Friday, February 15, 2008

Parking it.

Sooner or later all good things must come to an end. In other words, we actually have to park the bike for a bit and do something besides riding. Things like drinking coffee and then getting rid of coffee. We only briefly touch on parking in our classes. There's only so much time and street survival skills take priority. We do have an exercise that teaches low speed maneuvering skills. These can come in quite handy in certain situations. More on that later.

I just wanted to share a couple of things about parking a bike. Some you may be aware of and some that may be something you haven't considered before. Even though parking seems like a small deal I've seen not-so-good things come from mistakes here. I also have to say that the impetus for this post came from questions Conchscooter posed. Here's to you, Sir!

First off, let's talk about sidestands and certain ground conditions. There's a whole lot of weight concentrated in a small area. Sidestands sink into soft surfaces. Sometimes the surface doesn't seem soft at the time but things change. Like blazing sun on blacktop. It's even conceivable that one could put a big bike on a sidestand or centerstand in the yard for a summer wash. There's something about water running from a hose that changes the properties of the ground. Not that I know from personal experience or anything, mind you!

I carry a piece of hard plastic that's about 4 inches square and thick enough not to bend. It's a simple matter of putting it under the sidestand. A flattened can would work as well. What you might not have thought of is what I've done with this piece of plastic. I drilled a hole in the corner and put a long piece of heavy fishing line through it. On the open end of the line I've tied a loop. When I slide the plastic under the sidestand I hook the loop onto a lever or the grip. When I mount and straighten the bike I have merely to pull the string and retrieve the plastic. It goes into a baggie in the tank bag. That's free advice from someone who's more, er, experienced and doesn't want to have to bend down all the time. Think of the process to retrieve the piece without the string!

More places these days are providing motorcycle only parking. It's greatly appreciated but these places aren't always decided by actual riders. We just sort of get slotted in here and there. Not all motorcycle parking spots are created equal. They can also present unique challenges. Consider this one.

When I rode by here there were two bikes already so I went down a few blocks and walked back. By that time one bike had left. This spot is right on the corner of two busy streets in the State Capitol. What doesn't show in the picture is the steep angle towards the curb. Balance and care are required to get into these spots. Curbing the rear tire helps settle the bike so it's more secure on the sidestand. Look at this next picture and you'll see another complication.

Here's a picture from an adjacent parking structure. Notice how all the cars pull into angled parking but the motorcycle is facing the opposite direction. To park here requires an almost 270 degree sharp turn. Here's where low speed maneuvering skills and sharp awareness of the surrounding traffic is required. A rider can't be messing about too long getting situated. This is right downtown amid a multi-block shopping mall. Remember the infamous offset cone weave in the DMV riding tests? This is an example of where a rider needs those skills. Keep enough throttle to hold the bike up and control speed with the clutch. Use your head and eyes for directional control. Sound familiar?

In the first of what would prove to be two surprising coincidences, the rider of the Honda ACE was a former student. He was proudly displaying the retroreflective sticker we give to graduates. Here's a picture of the helmet. You can see me reflected while I take the picture.

Backing into spots like these serves more than one purpose. Firstly, backing in just looks cool. Secondly, it's often necessary for the bike's stability. Thirdly, and most importantly, backing in allows the rider to both park and exit on their terms. Imagine trying to back out, uphill, onto these busy streets. We'd be pretty vulnerable because we lack the ability to gather visual information and to respond quickly to threats. Being able to pull out forward puts us in a much more advantageous position. Both literally and figuratively. Besides, it's often physically impossible to sit on a bike and push it backwards uphill! Let gravity pull it down to park and horsepower bring it back out.

Here's a spot across the street that doesn't require quite as much turning to get into. In an earlier post I presented a picture of Sophie parked here. You may recognize it. This day it was empty.

The big advantage to this spot is the handy phone booth for whatever quick clothing changes may be required!

On the subject of some motorcycle parking not being so desirable, check out these pictures. It was while taking these pictures that the second coincidence happened.

This spot is in a parking structure. Sorry the light's not good. I'm running out of daylight by now. My point and shoot only allows so many adjustments. Consider this picture worth 500 words instead of a thousand! This is a cramped spot with a big downhill slope to the left. If you notice at the top of the spot is a white car facing us. There's also motorcycle parking in that corner. Check it out.

This is one of those "Now that I've parked here and a car also parked, how the heck do I get out?" situations. As I'm trying to get pictures in the not so good light, I hear this voice say "What's up?" I don't really look and figure it's somebody wanting to know what I'm taking pictures of their car for. Turns out I'm somewhat right. When I look up I see my middle son Travis. He didn't recognize me from farther back and thought I was someone trying to write him a parking ticket or something. Now you might think I should have recognized the car. Long story short, Travis' car had been rear ended and totalled by the insurance company. This was his new-to-him replacement he'd just acquired. So I hadn't really had the chance to get to know it, you see? It was a neat coincidence considering we were both about 30 miles from home.

