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.
Great posting. Thanks so much for your clear and well-written information.
You have to tell the story about your scooter getting thrown off a bridge into the river. Please?
Well, the long story short is that I parked my scooter outside Fenway Park while I was at a Red Sox/Yankees game. Now, I’m not saying it had anything to do with the Yankees per se, 😉 but my scooter was picked up and relocated somehow to the Mass. Ave. bridge, where it was tossed into the Charles River. I know it was picked up and carried because the kryptonite lock and chain were still affixed to the wheel when it was recovered by Boston Police. So it wasn’t rolled there. I imagine there was either a pick-up truck involved, or a handful of inebriated (Yankees) fans. I was later called upon to identify the body, soaking wet and tangled with seaweed. It was a sad day.
Hello there, I live in Bellevue and commute to facebook in seattle via maxi-scooter (piaggio mp3 250) and have recently had some trouble parking near the pike place market. Our building offers free parking (dont ask how), however there always full and don’t have any leg room for scooters! Is there a free scooter parking area just west of the market possible near 1st and stewart?
wow, that’s terrible! 🙁
I’m loving finding this site! I’ve loved the idea of having a scooter for a long time, but haven’t considered it fully until now…as I will have a new job that requires a fairly expensive commute. Are you still in Seattle? I will be commuting from Bremerton to the Space Needle and the walk-on/bus will be about as much as a scooter (depending on the parking thing). If you have some good suggestions I would love it! I am beginning to look at what scooter to get (new vs. used, and type), and of course where to find parking for it near the Needle. Any ideas would be great-thanks in advance!
Regarding MA’s new low-speed scooter laws, I strongly believe it is a time for Civil Disobedience. Please see my blog at http://cclemens.typepad.com. I have several postings regarding the “criminal charges” I have pending. I have opted for a jury trial. Low speed scooters solve so many problems including: traffic jams, more parking for cars, no texting while driving, no cell phone abuse, no speeding (or, if so, you can’t outrun the cops), no drunk driving (unlike a car, you’ll tip over), minimal gas consumption, no drinking while driving, no smoking while driving, etc., etc. Let’s assume it’s just about more revenue needed by the state. So the voters of MA decide that booze should no longer be taxed? But low speed scooters should be treated as “licensed motor vehicles?” Scooter commuters should be given tax incentives, not tickets. And parking should be the same as for bicycles. My scooter has a smaller wheel base than my bicycle. And I can commute to work in my heels and a dress, without having to take a shower. Shame on the MA DMV for creating the new modified motorcycle law. Stupid, short sighted, and a law that should be broken — for good!
Good ideas. Especially parking where others are parking. In Japan, basically any space you don’t pay for is illegal, but by parking with others, you learn where you won’t get impounded. Also, I highly reccomend just using the 100 yen per day bicycle/scooter spots when available.
In Seattle, you can have more than one motorcycle or scooter in a street parking space designed for one regular vehicle… only one of the motorcycles in the space needs to have it paid and displayed. http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/parking/motorcycleparking.htm
Nice article, i like how u added a little humor in there;-) I have a Vespa 150LX and have no idea where to park it lol, i live in manhattan ny, here’s a pic:
Do you know any parking lot, public parking or other options
for parking my scooter safely near Seattle University?
In unfamiliar areas, I always chain my scooter to an immovable object like a tree or post. When going into town, I put a length of chain under the seat plus 2 padlocks.
i am just in the stages of ordering a Vespa 150cc scooter in San Francisco. i see scooters all over the place and have even talked briefly to scooter owners about their experiences, insurance rates, driving tips in SF, etc. the last time i drove a moped was in the 70s in southern Spain! am looking forward to it and thanks for your hints above, now looking for hints for scootersville in SF!!
My Vespa 350 GTS has been hit twice on the street outside of my house. Do you have any tips for increasing visibility?
For the ? About visabilty i tend to wrap a bright orange city work er vest on the front of my lil scoot i would think anything as loud and bright as that city orange is a very great help to your scoot cause if they cant see they that maybe there just blind and for that theres no solution…thanks for tips
my scoot family….
In Austin, any spot with a meter or pay and park (basically any legal City of Austin parking spot) is free for motorcycles and scooters for up to 12 hours at a time.
I’ve never parked that long, but I’m curious to see if the police even enforce the 12-hour rule.
I live in Miami Beach & in Miami scooters must park the same way cars do, taking up a full spot, in a parking lot or parallel to the curb. otherwise you get a ticket. Its hard to pay for parking since if you get that little slip from the machine it often gets stolen off of your scooter. Parking on a sidewalk, next to a bike rack or any place other than a parking spot that a car parks is illegal and they will ticket you FAST. the only exception is in the residential area of miami beach scooters can park parallel to the curb but often cars knock them over. it is nice when there are some scooter only parking spots that are free in the residential area or pay ones where you can put quarters in the machine and not have to deal with a slip getting stolen. also nice that publix on 5th and alton has the best parking on the block for scooters only. right at the front door. definitely call your parking department in your city to find out the scooter parking laws as its different all over