Peter Vallone Jr. and Michael DenDekker to City: Gimme Gimme Gimme

It’s hard to say what’s most off-putting about the campaign by Peter Vallone Jr. and Michael DenDekker to grant free parking to motorcyclists — including themselves — in New York City. There is of course the brazen and unapologetic conflict of interest in introducing legislation for one’s personal benefit.

Easy rider, or free rider? Photo: Daily News

Then there’s the fact that no one needs to see an elected in a leather vest.

And the irony. Pop mythology has it that motorcycle riders are tough guys — rugged individualists, if you will. Yet to hear Vallone and DenDekker tell it, they and their boys are helpless against the muni-meter receipt, which they can’t figure out how to attach to their Hogs.

“We get tickets a lot,” Vallone said at a motorcycle rally, of sorts, at Queens Borough Hall on Thursday. “That is unfair.”

From the Times:

The [DOT] noted that it provided parking instructions on its Web site, which recommend that motorcyclists purchase clear plastic cases to hold their meter receipts.

Mr. DenDekker said these instructions were insufficient because they did not detail where to find the holders or how to use them. “Either way, they got my $65,” he said.

So DenDekker can hold elected office, but needs his hand held to secure a piece of plastic to his motorcycle. Failing that, he and Vallone want a free pass.

Plus, they say, free parking for motorcycles would be a boon for green transportation. From the News:

“It would be a great idea to encourage other alternate forms of transportation like we’re doing right now with bicycles,” DenDekker said. “We also need to do that with motorcycles.”

American Brotherhood Motorcycle Club president John Cartier, 44, of Astoria, said bicyclists get help from the city, while motorcyclists don’t.

“The bicyclists get miles of bike lanes,” he said. “We pay $42.50 in registration fees and pay our taxes, too. We make our contribution and we’re not getting anything back. We just want a level of equality.”

Couple things. City cyclists have somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 miles of dedicated lanes, while motorcyclists have over 6,000. And equating a motorcycle with a bicycle is like equating a Sea-Doo with a swimsuit.

Finally, what an outsized sense of entitlement coming from guys with nicknames like Mad Dog and Killer, who you’d think wouldn’t want anything to do with this sort of blatant handout.

Brando and Hopper must be rolling in their graves.

  • Station44025

    Motorcycles are significantly more efficient than single occupancy cars, and they take up much less space.  They are also vulnerable to many of the same risks from drivers as bicycles.  As irritating and dangerous as unlicensed driving, wheelie popping and muffler removing is (for which I blame the NYPDs everything-goes policy toward anything with a gas engine–that shiz doesn’t go down in other cities), from an environmental standpoint motorcycles do make a lot of sense, especially as they electrify, and could be great safe streets allies rather than foes.  Obviously the argument that they should get special treatment because they pay for registration is absurd, especially in a world where e-bikes are completely illegal and attract higher and higher penalties.  Opening up another front in the war among all modes doesn’t seem like a great strategy, IMO.

  • Seth R.

    I don’t find this particularly offensive.  Motorcycles and scooters take up way less space on the street, so they shouldn’t be charged nearly as much for parking.  If a free pass at the muni-meter convinced a few people on my block to trade in their cars for Vespas, I would be ecstatic, both from a street-space perspective and from a safety perspective (I personally find motorcycle and scooter riders to be far less obnoxious than car drivers when I’m biking in the city)

  • Peter

    I wouldn’t mind so much, if only Vallone didn’t oppose free parking for bikes *without* motors.

  • Anonymous

    Vallone’s self-entitled whining and culture-war-double-standard is gross, for sure. 

    But saying motorcyclists have it good isn’t right. According to the NYC ped safety report, motorcyclists make up 11% of city traffic fatalities. That’s 50% more than bicyclists, in large part because they are extremely likely to die if involved in a traffic crash. Motorcyclists should be turned into safety allies, not demonized.

  • KillMoto

    Motorcycles are exempt from emissions regulations.  One poorly tuned Harley can put more crap in the air than a stretch-limo hummer.  

  • Anonymous

    Given the INCREDIBLE danger they represent to their riders, the AMAZING speeds I see these things routinely clocking while weaving in and out of traffic, and the DEAFENING engine revving volumes many owners CHOOSE to have their motorcycles emanate in an aggressive, offensive and disruptive fashion, I think motorcyclists should be happy they are allowed in New York City at all. I would be one of the first people on line to sign a petition to ban them entirely. I consider them a public nuisance,and given that something like 92% of motorcycle owners also own a car/truck, I find any connection to sustainability a dubious one – these are primarily recreational or at least optional secondary vehicles for the vast majority of their owners. I feel differently about motorized scooters which have much lower top speeds and, while sometimes irritating sounds, generate nothing like the booming of motorcycles that set off car alarms as they roar down the street. My advice to motorcycle advocates would be to not push publicly for more rights in urban areas lest you risk losing the peace-destroying privileges that you already enjoy.

  • William S. Harley

    What a shame. Maybe they could have put some free motorcycle parking in the new Astoria pedestrian plaza that Vallone refused to support.

