solutions.]

  2. john says:

    Just the tip of the iceberg Steve. Image over substance is a long held tradition in Clayton. To think that those in control, particularly law enforcement, know their own code is a leap of faith and demonstrates that unwritten rules and subjective decision making is too often in control.

    Others in control also state that 800 or more cars from Centene will not have a material impact on traffic in the area.

    Silliness about such trivial issues as parking small vehicles is indicative of a much larger problem in the StL area. Clayton’s inability to address this issue in a logical and thoughtful manner demonstrates an attitude too pervasive here… pettiness instead of inclusion, protection of those in control instead of addressing the real issues.

    What to do about? You’re doing the right thing… hold them accountable. That is a scary concept here…

  3. Michael M. says:

    If you want to stage something, coordinate many scooter riders to park legally in Clayton, one vehicle per space, in large numbers. Demonstrate how the current allocation of space is bad for all motorists. Take up enough space to make drivers of larger vehicles wish that you were in smaller spaces. Civil acts that actually follow the law to make a point can be quite convincing.

  4. Jon says:

    Given the options you state above, I would argue that 2 is the best. Go down during a busy work day and park as many scooters on the street in one space at at time. Let the City hear the howels of complaints from others asking why such dinky things are taking up all the parking spaces. Let the auto addvocates to the work for you, because I am sure that change will come then.

  5. Terry Donnelly says:

    It’s most likely a revenue issue: nobody gets to park in Clayton for free.

    I don’t see the problem. I routinely park my scooter in the designated parking slots. I park far enough from the curb to be seen, just inside the line of cars around me (to hit me, someone would have to sideswipe the cars first). Nobody’s crunched the scooter yet. As for this being an inefficient use of parking space: that’s not really my problem. If a municipality wants me to take up a whole SUV-sized space to park my scooter, it’s them that has decided to use their space inefficiently. It’s not your problem; there will still be X parking spaces on the street regardless of what’s parked in them.

    Besides, I think one problem with other drivers relating to scooters is a certain lack of belief that they are vehicles, too. When I first got my scooter, I had to constantly remind myself that I was on a motorized vehicle, and that I had as much right to drive (for example) in the middle of the traffic lane as the monster SUV or pickup behind me. Putting scooters in out-of-the-way, “wasted” space just deemphasizes the idea that they are valid motorized transportation in their own right and reinforces the idea that they’re toys.

    [UR – Thanks for your perspective. But, you didn’t mention what type of scooter you have? Scooters, as you may well know, range from the small 49cc type to large & fast 500cc machines with a host of models in between.

    I can see how parking near the outer edge would make it more visible. But if I’m in a restaurant and can’t see the scooter and someone backs into it I’m going to have no recourse. I’ll be out of pocket for damages unless they are kind enough to leave a note and offering to pay.

    This is about being pro-active. Sure, it may not be your problem that you take up way more space than needed but this does translate into bigger issues — such as eminent domain for a parking garage. Businesses are having their property taken from them on the very block where I was having lunch!

    The City of San Francisco does a nice job with motorcycle & scooter parking without adding to the “toy” image — see http://www.urbanreviewstl.com/archives/000261.php for an image. Also, Vespa is encouraging municipalities to look at such spaces to accommodate scooters: http://www.vespausa.com/Vespatition/%5D

  6. DeBaliviere says:

    You should convince your attorney to move his office downtown. 😉

  7. travis reems says:


    Another question from ignorance. If your scooter is damaged, would your home owners/renters policy cover it? Or, do you need a special rider? I am assuming you can’t get auto insurance for it due to the classification as a motorized bike.

  8. Becker says:

    “But I might do something else, or in addition to the above. I had previously thought about trying to round up a bunch of other scooters, mopeds and motorcycles and converge on Clayton during a lunch rush. We’d all park legally and take up lots of room. This would help illustrate the lack of foresight for a municipality that describes itself as a, “chic suburban community with urban flair.”

    I think that is an excellent idea and would illustrate your point very well. Should get some media coverage too.

  9. Amber says:

    That is not the case with insurance. In fact I have full coverage on my scooter. Albeit, mine is a 150cc, but I don’t see how that would change it much from a 49cc as far as insurance goes. I don’t know what the coverage for it being damaged while parked would be exactly. I imagine it’s similar to if your car was hit while it was parked. The sad part it, your scooter would sustain a lot more damage than a car, in most cases.

  10. Steve the obvious solution is to drive a car you damn non-conformist!

    Didn’t you get the message that St. Louis is an autocentric Metropolitan area?

    Seriously Steve, I hear the Chevy Suburban has a nice rebate. You can pack in all your urbanist friends in there and have a god ole honky tonk hoe down like back in Oklahoma. Ill bring the banjo, you buy the gasoline!

