The Post in Which I Attempt to Answer: Where am I Supposed to Park my Scooter?

Foreshadowing my noble attempt.

Once upon a time, I used to ride a Honda CH-80 Elite scooter around these City streets. You might recognize it as the pizza delivery driver’s ride  from the opening scene of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

I scooted merrily around Philadelphia without a care in the world, pleased at myself for the fantastic gas mileage and quick manner in which I navigated the streets. But I hung up my scooter helmet for good one day when I scooted out to get my sick wife some orange juice, and in an unfortunate pothole incident, my life was almost ended by a 1997 Ford Taurus. That would have been a tragedy — killed by a Ford Taurus. Embarrassing.

Though my scooting days are now over, for the time that I scooted around town, I faced the same problem that many two-wheeled riders still face today: Where the hell can I park this damn thing without getting a ticket? (Spoiler: By the end of this post, I won’t be able to answer this concretely.)

Unofficially, I’ve been told a few different things from Philadelphia Parking Authority employees: within three feet of a building, so long as it’s not obstructing the sidewalk; to an inverted U bike post; to a traffic sign; to a pole, etc. But as anyone who’s parked in the City knows (or anyone who’s ever seen Parking Wars, for that matter), you can’t really every count on the word of a PPA employee to be “the law.”

So Here’s the Law.

Under the City Code §12-913. Prohibitions in Specified Places

  (1)     Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or to protect the safety of any person or vehicle or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic-control device, no person shall:

(a)     Stop, stand or park a vehicle:

               ***

               (ii)     On a sidewalk except that a bicycle may be parked as provided in Section 12-807.

***

Got it? No vehicles other than bikes on the sidewalk. This leads us to a follow up question: what’s a “vehicle” for the purposes of the code?

Well, the Philadelphia Code doesn’t actually define a vehicle in the definitions section of Title 12. Luckily for us, the Commonwealth picked up the city’s slack.

Let’s look to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. §102, Definitions, which defines just about any motorized-two wheeled device you can think of:

***

“Motor vehicle.” A vehicle which is self-propelled except an electric personal assistive mobility device or a vehicle which is propelled solely by human power.

“Motorcycle.” A motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.

“Motor-driven cycle.” A motorcycle, including a motor scooter, with a motor which produces not to exceed five brake horsepower.

“Motorized pedalcycle.” A motor-driven cycle equipped with operable pedals, a motor rated no more than 1.5 brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour or an electric motordriven cycle equipped with operable pedals and an automatic transmission powered by an electric battery or battery packpowered electric motor with a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour.

***

“Vehicle.” Every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon rails or tracks. The term does not include a self-propelled wheelchair or an electrical mobility device operated by and designed for the exclusive use of a person with a mobility-related disability.

Under these definitions, it seems that unless you’re driving a Jazzy Power Chair around town, you, the scooter driver, are on a “motor vehicle ” under Pennsylvania law, and therefore presumably also under Philadelphia law.

The PPA agrees, and established special zones with scooter-only parking:

Pennsylvania Law prohibits motor  vehicles from driving or parking on sidewalks. The Philadelphia Parking Authority has established new parking zones to accommodate motorcycles and scooters in the area between Arch and Locust, Broad and 20 Streets. Only motorcycles and scooters are permitted to park in these zones, where the meter fee will be one-half the prevailing rate on the block. Motorcycles and scooters may not park on the sidewalk in that area. Doing so will result in a $76 fine.

You can find a list of these parking spots here. When you seen them, you can tell that they’re special sports because the parking meters are white. Also, and perhaps more obviously, the spots are very tiny.

As far as I can tell – According to the law as written right now, it looks like you have to park your putt-putt in the street.

“No motor vehicles may be parked on the sidewalk. A scooter is a motor vehicle. Ergo, no motor scooter may legally park on the sidewalk.” If A, then B. A, therefore, B.  It’s a simple logic problem, right?

Wait a second – at the bottom of the PPA page, though, they give you a little nudge-nudge wink-wink: “Motorcycle zones are  still in the  process of being installed within the  pilot area. Once a motorcycle zone has been established on a block, the prohibition on sidewalk parking will be strictly enforced in the vicinity of that zone.” Curious. Does this mean they’re not strictly enforcing sidewalk parking rules outside of these areas? A quick walk around City Hall seems to confirm this, as scooters are parked all over the place.

So, with the PPA basically admitting they’re not enforcing the sidewalk parking law outside of that area, it seems that you can park on the sidewalk chained to a bike rack, even though it’s technically illegal,  so long as you’re not blocking sidewalk traffic.

This Sounds Like a Typical “It Depends” Lawyer Answer. What Can you Definitively Tell Me?

As far as I can tell, these are the takeaways from today’s post:

  1. It is illegal to park your scooter on any public sidewalk.
  2. If you park on the sidewalk in the designated “Motorcycle and Scooter Zone”, the PPA will write you a $76 ticket.
  3. Calvinball rules apply to the rest of the city.

