Vancouver nixes bid for cheaper motorbike parking

City council faces backlash after voting against staff advice to reduce rates in low-use motorcycle parking locations
Vancouver city council’s decision against reducing on-street parking rates for motorcycles could encourage motorcycle and scooter drivers to keep parking illegally and semi-legally

Vancouver council is coming under fire for disregarding staff recommendations and deciding against reducing rates for on-street motorcycle parking.

A staff report argued that with motorcycle parking slots sitting empty, parking rates should be lowered. It recommended that on-street metered parking rates be lowered for zero-emission and gas-powered motorcycles and scooters at regular and motorbike-specific parking spots.

But council voted May 16 to maintain the status quo.

“I was really, really surprised and disappointed,” said Coun. George Affleck, who voted for the reductions.

“The point was to discount [the meters] so people would start using them more, and we’d earn more revenue, we’d encourage more people to use different modes of transportation.”

Affleck said the Vision Vancouver-dominated council rejected the price reduction because of a “very green agenda.”

“[The Vision perspective was] if it wasn’t an electric bike, it didn’t really count as something that’s worthy for discounting at any time,” he said.

Motorcycle lobbyist Ian Tootill, who heads the ad-hoc MC Parkinggroup, voiced even stronger disappointment for the move.

“Motorcyclists, like car drivers, should be able to drive anywhere in town and park on the street, and they shouldn’t have to drive for blocks or miles to find it.”

Tootill added that before 2010, Vancouver had only 40 designated motorcycle parking spots. His push for “corner clearance” motorcycle parking has increased the number of designated parking spaces in town to more than 230. But he said the rates have been set with “no science” and thus the spaces are underused.

“If you walk around and you look at those metered spaces, wherever [the city has] stuck a meter in, they’re empty,” he said. “As soon as they put a meter in, everybody vaporized and went back to what they were doing before, which was poaching space.”

Tootill said council’s decision will result in the continuance of the “semi-legal” practice of motorcyclists parking their bikes between cars. He added that high fuel costs and the city’s initial moves to be “friendly” to the vehicles have increased the number of motorcycles in Vancouver.

Charles Gauthier is the executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. He said he supported the plan to lower motorcycle parking rates – but added that he’d like to see on-street parking costs lowered more generally in the downtown core to encourage customers to frequent downtown businesses.

He said he’s seeing more empty downtown parking spots.

“The market has become quite a bit softer as a result of the price of parking as well as the cost of fuel as well as other options being made available for people.”

Gauthier added that expensive motorcycle parking is causing drivers to park them in downtown bicycle parking spots.

“I’ve seen it in some areas where I’d say greater than 50% of the stalls are being used by scooters and motorized bikes.”

Tootill said council’s decision makes no sense when cities all over the world are “recognizing” the advantage of encouraging motorcycles as lower-impact, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“This should have been a slam dunk,” he said.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. It’s done all over the world. We’re not asking for anything outrageous. [Council is] just being very difficult, needlessly.” •

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