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One for the Road: Banned from the lot

By Shadow

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My plans to attend the International Motorcycle Show in Manhattan, New York, were nearly complete. All I had to figure out was how to get there. Saturday was supposed to be sunny and in the mid 40’s, which we consider suitable riding weather here in the Northeast. Problem was, the Javits Center, where the IMS was being held, does not offer parking, and I wasn’t enamored of leaving my bike in some high-priced and probably not very secure offsite parking lot.

New York Waterway has ferries leaving its Weehawken, New Jersey, terminal every 20 minutes, and it was an easy ride to the terminal where I could leave my bike in the secure parking garage. Or so I thought. New York Waterway does not own the parking facilities there, and when I checked parking hours and costs on the parking garage’s website, clearly stated was: “Motorcycles Allowed: No.”

I called the parking company to make sure there wasn’t some mistake. The customer service rep confirmed that indeed, no motorcycle parking was allowed, and furthermore, no motorcycle parking was allowed in any of their other facilities. (That’s thousands of parking lots and garages in hundreds of cities!) Where was I supposed to park my motorcycle near the ferry terminal, then? She had no suggestions to offer and seemed rather indifferent to my dilemma.

Of course it’s not the first time I’d been denied parking for my motorcycle. While in Florida some years back, my riding partner Miss Fire and I were on our way to tour the Everglades when we decided to visit her mom who lived in a nice condo with plenty of available parking for visitors. When we went to leave the next morning, there, plastered across each bike, was a huge flyer stating that motorcycles were not allowed in the lot and our bikes would be towed if not moved immediately. To add insult to injury, there was adhesive across the reverse side of each flyer and someone had taken the time to make sure every bit of the sticky stuff was pressed carefully onto our bikes, basically covering the tanks of our Sportsters—even the gas caps. What that told us was, “We don’t want you here, and we are intentionally trying to damage your motorcycle so that you get the message.” Well, it’s private property and there wasn’t much we could do about it, so we just split, fuming about the indignity for a while.

A few years later, I was touring coastal South Carolina when I rode through the lovely city of Charleston. Wanting to partake some of the city’s charm, I pulled up to a city parking lot only to find that motorcycles were not allowed. The parking attendant told me that motorcycles were not allowed to park in any city-owned lot. The lure of the gorgeous antebellum mansions and gardens turned sour—apparently I wasn’t wanted there either—so I continued on to Edisto Beach, a charming, laid-back locale that had no problem with my motorcycle or the money I spent while visiting. Sometime later I found an official letter that stated motorcycle parking would no longer be permitted in city-owned parking facilities, with the excuse that the city faces increased liability with motorcycles not always being detected on the “loops” and the potential of the gate coming down and injuring the rider, and that motorcycles would no longer be allowed to go around the gates. Parking garages in many other cities across the U.S. ban bikes for much the same reasons.

Anyway, I was bummed because the ferry ride is, to me, so much nicer than the other public transportation options. For one thing, it crosses the Hudson River in only six minutes to arrive at the terminal right across the street from the Javits Center. And I thought NY Waterway had always been motorcycle friendly. They offer transportation and ticket packages to attend the IMS, and they have motorcycles displayed in the Weehawken terminal as a co-promotion with Motorcycle Mall, a Belleville, New Jersey dealership. (Want to win a bike? Just stop by the terminal and register during next year’s IMS!) So this “denial of service” was puzzling to me.

I took the bus to New York, spending some time pondering this latest slight. But this time, I thought maybe I could do something about it. Monday morning, I called the New York Waterway corporate office where a very helpful customer service person connected me with Tony Ferrara, director of facilities and real estate for the ferry company. Turns out he rides a Dyna Wide Glide, so he was more than sympathetic to the reason for my call. Tony was surprised at the response I’d gotten when I called the parking facility. He told me that when the parking garage was being built, he had come to an agreement with their management to make sure motorcycles would be accommodated. Although parking is not allowed in the garage due to their equipment not recognizing bikes, there are special spaces for motorcycles in nearby outside lots. (I never even knew outside parking was available.) He said that he would call his contact there and reach out to me again after their conversation. Sure enough, within the hour, my phone rang and Tony told me that the garage management company would add signage pointing motorcycles to the appropriate parking locations and also clarify the motorcycle parking guidelines on their website.

Thanks to Tony and the crew at NY Waterway, this is a much better outcome than I envisioned. Much as I’d like to think that all parking facilities should be required to include accommodations for motorcycles, that’s not realistic. Discriminatory as we might believe this is, motorcycle parking in private or government-owned facilities does not fall under the 14th Amendment or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But a phone call and some reasonable discourse just might sway things in our favor.

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