Top 5 Sidewalk Parking Tips

In New York, one of the riskiest things you can possibly do on a motorcycle is…park it. There are many strategies to parking safely on the street: some things that look risky (like parking somewhere with lots of foot traffic) are really pretty safe; and some things that look safe (like parking on a with lots of cars but little foot traffic) are actually pretty risky. Today I want to talk about one particular parking strategy that is risky, but has a lot of benefits: sidewalk parking…

Ever since my wife got a Scooter, I’ve become a big fan of sidewalk parking. We can ride to just about any neighborhood and find a spot we can leave it for a few hours without worry: Usually we chain it up to one of those green mailboxes used to store mail for the carrier – that can usually be found mid-block on residential streets. This is a little more difficult with a sportbike (I wouldn’t recommend it at all for anything larger), but it’s still do-able.

On the sidewalk, you don’t have to worry about cars knocking over your bike, but you do still have to think about theft and the added concern of the ticket-people… Parking any motor vehicle on city sidewalks is unlawful and subject to ticketing and towing… But fortunately enforcement is spotty. Most ticket people will leave bikes and scooters alone, if they’re parked correctly and no one complains…

So how can we sidewalk park “correctly?” It’s an art, not a science. I’m no expert, but I’ve been lucky for the past year and half (although I park in between cars in many neighborhoods)… But here are my top 5 sidewalk parking tips:

Tip #1 – “Shorter is better”

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 spot needs to be. If I can’t find a decent spot near where I’m going, but I’m only going to be an hour or so, I’ll settle for an out of the way mailbox or street sign.

Tip #2 – “Keep it hidden, keep it safe”

The more visible you are, the more likely you are to get a ticket. Do not park on the sidewalk during “no parking” times, or someplace where the sign says “no standing” (Although I do know people who park successfully on “Commercial Parking Only” streets on the sidewalk during the day…)

Also, try 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 – “Chain me up!”

The real benefit to sidewalk parking is that you can chain it to something immovable. Street signs are okay, but they CAN be pulled up sometimes. The police won’t pull up a street sign to tow your bike, but thieves might. Make sure that the street sign hasn’t been tampered with already (that the base isn’t cracked or wobbly). Use a heavy duty chain. I use a couple of OnGuard Chains (with the 5+ rating) – I’ll write a post about these some other time…

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… All the people I’ve seen do this opt for a thinner-cheaper cable. This lessens the benefit of having a chain that can’t be easily cut…

Tip #4 – “Make friends”

If you intend to park someplace regularly, and need to leave it there for long stretches of time, you either need to park on the street in between cars, or make friends with the folks who run the buildings. The area directly in front of buildings usually belongs to the building owner (see the pic above). If you can chain your bike to a fence or gate on building property, you’ve got yourself a safe long-term spot. Just make sure the landlord is cool with it.

Tip #5 – “To have or not to have…a license plate…”

Here’s a sketchy thing some aggressive scooter parkers do – 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…

Along with that, on a scooter, you can often “relocate” the VIN plate to someplace inside the storage compartment. This is a little more difficult with a motorcycle: the VIN number is usually on the frame near the front forks… An annoyed meter maid (with too much time) might ticket your VIN number… There are things you could do to hide the VIN number on the right fork (even just a little grease would be enough to make it unreadable) – the VIN on the left side is hidden when you use the steering lock, so you only need to obscure one – I’m not recommending any of this, I’m just pointing out what people sometimes do…but these are aggressive measures. I’d recommend you park in places you don’t need to resort to these shenanigans…

Have any more tips or experiences? Let us know!


14 responses to “Top 5 Sidewalk Parking Tips

  1. I find it ironic that as I am reading this yesterday someone was running into my bike parked on the street. Grrrr….

  2. I just got 2 tickets, 1 for parking on the sidewalk and 1 for not having a license plate, cop must have had 2 much time on his hands, or had 2 meet his quota, 2 take the extra time to look for my vin #’s…Dam hater, every dog has it’s day…

  3. Hey Tony, could you tell us what neighborhood you got the tickets in? Tribeca, Upper East Side, Park Slope, Forest Hills?

  4. I got 3 tickets yesterday (used my VIN#!) parking on the street on 19th and 5th. 1 for no plate, 1 for no regi (duh, it’s on the plate) and 1 for not displaying the parking muni-meter stub (how would this even work, c’mon already!?)

