How to avoid parking tickets when parking a motorcycle in NYC
I violate New York City parking regulations almost every day. In an average week, I park my motorcycle illegally at least 10 times, and I’ve done so for more than one year. To put it plainly, I’ve violated the law somewhere on the order of 700 times.
And I do, in fact, get parking tickets for my motorcycle- about 40 parking tickets in the past year. Most of them are for $115, the fine that New York City charges for parking violations in the highest-density parts of Manhattan (in the rest of the city, it’s $65).
But of those 40 tickets, I’ve already had 31 parking tickets dismissed. Six appeals are still pending, and more than half of those will be successful. That leaves 3 tickets I’ve paid, and I may lose one or two of the pending appeals.
I don’t have any “connections.” I’ve never used a lawyer or even appeared in person to contest a parking violation. What I’ve done is do my homework (to understand what is and isn’t legal), manage my risk (by parking carefully), and hold the system accountable to its own rules.
You can do it too. Here’s how:
1. Know the rules, and don’t break them
This seems obvious, but it’s worth stating:
- Don’t get ticketed by accident or unnecessarily
- Know what your choices are in your own neighborhood
- Don’t park illegally, if you have easily available legal option nearby
In my neighborhood, for instance, one side of the street is OK from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Monday but the other side is not OK on Saturdays. Pay attention, it’ll save you $115.
New Yorker’s hate this kind of thing, but: If there’s legal parking four blocks away, park there instead. And if you can avoid a parking ticket by leaving for work at 8 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m., get up half an hour earlier (!!) on the days when you can stomach it. At the margins, this kind of common sense makes a difference in your ticket count, and saves you money and aggravation. There is literally no reason not to adopt it.
2. Politeness counts (Don’t park like an asshole)
Parking politely has saved me more money than everything else put together. Simply put:
If you don’t park your motorcycle like a jerk, parking politely instead and receding into the background, most parking enforcement officers won’t bother you
Quotas or no quotas, New York City’s parking enforcement officers are public servants. Their primary charge is not to raise revenue, but to keep order on the streets in America’s densest large city, and to:
- Keep the street margins clear for commercial loading and rush-hour overflow traffic
- Make sure-fire trucks have access to fire hydrants
- Ambulances can get to hospitals
- Keep short-term parking available for local businesses
- Clear the way for street cleaning and show plows
Needless to say, every single one of them works harder than I do (I make my living sitting at a desk looking out at the Empire State Building, for God’s sake), and I’m very aware of this.
I’ve had my share (two, to be precise) of personal tangles with parking enforcement officers. But on the whole, they are professional and polite, and my experience makes clear that they are not looking to create problems where none exists. And there’s an unwritten code that they tend to follow (90% of the time), whereby if you park your motorcycle in a way the (1) doesn’t obstruct other street users, and (2) takes up as little space as possible, they’ll almost always leave you alone (Remember, I’ve gotten 40 parking tickets out of roughly 700 incidents of illegal parking).
Polite motorcycle parking, in NYC, usually means parking perpendicularly at the corner (in the last possible space before the crosswalk). If streets are one-way, choose a corner that won’t have any turning traffic. Where possible, park up against another motorcycle because it’s just polite to fit two in the space of one.
Sometimes the best answer is just to park hard up against a disruptive obstacle (like a construction dumpster that’s been set down in the parking lane). If you park next to something big that can’t be moved, you can make an argument you aren’t really taking up any additional space, but you probably won’t need to. I’ve only been ticketed twice after parking that way dozens of times.
Worth noting: NYC parking officers cut motorcycles extra slack near fire hydrants (15 feet? Are you kidding me?)
Also worth noting: in Manhattan, if you “pull your plate” (remove your license plate when you park, to make it more inconvenient for them to cite you), your bike will eventually be impounded, and dealing with that is much more expensive than paying a parking ticket. Several times I’ve seen bikes being loaded onto an N.Y.P.D. flatbed en mass. So I stopped doing it months ago.
3. Karma matters (so pay the meter!)
As I noted above, much of the central core is given over to commercial loading zones. but, there are many metered zones open to regular vehicles, especially on the avenues. Single space meters have been converted to open parking zones ruled by a muni-meter in the middle of the block. You pay your money and display your receipt on your dashboard, and the dude comes around and sees you aren’t expired yet.
Without exception, if I have the choice between parking in a metered zone and parking illegally (but safely and politely) around the corner for free, I park in the metered zone. And without exception, if I park in a metered zone, I pay and display. Without exception.
I do this not just because karma matters, but because (it seems) when a parking officer sees a recent meter receipt on your dash, even if it’s expired he or she cuts you a bit more slack. I have never been cited for overstaying a meter even after doing it dozens of times, and even a meter receipt from yesterday or the day before says to the parking officer, “This guy does his part.” I sincerely believe that last week’s meter receipts have gotten me out of this week’s tickets.
4, Develop habits and stick to them
Like most people, there are places I park regularly (near my home, near my work, near restaurants I frequent, etc.). I think I’ve reduced my incidence of parking tickets by determining where the local officers are most likely to leave me alone, and parking there regularly. (Near my home, there are two streets with same parking restrictions, but I’m much less likely to be cited on one of them than the other. There’s no good reason for this I can decide, but it’s information that I have learned to put to use). Similarly, near my work, I’ve found a small spot that’s technically illegal but not at all impolite, and I’ve never, ever, ever been ticketed there.
End of part 1. Part 2 of this super article will be posted on our blog tomorrow. See you then…
[Larry’s note: This fascinating, insightful, and tip-providing article was written by Rich Mintz].