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Thread: Motorcycle Parking and Lane Usage in the US

  1. #1
    Registered User Mark H's Avatar
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    Motorcycle Parking and Lane Usage in the US

    Hi all,

    Sorry if this sounds like a stupid question but what are the rules for parking motorcycling in cities and towns in the US?
    I know how to park a bike but what are the parking rules (if any) which apply specifically to motorcycles?

    In Sydney and other major cities in Australia (my home) we have dedicated motorcycle parking spaces and special rules for paid parking and parking time limits in spaces used predominantly by cars.
    There are also allowances for motorcycles to use transit lanes (lanes reserved for cars with 3 or more people) and taxi/bus lanes.

    So, what's the deal in the US (and Canada)?
    If I want to park in San Francisco or LA city, do I look for motorcycle parking, can I park without paying the meter rate, or possibly stay longer than the declared time, or maybe park for the time but not need to put a ticket on my seat?
    Regards

    Mark H
    2012 - R1200R White Aluminium Metallic

  2. #2
    Registered User greenwald's Avatar
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    Smile

    Greetings Mark.

    If you are contemplating a visit to the USA, Welcome!

    As a collection of states (50 at last count ), you will find that traffic laws and local ordinances will vary a bit from state to state. That being said, there are some concepts that are nearly universal throughout the United States as they relate to the concerns you brought up.

    Use of 'transit lanes,' as you called them (here, usually marked as HOV {High Occupancy Vehicle}) carry an expectation of 2 or more occupants in the vehicle to enjoy their use. Traditionally (and often written into the statutes), motorcycles are permitted in these lanes as well, as their mpg efficiency is recognized and rewarded.

    Parking a motorcycle in the USA, particularly in metered stalls as you inquired, is usually a matter of simply angle parking your bike. Most states allow up to 3 bikes per metered stall, and you do not need the permission of any biker already there to do so. However, if the meter does expire, all 3 are entitled to receive a ticket.

    Some communities, especially those that are considered high-use vacation spots, may post an altered set of parking recommendations (i.e. right angle to curb in certain zones - fits more bikes per space) for motorcycles - just watch the signage.

    Enjoy your visit.
    Kevin Greenwald - Touring Tips Editor
    Nationally Certified Law Enforcement Motor Officer (Ret.)
    MSF RiderCoach # 121656 (BRC,SBRC,IS,IME,SMARTrainer,THE REF Staff)
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    I'll let the "city folks" answer the parking ??? as a TOTAL! non issue in all the rest of USA. Certain USA cities a MC IMO is best left alone/parked & take a bus into the city- NYC is that way for me. SF,CA & LA,CA more likely to "go in on your own ride".
    The lane thing is quite another animal! Has been discussed thoroughly in the past here & on ADV,etc.. Search "lane splitting" for more but this thread no doubt will turn into another "should you split lanes or not thread". Shoulder riding is a part of that discussion too. Get ready!
    As for lane usage on the interstate hwy system there are various state laws that apply & specific location sign markings. In urban areas there are HOV signs for the "express lanes" limited to certain vehicles. Trucks are often kept in certain lanes-this esp. helps MC's when there are more than two lanes. In my state & some others the "passing lane" is reserved for passing only & state law says you cannot linger there. We have an inside joke in KY that when we see a driver that's "closed down the passing lane" (AKA lane sitters) that they must be from "up north" but sadly all too commonly done by many from where ever.
    "If I had my life to live over, I'd dare to make more mistakes next time...I'd relax,I'd limber up... I would take fewer things seriously...take more chances... take more trips...climb more mountains...swim more rivers...eat more ice cream." Jorge Luis Borges at age 85.

  4. #4
    Cannonball Rider #52 darrylri's Avatar
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    Your questions are good ones, because things are done differently in different places.

    To add a bit to Greenwald's reply: HOV lanes are also often called diamond lanes because of the diamond shaped indicator on signs and painted on the roadways. HOV lanes on any road that was funded even in part by the US Federal government - interstates, US highways for example, but many state highways too - can be travelled by motorcycles unless explicitly signed otherwise.

    Only California legally allows "lane splitting", or filtering. You may get a ticket in other states and will probably raise the ire of other motorists. *Never* ride on the shoulder, you will get ticketed.

    Unlike in Europe, you should usually park your motorcycle as if it were a car, in a marked car spot. If you park on a sidewalk or other spot you may get a ticket or even get towed. You may very occasionally find some dedicated motorcycle parking here, but it is very unusual.

    Although Kantuckid's suggestion to not ride in the cities has merit, the US public transportation systems are in general so bad, that this isn't really viable. There are a few cities where it could work, like NY and SF. But a city like LA is huge and you could die waiting for buses to get across it. In most cities people are in a hurry and the traffic is aggressive, so you need to feel comfortable dealing with that, or avoid it.
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  5. #5
    Registered User WalterK75's Avatar
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    Also be aware that people will overtake and pass you on both the right and left sides, if they can. Sometimes, even when they shouldn't. This is especially dangerous when you come from a country where overtaking and passing is always on the same side and you don't expect this kind of driving behaviour.

    The HOV lanes around Toronto, for example, do not allow motorcycles. Why? No one knows. Toronto has free motorcycle parking. I'm not sure if it's only in designated areas or throughout the city.
    That which the Fascists hate above all else, is intelligence.
    Miguel de Unamuno

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    Prudent Parking

    I lived and rode in San Francisco until 2007 (now I live in Montana).
    San Francisco is Moto friendly with a large number of designated Motorcycle parking only areas, love parking in North Beach for a quick latte.....

