Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fill those spots!

Cruising through a couple of cities yesterday, I noticed that most of the motorcycle parking spots are empty. They're so empty you can hear your voice echo. Of course, the weather yesterday might have had something to do with it. High winds and heavy rains don't make ideal inducements to ride.

I had an early morning appointment in downtown Portland yesterday. Following that I ski'd, I mean rode, back to Salem. I saw only three other bikes actually being ridden. One was a big BMW GS dual sport, the other two were being piloted by motor officers. Duty calls despite the weather, I guess.

Speaking of weather, the weatherman on TV likened us to being at the end of a fire hose. Fast moving jet streams were dumping tropical moisture on us from some Pacific island chain. We had wind gusts of 30 some miles per hour. A couple hours NW of us, Astoria on the coast got nearly four inches of rain. To top off the day, our neighbor's giant Weeping Willow tree finally gave up the struggle last night. Somewhere around 11:30 PM I awoke to what sounded like fireworks. Fortunately, the tree crashed to the ground without hitting anything vital.

With weather like this, you know I just had to ride. It's an ego thing, I admit. The last thing I want said about me is that I am less than a hardcore rider. Call me juvenile, but I'll probably still be trying to prove my Road Warrior status until I can no longer move. Katie was kind of worried about me riding. I think the prospect of the heavy, gusty, wind on top of the heavy rain shook her up a little. Especially since my itinerary called for around 250 miles. She's my best friend and deeply loves me. I know she wanted to keep me from riding but didn't want to deny me what I needed. That's true love. I love her, too, but I needed to ride. It's who I am. It's what I do. I just hoped she didn't have some premonition of my impending doom. Her slightly frightened look haunted me all day. Just to end the suspense, things turned out well yesterday with no close calls.

Finding a place to park nearly drove me crazy. Which spot to choose?!! Hmm. This one's nice, but that one has a better view. Oh, not that one. It's under a tree full of birds. Ok, how about this one? Well, the one next to it is a little cleaner and the stripe's brighter. Aaargh!!

This spot is usually crammed with bikes during the summer. The lack of other riders is sort of bittersweet to me. One the one hand, I like the feeling of being one of the "crazy ones" who rides all year. People never know how to take you. Yesterday, for example, I was walking on the sidewalk in my wet gear, helmet in hand. A guy passed me going the other way. He caught my eye and I knew he wanted to say something. So I decided to humor him and act like I might be interested.

"Getting wet, huh?", he says, with entirely too much pleasure, I thought. Of course, I think I'm much more manly than him since I'm the one with the wet motorcycle gear. So who cares what a lightweight like him thinks, eh?

Here's another empty space at the Community College. More fodder for my ego. Which brings me to the other side of the coin. I've thrown my loyalty behind Andy Goldfine's Ride to Work campaign. Notice that it doesn't say Ride and Build Your Ego. Drat.

Not everyone can ride to work all year, I know. Little things like snow, for example, get in the way. Around here, however, snow and ice are less frequent. It's certainly not as much fun to ride in our Winter, but certainly something that can be accomplished. Not everyone wants to ride in bad weather, either. I'm okay with that. However, there's some who would probably want to ride more, they just need a little help to get there. Here's a hardy soul who rode yesterday. The birds are acting like they hope the rider left their lunch bag out somewhere.

My challenge to everyone is to help fill these empty spots as much as possible. Just across the street is another example of empty motorcycle parking.

In nicer weather, there's at least two bikes here. Sometimes up to four. Yesterday it was being used by a UPS truck. Nothing against UPS. They do a great job and I'm always glad to see their trucks roll up to my door. However, there's six tires on this truck. Those tires should be split among three bikes!

New riders are often looked down on by more "experienced" riders. Notice I put the word experienced in quotation marks. Real experienced riders are mature enough to reach out to new riders. Help them find the right gear to cope with the elements. That alone goes a long ways towards keeping them riding.

Help them think like motorcyclists. This includes realizing they can still be safe in wet weather, they just need to go about things a little differently than in a car. Here's a classic example I encountered yesterday.

I was in the lane where the white van is now. Notice the railroad tracks? These run along 12th street in Salem. 12th is a busy North-South route that skirts the downtown area. A lot of traffic comes and goes from the downtown core along streets that intersect the railroad tracks. Rubber pads separate the rails. When it's wet, everything's slick. I had to make a right turn. That's what this van is going to do. The van driver is going to start the right turn while still on the tracks. There's not much room to make the corner as you can see in the next photo.

By the way, I hope you appreciate these pictures. Each photo is taken while standing in the rain and trying to hold the camera still against the wind!

