It’s a strange feeling, the first time you leave your bike unattended on the streets of New York. Someone could just go sit on it and start messing around. A car could knock it over while parking. Anyone could come over and steal it. But the remarkable thing is…you CAN park on the streets, and it CAN be safe! Of course there are real “dangers” to worry about, but there are some simple things you can do to minimize the chances of it. First let’s talk about WHERE you can park in NYC…
Parking on the Sidewalk
Out in the boroughs you can get away with parking on the sidewalk for a few hours or even overnight without getting a ticket. Right now the parking ticket people use handheld scanners to write their tickets. They simply scan the registration sticker on the windshield of cars. This way they cut down on ticket-writing errors (which I think they are penalized for) and can get out more tickets in a shorter amount of time. What this means for motorcyclists (since bike’s don’t have bar codes or registration stickers) is they don’t bother with bikes…most of the time. As a result you can get away with parking on sidewalks provided it’s not a busy/crowded pedestrian area or near an intersection, etc. If you have a cover for your bike you can go even longer… Although I think you are technically obscuring the license plate with anything, like a bike cover, is a ticketable offense, it seems to have the opposite effect: when you’re parked on an out-of-the-way street (i.e., side street with numbers, not a busy Avenue like Broadway) the DOT people will usually ignore your bike. You can do this regularly in the boroughs (Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx for sure) and to a lesser extent in some of the residential parts of Manhattan (i.e., non-main streets in Morningside, Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, etc…) If you’re worried about cars knocking over your bike, the sidewalk is the safest way to go. But be warned! They CAN ticket you for this!
[[Personal disclosure: If I'm leaving the bike overnight and won't be riding early the next morning, I'll park on the sidewalk and chain a wheel up to a street sign, then put a cover on it. So far so good.]]
Parking your Motorcycle on the Street
The good news is, if you park between cars in metered spots, you do NOT have to feed the meter… As along as you’re not blocking a car from parking, and as long as someone is feeding the meter, you can park in the spot between cars as long as you like. Just make sure parking is allowed… during street cleaning times, or “commercial vehicles only” times you will get a ticket, or worse…
When parking on the street in between cars I like to find “end spots” – a spot that will be easy for cars to get in and out of… A spot where a car can just pull out and pull in, like at the end of a block where the car is not boxed-in. Sometimes there are construction signs or dumpsters parked on the street – as long as there’s no construction going on, I try to park between the construction equipment and the first parked car…there’s usually plenty of space.
Also, my personal feeling is that busy streets and avenues are safer to park in than empty streets… I think drivers are a little more careful about not bumping into things (while parking) when there are lots of people around… In the Upper West Side if I can’t find an “end spot” I’ll park between a couple of small cars in metered spots on Broadway. I try to park just a foot or so ahead of the meter…that’s usually good the way the meters are spaced on Broadway.
If you can’t find an end spot, look for an area where the cars are not likely to move before you return such as residential areas. And if you can’t find a decent spot in a residential area, try to park at a metered spot near a restaurant with outdoor seating. Metered spots tend to be spacious, so you’ll have enough space, but also no one wants to be the idiot who knocks over a bike in front of all those witnesses. This helps control the risk of parking on the street.
Parking your Motorcycle in Parking Lots…
There are some lots that park a good number of bikes in the Upper West Side…so I imagine there are a few all over the island. My friend has a monthly spot near 72nd for $150 a month, and says there are a handful of bikes there. You want to find out in advance if a lot is bike friendly… If you don’t see any motorcycles as you enter near the front, they’re probably not… But if you do, then paid parking lots can give you some peace of mind… Be warned however! Parking lots usually state they are not responsible for any damage – and damage DOES occur (who knows what’s going on in there) for some strange reason…so if you just need a few hours of parking, and you’re not riding the latest high-end Ducati, my advice is to find a good street spot (like an end spot) first.
Let’s talk security…
Use your steering lock. Duh! But a steering lock isn’t enough to deter thieves or trouble-makers… In addition I like to use a good brake lock, an On-Guard Chain (which I keep at home, too heavy to carry on a ride), and a bike cover which I tie underneath the bike with bungee cords. All of these can be defeated by a determined thief (or three guys with a pickup truck) – but each item makes it just a little more difficult to pull off while parked on a busy city street with pedestrians walking by. I usually leave the chain and the bike cover at home, but I never leave without the disk lock… It’s cheap ($16 at www.newenough.com) or you can get one with an alarm (for $100), and it fits under the seat of my storage-challenged 600rr. Just remember to take it off before you ride. There are also locks that go over the clutch lever on your handle bar, which I’ve never tried, but seem like a good idea… Of course a determined thief can get past all of these measures, but that’s why it’s good to park where there are people around… NY crowds are the best security measure against crooks hacking your chain or removing a wheel to tow your bike.
Riding a motorcycle is about freedom… You don’t have to let the city take that away from you. You’re not free if you’re worried about your bike every minute it’s parked on the street – or if you have to pay an arm and a leg for garage parking. So develop your parking skills and ride (and park) safe! If you want more, here’s a guide that got me started (a little outdated): Motorcycle Parking