    I also split lanes (and I'm still alive) though the Highway Patrol informed me that passing while splitting a lane you should not exceed 10 mph ABOVE the traffic your passing. Then according to them......your being "reckless" ......funny!?

    Here in Montana, no parking fees and always room......main risk is dodging wildlife in the road along with the summer tourist influx.

    Cheers!

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    To specifically answer your questions regarding California: I live in Los Angeles and ride frequently in San Francisco and elsewhere in the state.

    First, know that local municipalities can and do set certain parking parameters differently. That said, motorcycles are governed by the California Vehicle Code and enjoy all the same rights and obligations as automobiles. That means, for example, that your motorcycle is entitled to occupy the entirety of any parking space. But generally not free: if there is a parking meter, or a sign limiting the time you may park, you should assume those apply to your motorcycle as well.

    If permits are required for automobiles, assume they are required for motorcycles as well. (Some cities, such as West Hollywood, relax this rule, but don't assume you're in one of those cities unless a local rider can confirm it.)

    It is illegal to park on the sidewalk. Again, some cities relax this, but don't make assumptions.

    In San Francisco, you will often find dedicated motorcycle parking spots, with meters. Put money in them, obviously.

    In both SF and L.A., you may park your motorcycle in a spot with an automobile, if it is safe and you're not blocking anyone. If there is a meter, and it is expired, both may (will) be cited.

    Always park with your rear wheel against the curb, if one is present. I.e., do not park on the street with your wheels parallel to the curb. (You probably wouldn't anyway, but just in case....)

    Yes, lane-splitting is legal here. The CHP has provided a set of guidelines: http://www.chp.ca.gov/programs/lanesplitguide.html. Doing so in dense traffic is, however, a learned skill, like anything else on a motorcycle.

    You can use "diamond" or "carpool" lanes designated for multiple-passenger vehicles in all cases I know of. You may not always use toll roads free of charge, nor pass bridge toll booths without paying. If a toll is involved, whether paid by cash or by transponder, assume you must pay it. This will always be clearly marked with signage. Toll roads are rare, though most (all?) of the SF Bay Area bridges require tolls, which are the same for you as for any passenger automobile.
    2000 R1100RT / 1987 K75C (RIP) / Santa Clarita, CA

  8. #8
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Darryri correctly reviews the California motorcycle environment, with one exception.

    Quote Originally Posted by darrylri View Post
    HOV lanes are also often called diamond lanes because of the diamond shaped indicator on signs and painted on the roadways. HOV lanes on any road that was funded even in part by the US Federal government - interstates, US highways for example, but many state highways too - can be travelled by motorcycles...
    Motorcycles can use HOV lanes even where (like I saw on I-210 yesterday) the signs do not mention bikes and state only that cars using the HOV lanes must have 2 or more passengers. Some HOV lanes have little "Motorcycles OK" signs too.

    ...unless explicitly signed otherwise.
    If there's a conflict between a federal requirement and state or local law, the federal view prevails. Thus, states and local governments do not have the authority to prohibit motorcycle use of the HOV lanes.
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  9. #9
    Cannonball Rider #52 darrylri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbrick View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by darrylri
    ...unless explicitly signed otherwise.
    If there's a conflict between a federal requirement and state or local law, the federal view prevails. Thus, states and local governments do not have the authority to prohibit motorcycle use of the HOV lanes.
    The Federal regulations say that motorcycles cannot be excluded from an HOV lane unless it has been proved to be dangerous. Also, some diamond lanes are marked for buses only. And there's no conflict with the Federal rules if a state or locality has paid for the road and its maintenance entirely on its own.
    --Darryl Richman, forum liaison
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  10. #10
    Registered User David13's Avatar
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    Parking, there is no consistency to it anywhere. In some places you can park anywhere. In others only in spaces.
    In some places you can park on the sidewalk. In other places no.
    Of course, a local may have some arrangement with property management, or local law enforcement to do what they do.
    That may or may not include you.
    So when you go to park, you can ask a local. But they may not know.
    And, try to park so that they cannot run into, or back into your bike, knocking it over.
    dc

  11. #11
    Registered User Mark H's Avatar
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    Thanks to everyone who replied - great help for someone who has not been on a bike in the US - Yet.
    I'm 46 days out and can't wait to get my bike over there and just start riding.
    Regards

    Mark H
    2012 - R1200R White Aluminium Metallic

  12. #12
    Cannonball Rider #52 darrylri's Avatar
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    Mark, did you get your Anonymous book yet? It's a comfort to have it even if you never need it.

    What's your itinerary?
    --Darryl Richman, forum liaison
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  13. #13
    Registered User David13's Avatar
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    In most areas you will have no problem with your bike. Nobody will touch it. But watch the urban areas, leave nothing of value unless it's bolted on.
    But mostly watch where you stop. And watch for shady characters. If they look like shady characters they probably are, and they can travel anywhere.
    Sometimes goofy kids think they will just snatch something, so just use a little situational awareness.
    My policy for meals is park where I can see the bike. And hotels/motels where I can park by the window of my room.
    dc

  14. #14
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by darrylri View Post
    The Federal regulations say that motorcycles cannot be excluded from an HOV lane unless it has been proved to be dangerous. Also, some diamond lanes are marked for buses only. And there's no conflict with the Federal rules if a state or locality has paid for the road and its maintenance entirely on its own.
    All true. I've never heard of a state or local entity creating a HOV lane without federal funds; none of the Southern California toll roads have HOV lanes. Likewise, I have never heard of a local government determining that a HOV lane is "proved dangerous." Given that federal money also means federal standards (surface texture, curve radius, lighting, markings, etc etc), I think it'd be essentially impossible.
    Last edited by dbrick; 04-15-2014 at 03:51 AM.
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

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