Parking your scoot on the streets of NYC
If you’re new to scootering in New York then, unfortunatley, you have a lot to learn about parking.
Spend five minutes in conversation with any New York City scooterist, and you’ll quickly learn that parking a scooter safely and securely on the streets of the Big Apple doesn’t always go nicely hand-in-hand with parking legally.
Let’s get one thing squared away. In the eyes of the NYPD Traffic Department – there is only one legal way to park a scooter or motorcycle on the street in the five boroughs: On the street.
The danger in doing this? Returning to find your scoot the victim of theft; a much larger vehicle’s bumper. Or worse – its back wheels.
With the amount of discussion dedicated to the subject of parking around local websites, we felt it would be helpful to summarize some of the key points that will arm you with what you need to know before you make your decision where and how to park. We’ll offer pointers whether you choose to risk damage and park on the street, or risk towing and park on the sidewalk.
Parking on the street
Parking on the street is the only way to go if you want to keep it legit. But it’s still not that simple. The right to park in metered areas is fuzzy to say the least. 9 times out of 10 you’ll be parking between parked vehicles. And provided you’re backed into the curb, you’re occupying a slither of a spot that can be argued to be between two parking “spaces” and be left well-alone.
The spirit of NYC parking law however is that if you park in a metered area you are responsible for paying for the right to park, not for the right to a specific space.
For the most part, NYC scooterists do park “between spaces” with little risk of a ticket, but as the law above implies, some have been known to be stuck with a failure-to-pay-the-meter ticket by over-zealous parking agents. If this happens to you it’s certainly worth appealing because for the most part, it’s demonstrated that this will typically get thrown out in court.
From a scooter-preservation perspective. Think carefully about where you park. Your best bet is to park in the end “spot” between the last parked car and the junction. And park it in those spots where the vehicle is facing the junction. That way you’re at least guaranteeing that the vehicle owner can’t claim to not see your bike as they leave the spot.
As is implied above, avoid parking behind vehicles – particularly large ones. And don’t sandwich your bike between two parked cars where there is limited space. If you know you’re not leaving the vehicles enough room to exit, you know that they’ll see your scoot as a temporary obstacle to their leaving.
Finally try to locate a low turnover parking area. Even if you choose a great spot to park. It’s no guarantee that the nearest vehicle will be your only neighbor during your stay.
Our tip, for what it’s worth: Try and park next to the nicest vehicle you can find. A graffiti festooned mini van driver isn’t going to give a crap about rolling out of his spot over your scoot, but a waxed Jaguar owner may think differently about scuffing their pride and joy.
Parking in a parking garage
While you may have made arrangements at your local neighborhood lot for scooter storage (good luck with that negotiation,) your chances of parking in a typical Manhattan parking garage are slim to none. The reason? Most garages aren’t insured to store two-wheeled vehicles so they’d rather not go to the trouble of accommodating you. Which brings us swiftly on to:
Parking on the sidewalk
Most of the scooterists we talk to feel this is the way to go. Yes it’s illegal, but it is unevenly enforced and it’s generally a lot safer for the well-being of your bike (unless it’s unceremoniously towed to the pound) but you’re also risking a fine.
The first trick to parking on the sidewalk? Removing your license plate. Why? So the traffic cops have no immediate way of identifying your vehicle, even if they are hungry to write you a ticket.
This used to be the tried-and-true trick. However, some parking cops, particularly those operating in high-volume areas like Midtown Manhattan are also armed with scanners that can identify your vehicle by it’s VIN number. So next, you need to think carefully about obscuring your VIN number. Don’t high-profile cover it with tape or something. That’s also considered illegal. But a dab of grease should deter most traffic cops’ manicures and render their scanner useless.
If you do get a ticket pulled from your VIN number, Jonathan over at the NY Scooter Club Forum has some sage advice.
Finally, in recent years there have been periods of crack-downs on bikes without plates being treated as abandoned vehicles and towed. But again, it’s unevenly enforced and comes down to which side of the bed your local traffic cop got out of that morning.
So what can you do?
Well for starters, in addition to removing your plate and keeping your VIN on the down-low, keep your scoot as inconspicuous as possible. It’s always better to cover your bike with a scooter cover to blend it in with the surroundings. This also creates extra effort for any cops who want to ID your scoot.
Park as close to the curb as possible, rather than close to the building. Don’t block building entrances, or loading areas. Definitely don’t park in areas like bus stops. And avoid buildings with doorman attendance. You’re just providing them with quarry to bring meaning to their day. Finally, anywhere with an abundance of traffic meters means that a traffic cop will never be far away.
Additionally, much as we like to support our fellow scooterists. Park your scoot away from others. The last thing you want to create in the eyes of a traffic cop is a loosely formed scooter parking lot.
Finally, lock it up. Not just against theft. But as a deterrent against towing. Lock your steering column. Lock your wheel. And chain your bike to an immovable object.
Oh boy. Good luck!
In 2007, Piaggio sponsored a free-parking program in the Summer of 2007 but it didn’t repeat in 2008. Time will tell if they’ll explore it again this year. Other cities have begun to explore free parking city wide for two-wheeled vehichles. Not so, New York City. Until then? Good luck out there, and let us know your parking tips, and cherished spots.