  11. Jim Zavist says:

    The easy, obvious answer is to just either a) play by the rules, park in the middle of a space and feed the meter, or b) work to get the rules changed! Just because you don’t like the existing rules doesn’t mean you don’t have to obey them or pay the consequences. There are plenty of rules that I find to be wrong, irritating or stupid. There are also lots of laws that are rarely or selectively enforced. And there are some rules that I embrace that I wish would be enforced more vigorously and often.

    We live in an allegedly “civilized” society. We make rules to keep the peace and to share our resources in a somewhat fair and equitable fashion. Anarchy is a tool, and when used judiciously, can be very effective. Anarchy also means poking a stick in the eye of authority, so you need to be prepared to pay the consequences, including losing in court and paying, literally, for not conforming to society’s norms, in this case, a suburban community with serious concerns about image. Personally, I’d be more inclined to work inside the system and get the rules changed – it would seem to be a lot more productive and effective in the long run . . .

    [UR – Good points. In this case I’m unwilling to play by the rules as I feel it places my own personal property at too great of risk of damage. I literally cannot afford to play by the rules and risk costly damage to my vehicle.

    Working in the system also has drawbacks. Past experience has taught me that 1) if you are not a constituent it is hard to get someone’s attention and 2) even if you are a constituent you can often be ignored. These may not apply to the officials in Clayton but I’ve seen it in many places, not just the city.

    So my strategy is two-fold. First, a slight poke with a blog post. This gets their attention and hopefully others sharing my viewpoint — so it is not just one guy complaining about something. Second I follow up with a polite but firm email to those that have the power to change thing.

    Yesterday I heard back from Clayton’s Mayor and the director of the Chamber of Commerce. I will continue to monitor and see if any real progress takes place.

    If not, a line of scooters and motorcycles taking up single space after single space would be quite a sight.]

  12. bev says:

    Don’t confuse motorcycles with scooters – or even large scooters with smaller ones.

    If you ride a motorized scooter or motorcycle that is 50cc or more, I believe the state requires a motorcycle qualification on your driver’s license. That vehicle also requires a license plate, which requires insurance, which – at least in my case nearly 12 years ago – requires the driver’s license qualification. So in my opinion, that meant I was the driver of a motor vehicle that is not much different from a car. So I parked where a car would park, guilt free. If a given business or municipality had an issue with that, I never knew about it. And as a motorcycle driver, I never tried to get away with parking somewhere that was not marked for motorcycles or cars.

    I agree that the law should be changed – but not necessarily in your favor – though I don’t know, maybe you’d agree. I think that more “scooters” with smaller engines should be designated “motorcycles.” That way you’d have to have to pass the tests for the driver’s license qualification, you’d have to get insurance and plates, and just maybe I’d see fewer scooterists doing things like “riding the white line.” (!!!)

    And you could park where you want and let the municipality deal with the wasted space.

    [UR – Thanks for the comments but it is not a question of havings plates, I could legally park in a full space in Clayton but I risk the scoot getting trashed by a car. See my prior post with a friend’s 1981 Honda scooter — it is very bicycle like in terms of wheels and drivetrain but it just happens to have a 70cc engine so it requires plates and such. Doesn’t make it any safer in a 22ft long parking space than mine.]

  13. Craig Gates says:

    If you purchase such a small vehicle that you contend is so susceptible to being “crushed” then you should insure it. Asking the public to design special parking spaces for you scooter to prevent it from being run over (an overblown risk if ever there was one) is asking the public to bear the costs of insuring your vehicle.

    These scooters are a nuisance and you are making them more so. We should tax the hell out of them.

  14. Adam says:

    Craig Gates,

    hmmm… are scooters a nuisance because they consume WAY less fuel than automobiles? or perhaps because it’s more difficult to kill people with them? maybe it’s because you can fit ten of them into a single parking space. or because they make more sense for local travel than a 3-ton SUV. oh, i know. it’s because YOU don’t drive a scooter and you don’t have any patience or respect for people who do. you probably yell at cyclists for being on the road, too.

    why don’t you just go ahead and explain why scooters are a nuisance so i can stop speculating.

  15. Reader says:

    Espresso Mod’s upcoming scooter/Mini event may be the perfect opportunity to build solidarity!

  16. GMichaud says:

    You say scooters are a nuisance and we should tax the hell out of them? I think cars are a nuisance and we should tax the hell out them. The system Americans live in ignores or even rewards waste. Parking policies that favor a monster SUV over scooters are a prime example of rewarding waste.