I’m glad that almost 1,000 words later, we’re right back where we started. Isn’t it grand when laws are well-written and don’t allow for ambiguity?

Bonus Takeaways All Drivers and Bikers  in the City who Ride Around with iPod Headphones in Totally Oblivious to the Rest of the World — Stop Doing That.

It’s not only stupid, it’s illegal.

§12-812. Use of Audio Headphones

(1)     No person shall operate a bicycle on a street or highway while wearing headphones connected to an audio device.

***

 §12-1122. Use of Audio Headphones While Operating Motor Vehicles.

(1)     No person shall operate a motor vehicle on a street or highway while wearing headphones connected to an audio device.

(2)     For the purposes of this Section, the term motor vehicle shall include any automobile, truck, bus, motorcycle, or motor-bike.

Until next time — when I try to tackle a recent Philadelphia Common Pleas Court case that really bolsters tenants’ rights against slumlords — safe scooting!

Note: Leo really enjoyed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie as a kid. While the scooter survived the Taurus near-death incident, Leo decided to sell it immediately afterwards to prevent future near-death experiences. Last he saw, it was living somewhere down on Christian Street – its tell-tale scratch marks and bright red color are a dead giveaway. The Taurus could not be reached for comment.

If you have any experience being ticketed for parking your scooter in the City, let me know in the comments below, and let’s see if we can figure out the rules to Calvinball. 

16 Responses to The Post in Which I Attempt to Answer: Where am I Supposed to Park my Scooter?

  1. Margie Foley says:

    I am currently fighting 3 expensive tickets due to this ‘sidewalk ‘ issue. It is so poorly written and confusing. I was told that it depends who gives you the ticket- the parking authority or the police. Please help!!!

  2. Larry says:

    Nice article. I try to park in those little Cycle spots when possible, however you have to be careful when feeding the meter. If there are 4 spots they are labeled A, B, C & D, for example. But if you notice on the sidewalk side the letters go in one direction, from the street side the letters go in another direction. So, each spot is both A & D, B & C. Get it? Kind of a Catch-22. I’ve noticed this in several areas, especially along Sansom St.

  3. Does the law clearly define where a sidewalk ends and private properties begins? I parked for a year in a courtyard within my work building without any issue, then out of the blue got slapped with a $76 ticket claiming I was on the sidewalk. This spot is about 30 yards from the street. Thanks for any advice.

    • Leo M. Mulvihill, Jr. says:

      Brendon, I can’t give advice over the internet in comment sections. In order to preserve confidentiality, please call my office – 215.385.5291 – and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

  4. Donald Snyder says:

    I have worked for the Philadelphia City Paper in the Corn Exchange Building at 2nd & Chestnut Streets for over 4 years now, and have been driving a scooter for almost as long. Originally, I parked it right outside of the Citizen’s Bank on the corner. For almost a year this went well until I was told by the bank that they were going to have me towed if I didn’t move it, as they were afraid of it falling and possibly injuring someone? Anyhow, for the remainder of my time here I have been parking in the alley against the Side of the building housing the custom coffee house on Chestnut & Strawberry Streets with the owner of the buildings permission and specifically not blocking any possible exits in the event of a fire (I was told this was key). A while back (I don’t recall how long ago) they did install motorcycle spots directly across from my building. I immediately decided NOT to utilize these spots, as this section of Chestnut Street is always jam packed with buses, food, beer, and other various delivery trucks constantly trying to squeeze around one another, not to mention all of the morons from outside of the city trying to paralell park (poorly at best) so they can renew their passport in the customs office. I have seen numerous cars park IN the motorcycle spots and have witnessed countless cars (not just their mirror but entire cars) scraped, smashed and dented on account of this. Then one day I saw exactly why I had made a good decision in NOT following the law. A bartender at the Khyber Pass pub had bought a brand new Lx 150 Vespa. And like a good citizen, parked in the spots. I don’t know if that lasted one or two days, but certainly not a week had gone by, before I walked out to see his scooter smashed and lying on it’s side. It was horrific. I learned the hard way from my first Vespa, that while the damage may only be minor from a fall (mine has been knocked over many times sometimes by accident but mostly by teenagers), if the engine casing cracks, which doesn’t take much, turning the bike on will flood the engine and the bike will be totaled. Sure enough that’s what happened. Anyway that was last Summer and as of this Monday, I recieved my first (of three so far) tickets for parking where I have been for many a year, despite there being numerous other bikes in the same street that have not been ticketed. I spoke with the parking authority officer and explained my situation to her saying that if anything were to happen from putting my bike in that spot, the money from having the bike totalled would nowhere near cover the cost of a new one as mine is a few years old, so putting it there would do nothing but put me in EXTREME jeapordy. I’m in sales and cannot afford not to have a vehicle, and am not willing to risk this. What do I do????

