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City of Charleston's Motorcycle Apartheid

By FastFred Ruddock

Once again Mayor Joe Riley and the City of Charleston are discriminating upon a minority. While Charleston suffers a severe lack of parking and major traffic congestion the city leaders choose to spit in the face of reason by discouraging the use of motorcycles. Worst still struggling college students feel the brunt of the intolerance most. Wednesday April 25, 2007 motorcyclists found notes on their motorcycles left by Republic Parking Systems.

Note barring motorcycle parking in the City of Charleston
This unsigned notice was left on motorcycles in city garage

The above note appears disingenuous considering the city has allowed motorcycles to park in some garages for over thirty years such as the one now in question. However I first began to notice motorcycle parking being prohibited in a few city parking garages in the tourist section of town near the Market during the late 1990's. Furthermore Mayor Riley's negative statements regarding motorcycles and motorcyclists prior to the first Heritage Motorcycle Rally seem to imply a pattern of intended discrimination towards a segment of our population.

Prior to and during the 1960's another segment of our population was targeted with similar unfair and discriminatory policies. However there are now federal and state laws prohibiting such policies. Dwight Potter states "The new policy is in response to the increased liability that the City faces with motorcycles not always being detected on the loops and the potential of the gate coming down and injuring the rider." If this were truly the case the City and Republic Parking Systems have had adequate time to remedy the problem and replace the defective equipment. Blaming the victim and punishing the victim for their inaction is wrong and immoral.

During the 1960's similar disingenuous statements and tactics were used by those supporting Jim Crow laws. Such as then Governor Ernest F. Hollings statement that sit-ins at lunch counters "are purely to create violence and not to promote anyone's rights," as reported by the Rock Hill Evening Herald. It would appear that some in power still feel they are above the law and able to use questionable social engineering tactics to determine to whom public services will be provided within their jurisdictions based upon personal preferences or prejudices.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed under the Commerce Clause is far reaching and prohibits discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment. The City parking garages fall under this act as public facilities and as government owned. All new traffic sensors installed by SCDOT now detect motorcycles so the weak excuse given in the notice holds no water. Federal law clearly supports the rights of the disenfranchised motorcyclists.

South Carolina General Statute 45-9-10 provides all persons are entitled to equal enjoyment of and privileges to public accommodations and further states this to be "supported by state action." Federal and state law both support the position of the motorcyclists. It seems the City is risking legal action.

However the vexing parking problems of the City of Charleston seem reason enough for a reversal of policy. While the mayor and college claim to seek parking solutions they are clearly overlooking motorcycles. Riders should not be punished for their mode of transportation especially when it results in less impact to parking and traffic. one would hope justice will prevail prior to legal action and all the associated costs of civil action. Yet based upon past history and continuing discrimination and genification of the city the outlook for a return to commonsense is not likely to come without a fight.

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