  • Pete

    As a motorcyclist until recently, I am sympathetic to this, even if Vallone is behaving like a buffoon (shades of Al D’Amato and Rudy G “buying crack” back in the 80s?).

    The problem with muni slips is that there’s simply no way to secure them on a bike – the DOT has done nothing to offer solutions beyond a pouch that can’t always be easily affixed to bikes (or in a consistent location, which means agents can miss it), and there’s no way to prevent theft of a slip.

    The system is flawed by design.  In other cities (see: SF), there’s dedicated motorcycle parking where you park in slots and the machine tracks payment-by-slot without any paper slips.  Much more effective.

    Motorcyclists in NYC are definitely second-class citizens.  Talk to any responsible motorcycle owner, and you’ll hear all the same tales of woe regarding selective enforcement by the NYPD and dangerous drivers that are so familiar to cyclists.

    Parking is as much an issue for motorcyclists as it is for cyclists, simply because there is nowhere to park – wedging a bike or scooter between cars is a recipe for getting your ride knocked over – too many drivers “park by feel” – which can cost thousands of dollars in damage (personal experience there).  

    So yea.  Is Vallone being a posturing jerk?  Sure, but he’s a politician.  That’s what they do.  

    I’d be happy to pay at a muni-meter for motorcycle parking if it was dedicated and I could ensure my bike wouldn’t be knocked over.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “There’s no way to prevent theft of a slip.”

    That’s what I thought of.  This is New York City after all, where someone stole a bunge cord off my bike’s rear rack on 5th Avenue in broad daylight.

  • Elliot

    A motorcyclist whining “The bicyclists get miles of bike lanes,” is about as absurd as a bicyclist complaining that pedestrians get miles and miles of sidewalks.

  • Anon

    IvoryJive has it right.  It seems that easily the majority of motorcyclists in NYC are either speeding, or generating far more noise than a car, or both.  This is not the case of a few bad apples, it seems to be the dominant part of motorcycle culture.  It’s all about looking as macho as possible, without requiring the actual strength to pedal a bike.  

    The minority of “responsible” motorcyclists shouldn’t expect much sympathy as long as there are so many out there trying to prove how big the thing is between their legs.

  • Anonymous

    “We pay $42.50 in registration fees and pay our taxes, too. We make our
    contribution and we’re not getting anything back. We just want a level
    of equality.”

    I’ve long been interested in knowing how much the processing of motor vehicle registrations costs the state. My guess is that it’s under the costs of the registration itself.  That’s certainly what I think every time I hear some poor motorist (four- or two-wheeled) lament the costs of that registration and pretend that paying that amount should give them some great privilege.

  • Aren’t we all for transportation alternatives – and aren’t motorcycles and scooters part of that solution? Most bikes get upwards of 45mpg and scooters 80mpg+. If someone trades in their car for a motorcycle, I’m all for it. Yes, there are some noisemakers and jerks, but that’s because NYPD is giving them a pass. Most riders are quiet & respectful by far. Just look at the midtown commuter spots – no leather vests there, I assure you.

  • “The bicyclists get miles of bike lanes,” he said. 

    If only someone would build some kind of roadway for motorized transportation and recreation! Give me a fucking break.  We have, as a country, literally been falling all over ourselves to  destroy our cities, towns and open spaces for an entire generation to provide – at minimal cost to the people who use them – a safe and efficient pathway for cars, trucks and motorcycles from sea to fucking shining sea. And even after a half century of efforts, the number of people killed in auto “accidents” is measured in the tens of thousands.   And as if that wasn’t bad enough, our desire for cheap and easy travel has put us on the path to global ecological catastrophe.

    Free plastic pouches for everyone!   

  • Jesse

    This isn’t about “free parking” — this is about correcting a defect in the muni-meter system which has long been known and ignored.  I personally know one motorcyclist who has received more than *30* erroneous parking tickets just in this year!  He has to defend each one, and if the Muni ticket is lost, he has to pay $65 for parking.

    Let’s face it:  Not everybody is going to trade their car for a bicycle or a Metrocard.  But, if we make riding a scooter or motorcycle at little easier, maybe we all benefit in terms of less CO^2, less congestion, and more efficient use of parking space.

    And, bicycles and motorcycles COULD be natural allies.  Case in point:  Right now there is a motorcycle organization in NYC (http://www.nymstf.org/) which is running ahead with TransAlt’s campaign against slippery road plates.  99% of motorcyclists don’t have loud pipes or obnoxious attitudes.  Why not work with them?

  • Ari

    This is only a real issue in Midtown/Downtown Manhattan where nearly all curb space is metered/regulated.

    In the outer boroughs, there’s almost always an alternate side parking area nearby where a motorcyclist can find a space between cars and park for free.

    I also agree with Pete.  Just as NYC is almost done replacing all single-space meters with Muni Meters, the Munis are obsolete.

  • Danny G

    Quick fix: Charge a different motorcycle rate which would print a big motorcycle logo on the ticket, making it worthless for people without a motorcycle.
    Idealist fix: Charge for parking based on a per-linear foot rate. Need only a few feet of curbside space? Good for you, smarty pants. Got a stretch limo? That’s okay big shot, you can afford it.

