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New Parking Meters Put Motorcycles, Scooters In Sticky Situation

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The Parking Ticket Geek

The Geek is an idiot, who gets a lot of parking tickets, and knows how to fight back.

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Chicago's new Pay & Display parking payment kiosks, have put motorcycle and scooter riders in a sticky predicament.

Perhaps, more accurately, a non-sticky situation.

Initially, when Pay & Display kiosks were introduced, motorcycle and scooter owners were advised to park perpendicular to the curb, pay for their parking, take the freshly printed receipt from the machine, write your license plate number on the front, and then, per the instructions on the back, stick the adhesive backed receipt to the headlight of your two-wheeled vehicle.

While mildly awkward, this method insured the rider's receipt wasn't stolen or didn't blow away in the wind.

But now, in what seems like a cost cutting measure and contrary to the city's most recent motorcycle/scooter parking policies, Chicago Parking Meters, LLC has decided to print receipts with less costly, standard thermofax paper, instead of the more expensive pressure sensitive receipts. In addition, the instructions for affixing the receipt on scooters and motorcycles is no longer printed on the backs of the receipts. It is now blank.

The cost savings in switching paper types for the receipts is dramatic, with thermofax paper being roughly half the cost of receipts printed on pressure sensitive paper.

"There's no comparison," says a customer service representative for Printing Technologies, Inc., an Indianapolis, IN based printing firm specializing in for the parking enforcement industry. "Based on my experience, I would say it (pressure sensitive receipts) are at least 50% more."

Of course, this change doesn't make a lick of difference to car owners. But it makes a huge difference to motorcycle and scooter owners.

Without the ability to display their parking meter receipt safely on their two-wheeled vehicle, hundreds of blocks of Chicago's metered street parking are effectively off limits to scooters and motorcycles.

Unless, that is, they want to carry rolls of tape wherever they go.

Urban motorcycle rider Jon Heimann is upset by this change in parking receipt policy.

"What motorcycle riders do you know who carries a roll of tape with them?" asks Heimann rhetorically. "How many Harley guys walk around with a pen in their pocket?"

While scooters and motorcycles, admittedly make up a minority of vehicles driving and parking in Chicago, this is just one more problem with how Chicago deals with motorcycle and scooter parking. It's this perceived dismissive attitude by the city toward two wheeled motor vehicles that makes scooter rider, Eric Stubbings, angry.

"I'm getting e-mails almost every day from riders trying to find a valid way and place to park a scooter or motorcycle," says Stubbings, Founder of the Chicago Scooter Club. "Other cities have designated motorcycle and scooter parking."

Other Cities Handle Motorcycle/Scooter Parking More Effectively

Stubbings says parking a motorcycle or scooter on the street amongst cars, vans and small trucks can be dangerous. Often, he explains, two wheeled vehicles get knocked over and damaged by other motorists or sometimes physically picked up and moved to the sidewalk to make room for another car. Once on the sidewalk, they can be ticketed for parking there. It's for these reasons that Stubbings feels Chicago has to designate more parking specifically for scooters and motorcycles.

He points to San Francisco as an excellent example of an American city that has worked hard to address the needs of motorcycle and scooter riders.

In San Francisco, metered spots for motorcycles and scooters are numbered with six spaces per meter
In San Francisco, metered spots for motorcycles and scooters are numbered six to a meter. Photo copyright and courtesy of Cactus the Saint

Stubbings explains that, in San Francisco, with riders using these metered spots designated for two wheeled motor vehicles, drivers make their payment at the kiosk, input their license plate number into the machine and parking enforcement can check the kiosk to see which spaces are paid up, without the need for paper receipts.

SF's motorcycle/scooter meters can be checked by enforcement from the street to see who has paid
SF's motorcycle/scooter meters can be checked by enforcement from the street, to see who has paid. Photo copyright and courtesy of Cactus the Saint

Stubbings, who believes scooters and motorcycles produce a lot less exhaust than a typical car says, "If Daley wants this to be a 'green' city, he should put his money where his mouth is (and embrace initiatives to promote motorcycle/scooter riding).