Leaning the bike to turn while on the tracks isn't a good idea, as you know. A new rider can find themselves in the middle of a heart stopping moment. These kind of things can make people swear off riding real quick! Teach them the tricks like crossing the tracks straight up, then making a quick right turn. Little tips make big differences.

Teach new riders about the wonderful treachery of wet leaves. On the way home I snuck out on some back roads high up in the hills. Miles of twisty roads to play on. Yesterday I found myself riding very carefully. Those big leaves are pretty to look at but deadly. In some places there were literally only the wheel tracks open among the leaves. Here's a place where I came down off the hills onto River Road.

Yes, it's awesome riding up in these hills. Except for the leaves of course. You can kind of see some leaves still on the sides of the lanes. At the bottom of the hill a rider's going to have to stop. Not a big deal? Check out the bottom of the hill.

Surprise! Of course, it shouldn't be. There's that thing called looking well ahead and getting critical information early. This situation isn't an issue under those circumstances. Get the information early. Plan and adjust the braking point early. Remember that other motorists can be having traction issues at the same time. Stay alert. These aren't things we can assume new riders will just automatically know. That's where we come in.

Rather than letting newer riders get scared off, or leave frustrated, sharing some of our hard won experience can help them embrace the challenge. A little knowledge can spell the difference between giving up or feeling empowered. Helping others avoid the hard lessons we've learned doesn't cheapen our own image. I know that some feel like everyone should have to learn on their own. In the long term that's counterproductive to our goal of making motorcycles everyday transportation. Freely sharing will make us all better off in the big picture.

My goal is to help fill these empty motorcycle parking spots. Are you in the mood to join me?

Miles and smiles,



bobskoot said...

"Fill a Spot" easy for you to say. Vancouver is NOT bike friendly. Hardly any 2-wheeled parking in the downtown area, and a $75. penalty last time for parking in the "triangle" (unused area in front or rear of a block). But it was very windy this morning, almost got blown into the other lane, lucky my machine has a bit of weight to it.

fasthair said...

Irodad I see your Ego and raise you 1 ego!...


-Tim said...

@irondad...I think I beat you in the ego category...hate to crush your spirit, but I rode in the snow the other day..we got about 6 inches..

Steve Williams said...

I'll participate to keep the motorcycle spaces filled. Right now we are down to one Vespa, one Yamaha Vino, and one Harley Dynaglide. Everyone else has packed it in until spring.

I'm not sure what's happened but I feel the subtle but relentless pull of the cage each morning I get up and find the temperature near freezing. I've still been riding on most days but not with the same gusto as last year. Maybe it will pass when it gets really cold...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Anonymous said...

I'm also a rain or shine rider. Staying in johannesburg, south africa, our weather is fairly mild.

Winter gets VERY cold, no snow but icy!! And summer is wet. Usually afternoon thundershowers, within 15 minutes the land here is soaked. As are anyone not under shelter.

Most "bikers" here are really pansies. They'd rather sit in 2 hour traffic to work than get a little damp, or cold.

It does an ego thing to me too ... and i'm not an egotist really ... it DOES invoke a certain disdain, for these poeple that seemingly expect only the best for themselves.

Safe riding!!

Charlie6 said...

Looking out my window this morning, looks like about an inch of snow already on the ground, light snow still falling.....high of 41 though, perhaps I can ride this afternoon.

Having your pick of motorcycle parking spots is really nice isn't it?

Doug C said...

Public MC parking spots. What a great idea! I work in a metro area of about 700,000 and the mayor of this fair city proudly announced they were adding 15 or so spaces near the OSU campus. I haven't found them yet, but I haven't looked for 'em either.

Still, you're right about the dwindling numbers; I never pass any of the regular communters and more. :-(

Lucky said...

Hey, I'm still riding!

What kills me is that's something to brag about even here. We rarely get below freezing and there still aren't any bikes out in the winter.

The picture of leaves at the bottom of the hill fills me with fear and dread. The desert is a tricky place, on the one hand it's always dry and there are never leaves on the road. On the other hand, it's always dry and there are never leaves on the road.

Bryce said...

It is really interesting to me the number of available spaces for motorcycles in your geographic area. Not this time of year rather year round.
I suspect it is a climate thing. Your area doesn't have to deal with snow in great heaping amounts. 'Round here those motorcycle parking spots would be ideal locations to pile snow higher than an elephant's eye.

Today it's above freezing, by a goodly number of degrees Celsius. However there is an enormous back garden which needs to have the leaves collected and then other pre-winter chores including wrapping the conifers with burlap to protect them from ice.

The next big task is placing the lights for the Christmas period and confirming the timers are functioning. Then they'll be snuffed until two weeks prior to Christmas, my hydro bill is high enough thank you.