  • Danny G

    Also, if you put together a chart of global cities with high motorcycle/scooter usage, I’ll bet $10 that you get a list of places that we’d all be pretty glad to live in.

  • Jesse

    Danny:  Right on!  

    Suburu Outback (most popular SUV): 16 feet long, 22 mph.

    Vespa LX50: 2 feet wide, 96 mpg

    Kawasaki Ninja 250: 2 feet wide, 66 mpg

  • Jesse

    And, add three very nice cities to the list of moto-friendly places we ‘d all be very happy to live in:  London, Paris, San Francisco.  All three have extensive scooter and motorcycle parking.  All three are very eco-friendly.

    If you make riding a scooter or motorcycle difficult, then only difficult people will do it.  Think about that.  If you make it easy, and don’t needlessly torture folks, you might find an alternate way to get rid of some of the cars and light trucks on the road.

  • Brad Aaron

    I see no sign that Vallone and DenDekker want fixes or adjustments to muni-meters.

    Regardless of what anyone thinks of motorcycles as “alternative transportation,” this is clearly about free parking.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well, lets all hope that Matt Den Dekker can do more for us than Mike Den Dekker!

  • vnm

    These guys could have made the intelligent argument: Motorcycles need one third of the parking space as a car (maybe less!), so they should pay one third the rate. I’d be behind that 100%!! (By extension, bicycle parking should be free and transit riders should actually be given money.)

    Instead, they sound like knuckleheads who can’t figure out how to attach a plastic holster to a handlebar. Jeez, it’s explained perfectly clearly right on the Internet, which is how I figured out how to park the motorcycle I ride.

    http://jpreardon.com/2010/05/24/motorcycle-parking-at-nyc-muni-meters/

    If this ends up passing, there’s a lesson in all this for us livable streets advocates. Making a potent political argument isn’t always about marshalling sound arguments and drawing reasonable conclusions. Sometimes its just about the brazenly asserting self entitlements.

  • vnm

    By the way, great job Streetsblog for the photo caption of the year.

    “equating a motorcycle with a bicycle is like equating a Sea-Doo with a swimsuit.”Technically I think it’s more like equating a Sea-Doo with a kayak. A swimsuit would be akin to a pedestrian or a runner.  The point is still valid though. 

  • Ben Kintisch

    Motorcycles and scooters are a lot smaller than cars. I wouldn’t go for free parking but half the rate seems fair.

  • AdamDZ

    All right, give them free parking in NYC but outlaw motorcycles in state parks. A fair tradeoff IMHO.

  • “There’s no way to prevent theft of a slip.”

    Sure there is. Not as the system is currently implemented but it’s simple enough to make theft pointless with no additional hardware. Enable parking customers who are unable to secure the ticket to provide their license plate number. The slip is then invalid for all other vehicles.

    While we’re improving the munimeter, we should do the other thing suggested here and charge by space consumed. Vehicles are put into simple classes: scooter/motorcycle, compact car, full size car, and large car/suv. Owners are responsible for knowing which class their vehicle belongs in and will be ticketed for choosing a smaller class. By charging oversize vehicles more, we can charge motorcyclists less without reducing total receipts.

  • Ian Dutton

    I’m actually a big fan of SF’s extensive designated metered zones for motorcycles and scooters and advocated for them in my tenure on Manh. CB2. They are great for daylighting intersections, improving sightlines for peds and bicycles while preventing large trucks from parking in what was supposed to be a daylighted spot. The motorcyclists that I worked with were not opposed to paying a small fee for their parking (à la San Francisco), but really just wanted recognition of their struggles with Munimeters and knock-overs.

    One amenity that we need in NYC that is not as much a factor elsewhere: some provisions for locking. Much as bike theft is more a plague in NYC than in other cities, so are the brazen thieves who pull up with a truck and simply lift up the cycle and make their getaway.

    As far as the environmental aspect, my experience is that most moto riders are driving their cycle rather than taking transit, so the favorable comparisons to driving a car is moot. Nonetheless, responsible moto riding is preferable to putting more cars on the road and deserves attention.

  • Pskosey

    In Chicago our parking slips are stickers upon which you write your licence plate and affix to your headlamp. no one else can use it and its pretty secure (I’ve never had one fall off) you can also keep a small perforated portion as a “receipt” in case it does fall off or get stolen you can use that receipt to contest the parking ticket. Seems like Chicago got one thing right in the meter lease deal!

    also, Motorcycles definitely should be charged less, at least half. given they take up significantly less space.

    also also, having designated space at the end of streets does help with sight lines around corners and encourage the use of efficient transportation alternatives. 

  • Michael J Donovan

    Finding a way to affix a slip of paper to your motorcycle is simple enough. As a motorcycle rider, I’ve found ways of getting it done. However, I don’t see how it is fair to charge a vehicle to occupies 1/8th the space of a car the same “rent” to park the car there. Bridges have special rates for motorcycles. No motorcyclist would park in a parking garage that charges you the same rate as the mom pulling in behind you in an H2 hummer.

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