Sometimes it's just better to pass up motorcycling only parking and take to the streets. Here's a couple of pictures about parallel parking.

Parking too close to one end of the spot or the other can encourage drivers frustrated at a lack of parking spots to try to share. Sorry. It's my spot. Notice the back end towards the curb. Some places have laws stating that the rear tire needs to be within so many inches of the curb. Check with your local "agency having jurisdiction". These considerations aside, I park to maximize my safety in leaving. Angling the bike keeps parts out of the traffic flow. Turning the bars towards the sidestand makes for a steady tripod. I've seen big bikes with the bars turned full right. I also watched as a gust from a passing truck blew one over. Stability is our friend!

Here's a properly centered bike in the spot. By the way, you can't imagine how hard it was to get a clear picture from across the street! By now it's nearly 5 PM. This street is three lanes wide. There's a stop light at each end of the block. Most of the time bumper to bumper cars prevented me from getting a picture. Sheesh!

Several bikes can share the same spot, incidentally. That's not written in stone everywhere. Spaces that are paid for in those machines on the sidewalk are limited to one vehicle. However, most spots can have several bikes. I repeatedly ask parking enforcement people this question and get the same answer.

"How many bikes can legally park in a space with a parking meter?"

I'm told as many as will fit but if the meter expires they all get tickets!

To wrap up, I want to talk briefly about parking structures. There's a couple of unique things to consider here, as well.

Resist the urge to park too far back. Drivers seem to use less and less of their brains these days. Take a look at this situation from their perspective. No, we're not going where you think we're going. I don't care to emulate a colonoscopy probe!

Notice how the bike's all but invisible from this angle. I happen to be on the far end of the structure where's it quieter. Drivers are on the other side in a feeding frenzy for the spots closer to the door. It wouldn't hurt half of them to walk more. Imagine a driver diving into what they figure is an empty space. Will they stop before hitting the front of the bike?

Moving the bike forward enough to be seen but not so far as to be in harm's way works well here.

Just so you know the level of my commitment to you all, be it known that I violated at least one city ordinance to bring you these photos. I also got hassled by a parking enforcement person. Actually, Renea's a rider and she was in one of my classes a few years ago. It wasn't that bad when I told her what I was doing. Still, though, I hope you appreciate the chances I took for you!

There's an unofficial grace for bikes but it depends on the day and who's patrolling. If there's a sign there's a policy. Which means a rider can get ticketed for backing in. Which forces us to park like this and look just like the herd animals frequenting these places.

Oh the ignomy of it all!

So there you have it for what it's worth. Maybe you knew it all. Maybe you found something new to think about. Parking on a bike is like riding a bike in that you have to think like a motorcyclist. It's a different view from atop two wheels.

Enough of this parking thing! Sophie's been sitting around way too long. Got to ride!

Miles and smiles,



vaara said...

Here in the Bay Area, motorcycle parking is fairly plentiful. Downtown San Francisco has lots of dedicated motorcycle parking, with rates ranging from 10 cents to 25 cents an hour -- quite a bargain when it can cost $35 to park a car all day! The parking lot nearest my office is "only" $18... which is why I ride my bike over the Bay Bridge every day, because not only do I not have to pay the toll, but parking comes to a whopping $1. The time savings are substantial, too.

I feel sorry for the folks who live on steep hills and have to park on the street, though.

Charlie6 said...

My 1150RT is a pretty heavy bike, I've learned (the hard way as usual) to carefully pick where I park her. Level areas are best of course but if there's a slope, back her in.

Nothing more "character building" than trying to muscle a 600+ lb bike up a slight slope to back out of a parking spot. It's damn near impossible, at least for me.

Definitely make sure the bike is visible to cagers looking for a spot to park in, it prevents their whipping in only to find a motorcycle parked in their way, too late to stop.

Good article Dan.

Redleg's Rides

Bryce said...

Good grief! A Ford Falcon coupe, in good condition! THose things rusted away a long time ago in these parts!
Or is this a Found On Road Dead Falcon?

As to the parking, here in Ontario
it's one vehicle to a slot, no multiple motorcycles or automobiles.

Stateside you're just getting the
French-built Smart cars, we had them for a while, and three of them fit nicely into one auto slot.

Three parking tickets though, only one to a slot. Seems a waste.

And, also here in these parts, those end of the row areas, are there for a reason, to allow
motor vehicles to see out and around the corner. Parking at
vehicle of two or four wheels there ensures a ticket and a tow.

Oh and with all the snow here,
those same places are great for piling the snow.

Becky said...

This is one of my greatest worries. I am sure I will have to back in somewhere at a slopy angle and tip my bike over while doing it. I've already had trouble backing out of my spot at work because there was a small 'hump' of blacktop to go over. It took all I had. Thanks for the great tips and I think I learned a few things.