    I’ve been parking like this for about 6 years, but I’ve just recently removed my fairings (it’s now cafe racer-ish) and the VIN is now clearly visible.

    Today, I had to cram my cover (that i used over-night… yes, on the sidewalk damnit!) under my passenger seat. I think I’ll have to come up with a strategy of covering the VIN.

    BTW, he had the model year wrong, but the VIN correct. I’m gonna fight this bitch.

  5. hey guys
    i have a few questions. any advice would be welcome.
    my big question; is it lawful for an officer, (in this case, a parks officer because i was stupid enough to WALK my scooter into riverside park, cover and lock it to a sign there) to UNCOVER the bike to get a look at the plate?
    i’m pretty sure i can get the ($250!!!) tix thrown out anyway on a few other technicalities. but, if they can’t touch the cover, then that’s it right there.
    two other additional questions;
    whaddya think, park on the street in front of my bldg in south harlem, covered and locked to itself. or park on the sidewalk covered and locked to a pole? sidewalk seems to attract kids sometimes and seems susceptible to people messing with it. street, obviously cars who are morons when parking. luckily i’m usually at the front of a hydrant zone with no cars between me and the hydrant. but street doesn’t guarantee a few guys from picking it up and taking it off.
    lastly, got a ticket on the triborough for wearing two iphone headphones. i didn’t even realize i had them in. i actually went ahead and paid it. but was that an actual offense?
    thanks for all your help.

  6. well, i got my own question answered.
    just got a $115 ticket this am for parking on the sidewalk. yes, the bike was covered (and locked).
    this has never happened in the last 19 months of owning the bike. nyc sucks.

  7. I asked a ticket agent (white Shirt) about how do park on the sidewalk with-in the the law She told me as long as the bike is with-in 3′ of the building your fine…………

    • damn wardens – just got a ticket parking along 3 other bikes, who didn’t get tickets! – via my VIN. Reade St in Tribeca. Must hate 1200GSA’s.

  8. Don’t underestimate the effort a NY police officer will go through to give you a ticket. My m/c is covered and hooked on the bottom (so you have to get on your hands and knees to unhook it). The plate was also off. And what a nice surprise I had when I took the cover off on Memorial Day. I had two tickets up near the handle bars. One for parking on the sidewalk and another for no plate. I was in a very inconspicuous spot on the sidewalk. Not near a hydrant or door. That’s it. I’m fed up. It’s not worth it. I’m seeking my m/c . Oh, and I got the ticket on 5/28. End of month? Short on ticket quota? That quota is real. A lieutenant with the NYPD confirmed it with me.

  9. since i wrote last year, it’s been proven painfully obvious to me that we bike riders are easy targets. i do all in my power now to not attract attention. almost never split traffic, eyes always covered, attempt to park legally. it’s just too easy for them to slap us w/ seemingly whatever tix they feel like. f@#kers…

  10. Hey Leo,

    Love the site and often come here to kill time while at work. Keep up the good work.

    Anyway, my ZX6-R finally got ticketed in Brooklyn on the sidewalk for $115. It was in a completely unobtrusive spot locked to a light pole and covered. I had my plate on so it was quite easy for the meter maid to lift the back of the cover to expose it. I use the standard Kryptonite NY chain to secure the front wheel to the light pole. I’d like to remove the plate and obscure the VIN and basically challenge them to do something about it. I’m afraid that they will either:

    a) boot the motorcycle
    b) use a grinder/plasma cutter to remove the chain and tow it
    c) cut the cover to expose the VIN and issue a ticket that way

    Has anyone heard of them going to such lengths?

  11. Well I just had a neighbor complain to 311 and now I can’t park the moped within my own property fence. I don’t know what I’m going to do for overnight parking. Wish they were as aggressive with tickets for bicycles and electric bikes that run red lights, ride on busy sidewalks and ride into traffic. GRRRRR.

  12. If u remove your plates your m/c can be ticketed and then towed for no registration…no plates. Your m/c can be ticketed for being on a side walk…..AND YES IF ITS COVERED IT IS LAWFUL TO BE UNCOVERED TO SEE IF IT HAS PLATES ON IT.

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