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Specialized license plates provide privileges or reflect other kinds of vehicle status. Truck or commercial plates allow parking in loading zones. Historic or collector plates provide reduced registration fees. 'Handicap' tags allow the disabled more convenient parking. Motorcycle plates allow... uh... confer... uh... uh... hmmm... uh... what? Motorcycleness? Suppose motorcycle license plates offered actual benefits or incentives. One possibility (of many... ) would be less expensive or better parking. Like not needing to pay at metered spaces (?), or being able to park multiple bikes in one space (?).
Ironically, a huge supply of available and unused motorcycle parking spaces already exists, but riders lack formal permission to access them. Have you ever put your bike in one of those irregularly shaped areas at the end of a row of angled parking? Or in the odd corner of a parking ramp? These motorcycle-sized spaces are usually wasted. They ought to invite motorcycles. Installing 'motorcycle parking' signs or pavement stencils would publicly claim these spaces as motorcycle territory. The markings would advertise that motorcycling is a public good. Drivers searching for scarce car-sized spaces would see motorcycle parking signs and appreciate how riding provides space saving advantages that help everyone.
These motorcycle-suitable areas are everywhere. They represent an unbelievably large amount of already-developed-but-wasted real estate. Here's a rough estimate for the United States: There are more than 200 million cars and at least 110 million commercial or municipal parking spaces. And about one irregular space for every 30 regular spaces. That's 3.6 million irregular spaces. What is the average value of each? Multilevel ramps cost up to $50,000 per space. Paved parking lots as little as $1000 per space. How about a guesstimate average of cost of $5,000 per paved parking space? Each irregular space is at least half the size of a standard space. So each would be worth about $2,500. That's around Nine Billion Dollars (!) of developed but wasted real estate, all in the form of little irregular motorcycle parking areas. We don't have the resources of a University or Government agency to do a perfect nationwide parking space census. But it is obvious this vast area is a huge opportunity for motorcycling. It is territory that could be marked to publicly advertise one of motorcycling's advantages.
In some locations, motorcycles merit more protected and secure parking accommodations than automobiles. Social norms for parked cars are different than the norms for bikes. Cars are locked capsules. Entering a locked vehicle is more like trespassing and is sociologically different than tampering with a motorcycle. This is important. Advanced cultures have become more capsulized. Encouraging riding means providing more secure parking. Putting bikes together behind a gate or within a special area will discourage mischief. Major hub airports should offer a covered, secure enclosure equipped to allow a rider to safely leave a bike and store gear before boarding an airplane. At work, riders need places to park that provide reasonable levels of protection from vandalism, mischief and theft. Ditto malls, stores, theaters and other commercial establishments.
Riders deserve to be rewarded with special parking accommodations because they provide useful public benefits like reduced congestion, energy consumption, infrastructure wear, etc... at personal costs that include developing addi-tional risk management and riding skills, suffering greater weather related discomforts, and accepting significant cargo transport limitations. The general public sees these costs and hardships as unnecessary for aiding social progress and harmony. Why encourage getting around the hard/ dirty/ dangerous/ uncomfortable way on a cycle when there are more than enough resources to provide all the roads, parking spaces, infrastructure repairs and automobiles needed? Beyond such short sighted logic, some individuals harbor thinly disguised jealousies. They ask why favor those who are already moving faster, having more fun, and saving more money? This is like children in line shouting "No fair!, Timmy took cuts!", and then expecting an adult to intervene. If the adult explains to the children that 'Timmy' was the best at something and could go first as a reward, the privilege is accepted (even if Timmy is unpopular...). Similarly, if 'Timmy' is disabled, then going before everyone is also accepted. Riders are among the most efficient and least impactful users of the transportation system, so riding should be encouraged. This means providing things like better parking accommodations, lower cost (or free) parking at ramps and meters, and protected (or covered) surveillance monitored parking areas.
Can riding become better understood and appreciated by the public as more than a selfish enjoyment of speed, excitement, noise, chrome, and thrills? When laws were enacted to provide accommodations for the disabled, the effects went far beyond the direct benefits of making it easier for handicapped people to get around. People everywhere saw uniform parking signs and pavement markings that reserved convienient spaces for the disabled. These markings indicate that this group of people should be publicly accorded both respect and special rights. The existence of all those spaces and signs told everyone that the disabled should not be badly treated.
If millions of existing small irregular motorcycle-suitable parking spaces were marked and signed, it would advertise riding. It would help the public under-stand and appreciate motorcycles as a social good. The government is unlikely to do this as a favor to commuting riders. If you are reading this, you can help motorcycling by seeking permission from public and private entities in your area to develop and identify motorcycle parking areas. Let everyone come and see them. Leave a mark that will help motorcycling... and everyone else.
Advocating and evangelizing transportation motorcycling is a quixotic mission... almost by definition. But as far as the future is concerned, it is a crucial mission. For decades, motorcycling has been retreating into more and more specialized recreational and motorsport enclaves. This defensive posture leads to a reservation mentality. It is important for motorcycling to develop new proactive advocacy tactics. Our primary goal is to establish Ride to Work Day as a grass roots driven pro-motorcycling demonstration. Whatever legal and social changes eventually come about (if any)... and who will effect them... are beyond our immediate concerns. We want everyone to think more positively about motorcycling. You can help.
Motorcycle parking signs and pavement marking tools are avail-able for purchase or downloading from RTW at <www.ridetowork.org> as free graphic files
-Parking space stencil kit. Two full size stencils. Large 32.5" W x 35.5 H" and medium 22.5" W x 24.5" W, stencil board and complete instructions for use (requires cutting) $15.00 Order #3027
-Parking space metal sign 12" x 18" $30.00 (all weather, com-mercial grade) Order # 8025
-Parking space sign art, downloadable .pdf image. 12" x18" $ (Free)
-Parking space stencil kit, downloadable. $ (Free)