Scooters may be a great alternative to driving a car, as they are more economical, get better gas mileage and require less space to park, says Kelley Blue Book. But, does that mean you can park a scooter anywhere? What are the laws and unwritten rules a scooter driver has to follow when it comes to parking?
States have slightly different laws regarding how to park a scooter, and it’s important to know what they are before hitting the road. According to 20-year rider Kristin Donovan, creator of ScooterLust.com and an IT officer for the Vespa Club of Seattle, states usually have riding manuals and city websites that provide information about local laws. Additionally, Donovan suggests taking the motorcycle safety course from an organization like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, as it teaches you the legally correct way to park vehicles on two wheels – no matter where you are or what they are.
In general, adds Donovan, scooters can park on the street, but usually not on the sidewalk. “It’s illegal to park on the sidewalk everywhere I know of, but cities vary in their enforcement,” she says. “Generally, it’s a bad idea to park on the sidewalk anyway, since you’d need to drive on the sidewalk to get to the parking spot, which is very dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists and yourself.”
When parking in retail lots, such as those at a grocery store or mall, Donovan suggests that scooter drivers take extra caution. “I try to park as far away as possible or use the half-spots next to the shopping cart return,” she says. “Cars sometimes don’t see your scooter and whip into a parking spot, noticing too late that it’s occupied.”
Donovan notes that some retail establishments may be more relaxed about parking rules, but it’s important to only park in spots that don’t interfere with maneuvering space of other vehicles. But, even if you can fit next to a vehicle parked there, she says the striped area next to parking spots are always off-limits, as many are designed for mobility vehicles for people with disabilities.
Paid city lots and parking garages in urban areas may have designated scooter and motorcycle parking. Donovan says these areas can be a good place to park your scooter, but you usually have to pay the same amount for a small scooter space as a standard car spot. If a commercial lot doesn’t have spots for two-wheeled vehicles, Donovan says you can park in a car space, but you should always have the front of your scooter facing out so the reflectivity of the headlight makes the vehicle more visible.
While states have different laws in place for scooters and other motorized vehicles on two wheels, there are definitely some gray areas of which new riders might want to be aware. For example, even though it is usually legal to park a scooter in a standard car space, it may not always be the best idea. Donovan explains in one of her posts on ScooterLust.com that drivers in automobiles and trucks don’t always appreciate small vehicles taking up parking spots. More than once, she has had her scooter moved by a car driver who wanted the spot she was in – and it was not always a gentle gesture.
If possible, try to find parking specifically for two-wheeled vehicles, she says. Also, double-check the laws in your state, as in some places, such as Portland, Oregon, a scooter can actually share a space with a car if there is enough room.
Another questionable parking practice is squeezing between cars on a street when there are no lines to designate spots. In many places this is technically legal, says Donovan, but your scooter can get damaged when the cars around you need to pull out.
“So even though it’s legal to park in a car space nearly everywhere, scooter riders should do so at their own risk,” Donovan says.
Knowing proper scooter parking etiquette is something that comes with experience. In addition to taking a class, Donovan suggests talking to other riders about their experiences and setting the goal of being safe, instead of right, when it comes to the rules, laws and interacting with other drivers.
When parking a scooter in a public place, it is best to always practice general etiquette. “Whenever possible, try to park in a way that doesn’t make drivers angry,” recommends Donovan. “Use common sense and think about how your actions affect other drivers, regardless of vehicle.”