"This system always seemed weird to me," says Bryan Bedell, the proprietor of the scooter-centric webzine, Two Stroke Buzz. "The adhesive seemed like a weird conception that wasn't very well thought out in the first place, so I'm not surprised they stopped doing it. But, honestly, you can't expect people to have tape with you."

The city and Chicago Parking Meters, LLC/LAZ Parking, are aware of the issue and but now seem to be frantically scrambling to implement a temporary fix to the problem.

Small clear envelopes, with adhesive strips inside, are being mounted to the sides of some Pay & Display units. Although, currently only a few of the machines we checked had them, and of the ones that did, some were out of the strips or had been waterlogged and were unusable from recent rains.

"The City worked closely with local motorcycle interest groups in piloting adhesive paper," says Department of Revenue spokesperson Ed Walsh via e-mail. "Presently, an alternative is being piloted. Adhesive strips are available at the pay and displays for use by motorcycle and scooter owners. The adhesive strips allow motorists to adhere the receipt to the motorcycle or scooter's headlamp. If there are no available adhesive strips, motorcycle and scooter owners should call the number on the pay and display box and report this fact."

However, the sticky strips made available, utilize such a mild adhesive, that they can be easily removed and stolen for someone else to use. With meter rates as expensive as they are, peeling a receipt off a motorcycle for one's own use, would be like finding a few extra dollar bills on the sidewalk--even if you have to cross out any license plate number written on the receipt.

Others speculate the new adhesive strips may allow the receipts to come loose from the headlamp in a strong wind. The previous adhesive backed receipts were made with a much stronger adhesive and could not blow away or be easily pulled off the headlamp without some effort, if properly applied.

Advice For Motorcycle & Scooter Riders

So what's a motorcycle or scooter owner to do if none of these adhesive strips are available and you want to avoid getting ticketed?

Finding a place to carry a roll of Scotch tape with you is one solution.

Another is Login Parking's new Pay & Display receipt holders and locks. These plastic sleeves and boxes allow motorcycle and scooter owners to slip their meter receipts into clear protective plastic and lock it to the bike.

Heimann, a frequent fighter of parking tickets, recommends a more combative approach to parking your motorcycle at a metered space.

"Put the receipt in your pocket. If you get the ticket, contest it after the fact (as the time and date stamped receipt proves your payment)." advises Heimann. "If someone takes it (your receipt off your motorcyle), you're totally out of luck."

GEEK EDITOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Cactus The Saint, a photographer and motorcycle enthusiast from San Francisco, who kindly allowed us to use his photos. Check out his Flickr page for more photos and info on how SF handles scooter and motorcycle parking.

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7 Comments

@Randy_Gniadecki said:

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Won't the thermo sensitive receipts turn black the same way the ones from stores do if left in the sun...like on the dashboard of a car? We have had an unseasonably cool summer this year, this will become a problem.

Joseph said:

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I don't drive a motorcycle or scooter, but I've one down trying to park. The owner was grateful to receive my phone number and got it fixed for less than $100 with a part off of eBay.
I sympathize my two-wheeled friends.

Tracy Samantha Schmidt said:

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I was seriously considering buying a vespa in part to avoid parking tickets. Now I'm reconsidering. Great post Parking Ticket Geek.

The Parking Ticket Geek said:

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Randy-

The issue of heat effecting parking receipts is something we're looking into. But it has not been hot enough to try it yet.

We'll keep you posted.

And...thanks for the kind words Tracy. But Vespa's are cool. Very urbane.

applegirl said:

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Wow! This SUCKS!
I just recently bought a scooter and I found the new meters very inconvenient. I'm always worried someone will steal my meter ticket off of my scooter just to screw me over. This makes the situation even worse.

Who carries a pen and scotch tape with them EVERYWHERE?!

yakuzaec said:

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i have a motorcycle and here is how i resolve my parking receipts -
1) i put the receipts on one of my license plate screws,
2) take a photo of the receipts + license plate with my mobile's camera.
so far, nobody steals my parking receipts nor have i got a parking ticket yet.
-ec

The Parking Ticket Geek said:

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Hey Yakuzaec!

Sounds like good advice. Very creative.

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