Archive for June 3rd, 2013


Motorcycle parked between the “sidewalk” proper and a building (Japan)

This is the kind of culture we live in. One of selfishness.

It’s a country where what I do counts and I’m not even thinking about you. Global warming? Income inequality? The big issues don’t matter, I’m entitled to live my life how I want and if someone else suffers… well, that’s your issue.

Or is it?

If you drive around downtown Portland, you already know how difficult it is to find street parking.  In fact, you’ll barely see a spot through all the SUVs in the parking lots.  As a result, we see everything from the tiny moped to the biggest Harley-Davidson cruiser taking up space on the sidewalk.

So, what is it about motorcyclists psychology that we feel “entitled” to park our motorcycles on the sidewalk?

There are a large number of non-riding people out there who when they see motorcycles parked on the sidewalk their first thought is “what a total selfish douche”.  It’s a similar reaction to how some see lane splitting…you are cutting the line, getting ahead of them, doing something others cannot. It’s unfair to them.  It’s highly unlikely they are thinking, “what a considerate individual, leaving parking spaces for the rest of us and our SUVs.”  It simply doesn’t dawn on them that we’re leaving more open spaces for automobiles.


Motorcycles parked between “sidewalk” proper and building (Belmont area)

When it comes to parking a motorized two-wheeler in Portland, it might look like anything goes as scooters and larger motorcycles have become more popular and are an easy way of getting around the city.  Sometimes there isn’t street parking or when there is, the kinder motorcyclist would rather not use up street spaces and risk angry cagers ramming their bike or backing into it when parallel parking.  I’ve even heard of people getting their scooters or motorcycles moved by people wanting to take their parking places!  In fact, in Seattle it became such an issue they created legislation that made moving scooters illegal. Click HERE to read more about the legislation.

And speaking of legislation, the Oregon House looks well on its way to passing HB 2963.  It’s legislation that allows Portland and other cities to consider stricter sidewalk regulations.  The area of focus is on a sit-lie ordinance – prohibiting sitting and lying on the sidewalk, but f the new ordinance passes it will bring increased law enforcement scrutiny to cities sidewalks and sidewalk parking.

I decided to go to “the people who keep Portland moving”, the Portland Bureau of Transportation and ask the questions:

Q: Are motorcycles allowed to park on sidewalks?
A: Not in Portland.  Sidewalks and the side walk between the curb and property line, whether paved or unpaved, are for pedestrians.  Click HERE for more information.

Q: Yeah, but what about that unused part between the sidewalk proper, and a building? Often places put tables and chairs there if it’s a coffee shop and often is paved. Again it is not the “proper sidewalk” but space between it and the building. If up against the building, are you OK since that is not the sidewalk but private property?
A: No.

Q: Can you park in that strip between the sidewalk and the street? That strip that has the utility poles, squares cut out for trees, and bicycle racks?
A: No


Sidewalk being used by Portland Motorcycle Police to ticket.

Q: Can a motorcycle be parked at a bicycle rack if you chain it to the rack?
A: No

And since were talking about parking, have you heard about Portlandia’s war on civility?  Busybody do-gooders running around town with the goal to promote civil values of mutual respect, personal responsibility, compassion, tolerance and adherence to the rule of law.  They are out there to remind us lest we forget.  I don’t know about you, but the last time I walked on SW 3rd Ave., from Stumptown I saw what looked like a dope deal, a shouting match at the bus stop over a grocery cart and another couple nearly break-out into a fist fight over what, I’m not sure and all the cussing was just a bonus.  But the icing on the cake was the “Urban-Outdoorsman” urinating in some business doorway while giving me that “do you mind look”.

Yeah, I missed a couple opportunities to raise my civility score, but it’s not my war.

At this point you might be asking yourself; “so, where’s the advice for those of us who plan to park on the sidewalk”.  Again, parking any motor vehicle on city sidewalks is unlawful and subject to ticketing and towing… But, it seems that in Portland enforcement is spotty.  The “ticket people” will more often leave motorcycles and scooters alone, if they’re parked “correctly” and no one complains…

“Correctly” as I’ve defined means it’s an art, always risky and not a science.  Here are a few tips that I’ve “heard” about:

Tip #1 – “Make It Short”
The longer you park in any one spot, the more likely you are to get a ticket. The longer you intend to be there, the better the sidewalk spot needs to be. If you can’t find a decent spot near where you’re going, then settle for an out of the way mailbox, street sign or lamp post.

Tip #2 – “Be Stealthy”
The more visible you are, the more likely you are to get a ticket. Don’t park on the sidewalk during “no parking” times, or someplace where the sign says “no standing” (Although I’ve seen people park in “Commercial Parking Only” streets on the sidewalk during the day…)  It’s been suggested to find a spot where a parked car hides your bike from being visible from the street. But try not to get in anyone’s way – make sure you’re not blocking access to a car door or to an entrance, etc.

Tip #3 – “Motorbike Lockdown”
One benefit to sidewalk parking is that you can chain it to something immovable. Street signs are okay, but a lamp post or mailbox are better.  The ticket people are unlikely to pull up a street sign to tow your bike, but a thief might.  Use a heavy duty chain.   On a side note, I’ve seen bikes parked (“legally”, between cars) on the street near a street sign locked up with a cable. This is not a bad idea either, but you need a longer chain or cable than most.

Tip #4 – “Missing License Plate”
A sketchy thing that the more aggressive sidewalk parkers attempt…  if you’re parking and chaining on the sidewalk anyway, some people take their license plates with them. You can stick velcro on your license plate mount and just take it with you when you go. A side benefit of that is, no one will be able to steal your plate!  However, the VIN number is usually accessible and an annoyed ticket person (with nothing but a lot of time) might ticket your VIN number. Sure there are things you could do to hide the VIN number – like a good bit of grease smeared on the VIN plate to make it unreadable, but this aggressive action is a slippery slope.

I’m not guiltless in trying out the sidewalk, but these days I most often park in designated vehicle places.

Teal motorcycle photo taken by author in Japan; Motorcycle parked on sidewalk (Belmont area) photo courtesy of Wikimedia; LEO on Sidewalk courtesy of KATU.

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