    Often when I see a glass jar I think about how American Indians in former times would use that same jar over and over, and if it didn’t break, it might be passed down through generations and maybe last 100 or 200 years.
    Americans on the other hand throw away glass jars, waste gas, waste oil, you name it, AmericansÂ’ waste resources right and left, so much so itÂ’s become second nature and government policy. There is going to be a severe price to pay for our neglect in the future.
    Then Bush arrives to town to put on an exhibit of his lack of leadership. It is a big smoke screen to talk about ethanol; he does anything to maintain the status quo. No matter what the prospects are for any alternative fuel, a balanced, multi-dimensional, transit system is the only comprehensive solution that transcends any energy source, including ethanol.
    What Bush would offer if he was a true leader would be a comprehensive plan for rebuilding American society to conserve energy. This includes a return to urbanization; building more mass transit; building energy efficient housing, more fuel efficient vehicles and encouraging the use of scooters. Scooters should be integrated into society so they are good fit, whether it is better parking, denser development or ease of use on the road. New user friendly government policies would in turn encourage people to purchase scooters both for transport and for energy conservation.

    Only then will Americans break away from big oil, the Middle East, wars, global warming and all of the other problems that are beginning to manifest themselves.
    Instead Americans are merrily degrading their lives and the lives of their children with the waste products of a civilization.
    Steve is exactly right to press this issue. The policies of Clayton are a mirror, a reflection of a political system gone awry. It would a comedy if it was not such a sad commentary on a rigid power structure that likes to congratulate themselves as leaders. In fact their greatest and only skill seems to be maintaining themselves in power with their corporate handlers as partners.

  17. Craig Gates says:

    Let me count the ways that scooters are a nuisance:

    1. They slow down traffic. UR’s only gets up to 30 mph.

    2. Many are uninsured. If they hit a pedestrian, bicyclist, or car, who pays for the damage?

    3. Scooter riders are prone to getting run off of the road or otherwise injured.

    4. They look dainty, making men look silly riding them. This sissifies our country (ever take a look around any Italian city?).

    [UR You should consider submitting material to The Onion!

    First, I only ride on roads where I can match the maximum posted speed, roughly 35mph. This covers pretty much the entire City of St. Louis and a good bit of the county, including Clayton.

    Yes, mine is uninsured just as I am when I am “driving” my bicycle. It is called self-insured.

    Prone to getting run off the road? By whom? A**wipes in SUVs?

    And the funniest, sissifiy our country. That is rich. Tell you what Craig, I don’t need 3-ton SUV with moster tires to overcompensate for any ‘shortcomings’ in the manly department.]

  18. Adam says:

    They look dainty, making men look silly riding them. This sissifies our country (ever take a look around any Italian city?).

    i’m going to give Craig Gates the benefit of the doubt and say that this one is a joke (not that 1 through 3 are any less ridiculous). otherwise Craig Gates sounds like a typical case of egocentricism and american excess and should probably just be ignored.

    in response to 1-3:

    1. 25 – 45 mph is the speed limit on many city streets so there is nothing illegal about going 30 mph. if that’s too slow for you, TOO BAD. you’re probably breaking the speed limit.

    2. many drivers are uninsured. bicycles are uninsured. rollerblades are uninsured. skate boards are uninsured. perhaps there should be insurance coverage available for scooters. but who’s more likely to kill somebody: a guy going 30 mph on his scooter or some jerk going 60 mph in his yukon.

    3. not unless you’re driving like an asshole.

  19. Adam says:

    oh, Craig Gates also sounds like a sexist, mysogynistic homophobe.

  20. maurice says:

    now here’s a thought. How about parking in a space, feeding the meter, and then have other scooters share the spot? The one that comes in last feeds the meter more.

    Is it illegal to park more than one in a spot?

  21. Craig Gates says:

    30 mph is very slow when you’re on a 35 mph-limit street with only one or two lanes per direction. Going 30 on a 45 mph-limit street is unconscionable.

    A bicycle does not have to be insured, but it can only get up to 30 mph when going downhill for the average rider. The scooter can go 30 mph at any time, and at that speed it could do serious damage to a pedestrian. Do most scooter riders have $75,000 saved up as “self insurance” to pay the medical bills of a pedestrian they injure? No.

    Scooters are effiminate. Think about the scooter that UR has. It requires a man to sit with his legs closed as does a woman wearing a skirt.

  22. MJ says:

    Steve…organize a scoot in and I will take time off work and park. I don’t know how many other scooterists will do it, but I’d suggest posting your writing on the st louis scooter talk list(stlscootertalk@yahoogroups.com). I am sure other scooterists have had issues regarding parking their scooters.

    Your little Metropolitan looks so VULNERABLE in the very large parking spot. I, too, would worry about it being hit or even picked up being parked in such a spot.

    Just let me know when my scooter needs to show up in Clayton. I think a scoot in is the BEST way to get the attention of the powers that be in Clayton.


    People don’t think about something until it affects THEM in some way.

  23. I got a parking ticket on my vespa in clayton too! best thing about the 49cc scooters…no registration…so just ripped that ticket up and drove off into the sunset

  24. gvgnumber1 says:

    you stole my parking spot! lol. I’m working in clayton and i found this a bit informative, thanks.

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