Maybe we'll be lucky this November and December and not see snow
or ice until Christmas. Then again ice storms mean put the bike away and get out the snowblower, the latter which I've done.

And bobskoot, that $75.00 parking fee is cheap, try $175.00 here plus tax, for parking in a triangle or more than two motorcycles in a car park slot. Why tax you ask? The tagging of vehicles is considered a service by the government and therefore taxable. Come to Canada if you really want to see different ways of being taxed to death.

Stacy said...

I have to agree that we're pretty fortunate to have the amount of motorcycle-only parking in this area that we do.

Two things from Dan's pictures and my own experiences: One, being near (or on) a college campus helps. I'm pretty envious of Dan's community college picture... if only the Parking folks at OSU would paint individual spot lines in our parking areas!

Two, the parking enforcement people don't seem to mind motorcycles parked in "out-of-the-way" locations downtown. In Corvallis, there are a handful of "motorcycle only" parking spots (free, even!) but I've also parked in triangles and haven't gotten a ticket... yet. Fingers crossed that my luck continues!

One thing's for sure: in the winter there's plenty, but in the summer there's never enough.

irondad said...

You have my respect for still representing us in adverse conditions. All the more reason, though, to encourage more riding. It's like turning a barge, but with enough riders government will eventually respond.

I'll call. Dare I raise another one? It might not end until one of us backs down. I don't see either one of us doing that!

You, too? I'm beginning to see an ego theme here!

Steve W,
That's interesting. Why would colder weather renew your gusto? I have a theory but would like to hear your take first!

I would hate those afternoon downpours! I hear you on the disdain part. There's got to be something important lacking in people who need everything just right.

Thanks for dropping by, too!

Do you find your ice incident is affecting your sense of prudence this Winter? Wouldn't blame you for stepping a little more gingerly. No pressure from us!

Doug C,
The big city closest to me is Salem, the state capitol. There's plenty of free motorcycle parking. Farther North is the Greater Portland area which is around the same density you mentioned. A little different story. Very little parking is free.

There are spots reserved for motorcycles. Both on the street and in parking structures. You pay for all of it, though.

Seems like free motorcycle parking would be a good incentive to get people out of cars. Their push seems to be for mass transit instead. Although bicycle riders are starting to get more attention.

You're quite the one with words. Maybe you should try blogging! Better yet, writing short stories. :)

Perhaps the psychological affect of the calendar is stronger than we know.

Look on the bright side. There's a real possibility that if you dig under the snow pile you might find a motorcycle!

We're taxed badly enough here as it is. Don't think I want to go somewhere it's worse.

There does seem to be quite a few motorcycle spaces on campus. You just have to ferret them out. Still have to pay, though!

I will forever love you for showing me the parking at 23rd and Monroe.

Speaking of triangles, the director of TEAM OREGON got a ticket at Linn Benton Community College for parking in a triangle. I think the college was gracious enough to negate it, though, since the lines weren't yellow or the space posted.

Balisada could tell us more!

Take care,


Jeff In NY said...

Hi Dan - There are no problems filling motorcycle spots in my neck of the woods... there are none in the first place. Send some of your empty ones on over :-)

As for the rain... the one thing I'm still working on is visibility. When the rain is that fine mist (as well as the mist wash that comes off traffic), it just covers my face sheild and does not bead up and blow off like in a real good rain. I can use my imagination during the day...but headlight glare from oncoming traffic on a dark road at night is still dicey for me.

fasthair said...

IronDad: If you hadn't of called that I would have. I think we can both agree that this one is a push. We've both done some hellish riding in the past couple of day! I raise a cold one and toast you my friend.


Steve Williams said...

Why I think colder weather will renew my riding gusto....

When the temperature is in the 30 to 50 range it's just sort of annoying at times. I'm in the mid point of gear needs and end up over dressed or under dressed. Riding feels like a nuisance at times, not always, but enough that I notice.

When the temperature drops below freezing riding becomes a challenge. Gear, technique, everything. And damn I think I still like a challenge.

So master, what is your read? I ready for my lesson.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Earl Thomas said...

I can't imagine how rusty I would get if I stored the bike for the winter. Maybe it's just me, but I can often feel a little bit of rust begin to set in if for some reason I'm off the bike longer than a week or so.

Maybe the rust isn't noticable to the average layman, but any time I'm off the bike for any extended period, it feels like I've lost just a little bit of my Mojo, I can't stand that.

Conchscooter said...

Shiny roads and leaves. Can't say I miss it. Nice to look at the pictures though especially knowing how gnarly it was when they were taken. I had to wear a sweater under my mesh jacket yesterday morning, 60 degrres, 15C, so I feel your pain.