The 10 Secrets of Scooter Parking
Scooter parking can be easier than parking your car, and cheaper, too. If you commute by scooter or just ride frequently in the city, you need to know these parking secrets.
One of the main reasons I originally got a scooter was because I could park it at work for less than $1 a day, compared with $8 a day for cars. Combined with the fabulous gas mileage, riding a scooter to work can be cheaper than taking the bus! (And less nauseating, if you get violent motion sickness like me.)
After ten years and three major cities, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks for scooter parking that I’d like to share with you now. If you have secured garage parking with a designated scooter space, consider yourself lucky and go read a different post.
1. Learn the Local Laws
Before you park anywhere, investigate the laws in your town and make sure you understand them. Parking fines negate any money saved by riding a scooter, and in my city, those fines can break the bank. Most parking and traffic laws are outlined in depth on city and county web sites.
2. Park Correctly!
I have a really big pet peeve: incorrect scooter street parking. This offense is usually illustrated by parking head-in to the curb, or parallel to the curb – as though the scooter is a miniature car.
The reason this drives me mad is that it’s one of the first things discussed in any state cycle manual or safety course. So if your Vespa ET4 is parked facing the curb, you didn’t read the manual. Which also means you didn’t take a safety course, or get a cycle endorsement, so you’re riding illegally, endangering my life, and giving scooterists everywhere a bad name. Knock it off, go home, and read the manual.
Okay, I’m stepping down from my soap box now.
3. Don’t Ask the Cops
In my experience, few law enforcement individuals are able to correctly answer parking questions. Sometimes I ask them a question I already know the answer to. They give the wrong answer about half the time. This explains why I’ve been able to park illegally on the sidewalk without a single ticket, while racking up fines for legal use of street space. Nobody really knows what’s allowed. Whether or not I get a ticket on any given day has more to do with who’s patrolling that street and what kind of mood they’re in.
A friend of mine saw this firsthand in court, when she went to fight a scooter parking ticket. The judge and the cop couldn’t even agree. Her argument was, “If neither of you can explain the law, how am I supposed to follow it?” Good point. So seek out and learn the rules yourself. That way if you do get a ticket, you can point out Ordinance 28.9.1 and say, “Toldya so.”
4. Respect Other Vehicles
Being a slender and spritely two-wheeler, it’s easy to forget that other vehicles aren’t so nimble. When squeezing in behind that parallel-parked car, be sure to leave enough room for the driver to pull out easily. It doesn’t further the cause of scooters to block other drivers in. Plus, you could end up with a towed scooter, or worse – a damaged one.
5. Use Space Wisely
In retail parking lots, like at the grocery store, you can often find a place to tuck your scoot without taking up a whole car space. Often times there’s triangular spaces at the end of rows, or half-spots in front of cement light posts. If you use these pseudo spots, be sure to stay inside the painted lines, which designate manuevering room for cars. Otherwise you could get side-swiped by an unknowing driver coming around the corner.
If you have to use a regular car space, be sure to park in a manner that discourages other vehicles from trying to squeeze in alongside you, only to knock your scooter over. I park facing out, so if someone thinks the space is open and pulls in, the headlight can alert them of their error. My untested theory says that if they hit my scooter head-on, they are less likely to knock it over; hitting it from behind will push it off the kick stand and topple it. Luckily, I’ve never needed to verify this hypothesis.
6. Don’t Use a Car Space if You Don’t Have To
I’m not here to philosophize about the inherent rights of individual vehicles or personal karma. I am here to help you keep your scooter upright and in one piece. Be forewarned: in a crowded, high-traffic parking lot, cage drivers get ticked off if they see a scooter parked in one of “their” spaces – even when the scooter is parked legally and has every right to be there.
I’ve gotten my share of threatening Nasty-grams left on my scooter by cage drivers. On more than one occasion, I have had my scooter removed from its legal spot and disposed of in order to free up the parking space for a car. Once it was tossed into a planted parking strip, and another time it was tossed off a bridge into a river.
These occurences made me very angry and I would hate for them to happen to you. I now invest a little extra effort seeking a low-profile space, like behind a dumpster or similiar, when parking at a concert, sporting event, or similiar gig with abundant alcohol.
7. Avoid Parking on Hills
Don’t park on a hill unless you have to, mainly because it’s difficult. On a very steep incline, it’s hard to back your scooter into the curb since it doesn’t have reverse. You may also find it challenging to get your scooter off the kick stand. This all depends on your scooter, of course. I try to avoid parking my 350 pound Vespa GTS on a hill.
I almost never park my Genuine Stella on a hill. Every time I do, the spark plug gets soaked with oil and the scooter is nearly impossible to start without swapping the plug, which is a drag when you’ve got chrome cowl protectors on. My mechanic told me this is a common problem with two-stroke scooters. If anyone has a remedy for this, I’m all ears.
8. Smile at the Lot Attendant
I’ve had many great experiences using parking lots downtown and I rarely have to pay for them. One lot I use regularly has a shallow space on each floor where the support beams are. It’s the width of a car and the depth of a scooter, so there’s often five or six of us parked there. The lot manager assured me that the free scooter parking was due not to the generosity of the owner but to the limitations of the technology; the attendants couldn’t print a violation for a space that lacks a stall number.
Often times I ask the lot attendant if they have anywhere I can “tuck my scooter” and they direct me to a nook or cranny free of charge. One older guy at a lot I frequent is a motorcycle rider and fiercely guards the cycles in his charge. That lot has a large space in front where scooters, bicycles and motorcycles can park for free.
9. Find Street Parking for Cycles
Seattle is undergoing changes to the parking structure, and the Department of Transportation held a hearing for scooters. Supposedly, they are trying to make the city more scooter friendly. It has its moments. Downtown features a handful of spots specifically for cycles, each with its own meter at a discounted rate. Your city may have a similiar area, especially if you live in San Francisco.
The benefit of designated spaces is, of course, the discounted rate. (The feeling of entitlement is a bonus.) In cities with park-and-pay kiosks, as opposed to actual meters, scooters get shafted. Four scooters parked together occupy the space of one car, but all four have to pay full price for the privelege.
When using a park-and-pay kiosk, attach the receipt to your headlight. Not only is that the legal place for it, but you’ll avoid removing any paint or leaving sticky residue on your scooter. I always keep a permanent marker in my glovebox and write my license plate number on the parking receipt, along with the word “cycle.” Theoretically, this should dissuade anyone from stealing my receipt to use in their own vehicle.
10. Park Near Other Scooters
Safety in numbers – it’s as simple as that. Plus – don’t they look so pretty all lined up together?
Sometimes tricky and sometimes a breeze, scooter parking in the city is always an adventure. Follow these guidelines and you’ll score a sweet spot while staying out of trouble.
Have any secrets of your own? Please share! I promise not to steal your spot.