Motorcyclists Push for Repealing Downtown Parking Restrictions

By Denise Ruttan

DSC_0004featuredThe rumble from 30 motorcycles punctuated the typical quiet of the Jan. 14 Downtown Advisory Board meeting.

The riders of those bikes filled every seat and hung along the wall inside the Madison Avenue Meeting Room. They were there to show solidarity for repealing a City of Corvallis ordinance that restricts motorcycles to parking spaces marked for “cycles.”

One of those bikers was Brian B. Egan, whose massive Honda Goldwing GL1800 with a tricycle conversion just won’t squeeze into those little spaces designated for cycles only.

“I think a number of motorcyclists are from all walks of life and ride all kinds of motorcycles,” Egan said. “I think it is more economical and gas-efficient than driving a car and we need places to park them. I don’t think people think about the bikes that can be as big as cars.”

The ordinance allows bicycles and scooters as well in the spots designated for cycles only. After a survey, city staffers found there were 17 motorcycle parking spots in the downtown area and seven of them were marked as cycle parking, according to Sarah Johnson, associate city planner.

One by one, bikers expressed their opinions about the matter. Many of them were spurred to attend by an invitation from BikePac of Oregon, a Salem-based group that lobbies on behalf of motorcyclists.

“I’d like to say that this is a very tiny sample of people in the community that live and work and do business and ride in this community,” said Keith Corbett of Lebanon. “I think it’s safe to say that we’d like to be as comfortable coming and parking as everybody else.” 

Joan Wessell, executive director of the Downtown Corvallis Association, sat in the front row wearing a leopard-print shirt, black skirt, heels, and nylons; she looked dwarfed by a sea of leather-clad bikers.

“What I’ve gathered from members of the Downtown Corvallis Association is that they don’t want to keep motorcycles out of downtown at all, but they do want to make sure that the car parking spaces are kept spaces for cars as well as motorcycles,” Wessell said.

Some opposed repealing the ordinance, however. Eric Blackledge, owner of Blackledge Furniture, said there is a shortage of car parking spaces downtown but “an abundance of parking for motorcycles.”

“By opening up those spaces we could end up with a situation like we have in the parking lot out here, where we have 10 spaces in the block filled with 10 motorcycles who might be in having a meal or something else, but most people probably don’t do their heavy shopping on their bike. It really has an impact on downtown financials.”

As he spoke, his words were nearly drowned out by the snarl of motorcycle engines outside.

The Downtown Advisory Board voted unanimously to repeal the ordinance, saying they did not feel it was equitable.

“I would challenge the suggestion that a motorcycle parked in a spot that they’re somehow worth less to a business than a car parked in that spot,” said board member Mike Weiner. “As you can see here, they’re going to shops and spending money when they’re parking their bicycle or motorcycle.”   

The issue will next go to the Urban Services Committee, then the City Council will consider it. The next meeting of the Urban Services Committee is set for Tuesday, Feb. 3 at 5 p.m. at the Madison Avenue Meeting Room.