    Sincerely,

    Don Bernard Snyder
    267-934-4313

  5. I second everything Don said. I cannot afford to have my primary vehicle and (more or less only mode of transportation, because Septa is so bad where I live) damaged or stolen, as would be the case if I’m not given a place to lock up. These things are just over 200 lbs – they way the same as many people – and can be picked up and put in a van or truck very easily if not properly secured.

    After getting a ticket at the same place I’ve parked every weekday for the last two years, I’ve just been given permission to lock up to the company-provided bike rack in the alley next to my office (just past 17th and Locust). My company owns the building so I therefore have the property owner’s permission. However, I’m concerned they’ll see this alley as a “sidewalk” and begin ticketing me there as well.

    Is there any way that we could get a class-action suit together to establish some sort of clear-cut rule, taking into account the huge risk of damage or theft? I don’t know about anyone else, but I would be interested in pursuing this.

    Annette Saggiomo

  6. Josh says:

    We got a ticket for parking our scooter on Delancey street at 18th street. There are no meters or kiosks. It is free, 2-hour parking. Our ticket says in the comments section “motor-scooters prohibited”. We are supposed to be allowed to park anywhere cars are allowed to park. We were not on the sidewalk. In addition, we were outside of the motor-cycle parking zone as defined by the PPA website. Regardless, that zone defines where you can’t park on the sidewalk, not where you can’t park on the street! I have a hearing this Monday and will report back.

    • No way. When I have had my hearings for various tickets over the years, that’s where I was told it was actually okay to park my scooter – in the street! Just goes to show how inconsistent the parking enforcement is. Good luck with your hearing – as I see it they don’t have cause to uphold the ticket, but as we all know, all logic is suspended once you enter that building.

    • Josh says:

      Won my case. Apparently the ticket was for parking over the line too close to the sign. I told the examiner that we were feet away from the sign and that I would have happily just paid the ticket rather than spent 2 hours of my time on a hearing had I been over the line. He agreed, cancelled the ticket, and I was on my way.

  7. I got a ticket and 10th and Arch and Another at Girard and Front street. Both locations were chosen via information given by the PPA, and well outside the center city zones with scooter parking.

    If we can’t fight a parking ticket and win it, then the PPA are not the authority we should be listening to. It’s a circle-jerk to make the city money (I guess) and we keep falling for it passively.

    The City of Philadelphia says the sidewalk law they cite has nothing to do with the PPA instructions, so what I want to know is why the PPA is still instructing us to part at U-bars outside the CC zone? And if we are supposed to listen to them, then why does the law not back up what they say? How is this legal that the city of philadelphia via their .gov website, points to the PPA parking as the authority and then the city of philadelphia uses a a law not in alignment with the authority they recommend – the PPA! I’m not a lawyer but it seems kind of like entrapment – either way, it’s definitely gotcha!

    Before the law changed on scooter parking the city wasn’t running amok with scooters, so I’m not sure why it got more anti-scooter to begin with. I’d think they would like less cars, not more.

    I would like to add my voice to push the city of philadelphia in creating scooter friendly parking I can LOCK my light little scoot to, and to treat small scoots differently than motorcycles, especially outside the center city zone and on the sidewalk. My first scoot was stolen, like the one above. So when I “risk” scooting I always park outside the center city zone on those u-bars the ppa keeps recommending.

    I am so frustrated that the laws regarding scooter parking are going to actually lead me to ride my scooter as little as possible because ticket costs are so high, and the instructions in the city so ambiguous. Scoots are such an economical, lighthearted way to travel – so many smiles shared – we need more scooters, not less.

    • Jenna Bowe says:

      Dana, I could not have said it better. Everything you said is exactly what my boyfriend and I talk about all of the time. I keep parking on the U-bars, as told by PPA officials; however, I have received 4 tickets since April now:-/ I don’t know what to do. They are too light, like you said, to park them on the street without locking them. Can we park them on the street and lock them to a sign that says, “Two hour parking,” or whatever. I am afraid I am going to receive a ticket that says we can’t lock them to a sign. What do you think?

  8. Rod says:

    When citing the law you failed to interpret its entirety and negated some of your own analysis. You quoted the law ;

    “Under the City Code §12-913. Prohibitions in Specified Places

    (1) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or to protect the safety of any person or vehicle or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic-control device, no person shall:”

    This clearly provides an exception because the “safety” of my vehicle is in question. My scooter is,

    -Small and harder to see therefore at risk of being crushed between cars.
    -under 120lbs and easily stolen or vandalized.
    Is that enough reason to seek the protection of parking against my domicile?

  9. TONY DPHAX KING says:

    Hello Mr. Mulvihill: There was a very important detail left out of the analysis of the Prohibitions in Specified Places. I would like to talk to you. I have a case against PPA in Commonwealth Court and I am preparing a 1st Amended Complaint for District Court. I am seeking counsel.

  10. TONY DPHAX KING says:

    The last comment in the blog from ROD….is exactly what I wanted to share with you Mr. Mulvihill……the EXCEPTION is the most important part of the Prohibitions in Specified Places. Good law always makes ONE exception. There you have it…….I seek an attorney for my District Court case!!!

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