Anonymous said...

Man I thought it was just a rumor, but you really do navigate by Starbucks! I recognize the shots by location alone, Salem Center downtown Salem...who would have thought? Well for now I'm off the grading curve, but hopefully I'll get bike again soon, maybe after the new Jeep...well, keep sharing the new advetures with mom and Sophie so I can pretend...
Pooh Bear

irondad said...

At least bikes get a break. Can't imagine paying so much to park. Those hills are where a motorcycle would need some sort of parking brake. I'd be lying in bed all night worrying about whether or not my bike was going to fall over!

What's amazing is how a slope that looks harmless can be so steep. Bumps really cause me problems, too, when I'm sitting on the bike and trying to paddle walk backwards. Thanks for the compliment.

Never was excited about the Falcon in the first place. Somebody must have drove this thing into the parking structure. Looked like a mall employee's car.

You and me both. See my comment to Charlie6 above. I have a 30" inseam so I need to use more finesse than brute strength. Glad you gleaned something useful from the post.

Pooh Bear,
Didn't you know that all the great adventurers navigated by the "Stars"? My own flesh and blood is wanting a Jeep first instead of a bike? Jeez, I thought I raised you better than that! By the way, can I drive your Jeep when you get it?

Take care,


Balisada said...

Ahh, yes. Parking.

That part of Basic Rider Training that I noted, but didn't really comprehend.

Now I see the point of "Park so you can be seen, and can just zip right out of the space when leaving."

I understood the idea of being seen, but the "zipping out" thing was a bit of a mystery.

Thanks for clearing it up.


Dan said...

Stability is our friend allright! Especially true when parking on the ferry to cross puget sound, up here in WA. I've never crossed in windy, choppy waters..but something tells me I would stay down on the deck if the boat was a-rockin! -Dan

Conchscooter said...

I've been riding for decades and I still walk away from the parked motorcycle wondering if I got it right. Thanks for the help, because it really is helpful, and not just for me apparently!

irondad said...

Glad to have provided a little clarification. Going through a class gives a person a lot to absorb. Sometimes it has to filter in as we ride. I waved at a rider Saturday afternoon on Pacific Blvd that looked like you but there was no yellow helmet. Did you switch or was that someone else?

I'm with you. I'd be right there sitting on the bike. Do they provide tie-down places on those?

Thanks for weighing in. It would have been weird to do this post at your instigation and then not hear from you! I'm honored you found it helpful.

Take care,


Balisada said...

I thought that was you just after I waved.

Yes, I had to get a new helmet.

I went to take a fall pic of my motorcycle on top of that hill outside of Brownsville.

Unfortunately, some some &^%^$#$ kid(s) spray painted the ground with graffiti.

I thought that I could take some kind of picture with the graffiti minimalized.

After a couple of pics, I realized that the spray-painted imaged of a mans most favorite muscle that was pointing toward my front tire, could NEVER be minimalized, so I moved the motorcycle forward and took another pic.

I then realized that it was now pointing to my rear tire and prompty lost my temper.

In attempting to move my motorcycle yet AGAIN, I accidentally hit my helmet with my foot and kicked the helmet toward the edge of the mountain.

For one second, the helmet paused at the edge, as if to say "don't worry, I'm not going anywhere".

But then Fate, that vile woman that she is, thought that I was overdue and the helmet went rolling over the edge.

And I watched my $400 helmet go a$$-over-teakettele down the side of a mountain bouncing merrily over fist sized rocks.

Lucky for me, it didn't go down the entire mountain. Fate thoughtfully put a tree in the way to stop it's downward trend.

So, now I am a bit poorer, and have a new helmet.

It's not as nice as the last. I liked the last one's color. This one is not quite as visible.

I have seen motorcyclists in traffic, and the ones I always see are the yellow helmets.

Oh well. In 5 years I can go back to yellow.

MORAL: Don't lose your temper. Fate may be watching and it's not worth it.


vaara said...

Re: Washington State Ferries, I used to moto-commute from Bainbridge Island to Bothell, and stability was never an issue. The boats (at least on the B.I. run) are so big that there's no risk of a bike tipping over.

However, on the Black Ball ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, there are tie-downs and motorcyclists are required to use them.

Heinz & Frenchie said...

For us newbies that was very educational....thanks for the free lesson. Although we ride Vespa's we face some of the same parking dilemmas that motorcyclists do. We found your idea about the plastic piece very clever. We sometimes find a neat area and then discover that the ground is too unstable to park the scooters. We always learn something when we visit your blog. Thanks again.

Conchscooter said...

So many comments! Its the unconsidered trifles that leave us all puzzling! At last I feel I can explain to scooter renters why I am so "fussy" about how I park. Meanwhile I'm going to have to dream up some other impossibly mundane question that needs answering.