My three-wheeled motorcycle coasted down the hill toward the water in Old Orchard Beach on Monday. In my sidecar was BDN biz reporter Darren Fishell. We were on assignment, asking folks if the falling Loony would affect business in the seaside town where so many Canadians spend their vacations.
I rolled past the metered, motorcycle-only parking spaces. They’re too narrow for my bike. I’d have to feed both machines to stay on the happy side of the law and Old Orchard Beach’s predatory parking regulations stipulate parking ticket fines double if you don’t cough up the dough in less than five days. I pulled into the center of a car-sized spot instead. I put four dollars into the fancy meter machine. It looked just like the ones they have in Portland. It spit a parking pass out at me, good for two hours. After wedging it into the gas cap, we walked off to get some reporting done.
When I came back, just after an hour later, I had a ticket. It had an inexplicable note written on it. The handwritten missive indicated my time was not up, but I still owed the town $25 (on top of the $4 I’d already paid to park there) because my motorcycle was in a car/truck parking spot. Nowhere was there a sign saying the spot was for four-wheels only.
I swore out loud.
Before I go further I should explain a few things. The first motorcycle sidecar patent was applied for in 1903. It is not a new invention. I realize they’re not nearly as common as a two-wheeled bikes, but sidecars have a long, illustrious history in the annals of motorcycling. But somehow, they still befuddle some folks.
In Portland, where I live, the city has dedicated motorcycle parking spots. They do not have meters and they’re good for 10 hours. Yay! However, you can’t park a motorcycle in a city-owned or run parking garage. Booo! I asked the attendant at the Elm Street garage about it once and he said it was because the deck of the structure bounces a bit and the city was afraid that bikes might fall over. I glanced down at my three-wheeled contraption and asked him if he thought my bike was going to tip over. He shrugged and said he didn’t make the rules. Funny how the privately owned garages don’t seem to mind taking my money to park. For the record, my bike has never tipped over.
Also, I got a note left on my bike in town a few weeks ago asking if I would stop parking in the MC-only spaces because I took up too much room. I wonder if the anonymous note-leaver hassles people on wide-bodied Honda Gold Wings or fully dresses Harleys.
Finally, I ride all winter along with a handful of hardy Portland souls. Yet cars feel it’s fine to park in the city’s motorcycle spaces when it’s chilly out. That’s not to mention the valet parking guys’ habit of storing yet-to-be-parked cars in the MC spaces on Oak Street.
Suffice it to say, the surprise ticket in OOB stung my sore spot harder than lemon juice on a fresh patch of road rash.
I called the OOB dispatch and asked them to send the parking enforcement officer around to my location because I didn’t understand the ticket. The man on the end of the line said he would. I thanked him.
Less than 10-minutes later, Colleen Barney arrived. She was good-natured, professional and answered all my questions as best she could. That was a tall order, seeing as how she’s tasked with ticketing people for no apparent reason.
She explained, as you can hear in the video, that it’s a crime for anyone with a motorcycle registration to park in a car-only spot in Old Orchard Beach. How do you know the spots are only for cars? You don’t. There’s no sign indicating the rule. There’s a nice big sticker on the motorcycle-only meters saying cars cannot park — but the chances of a car squeezing in there are as slim as the spots themselves. So, that’s pretty redundant.
She went on to tell me, after the camera was off, that they have this problem all the time with sidecars and trikes. I nearly blew an o-ring. Since the town knows it’s confusing, I’m left to guess they just like making money off cyclists. Maybe they think un-posted parking rules make it more exciting for everyone involved — like a Ferris wheel ride without leaving the ground.
She said next time I’d better feed two meters in the motorcycle spaces or pay to park at one of the private parking lots. The lots get mighty pricey come July and August.
I told her I blog at the BDN and I’d be telling this crazy story. I’d be advising bikers to beware. If they just want to pull into a metered spot downtown to grab some pizza and fried dough, they’d better be careful because Old Orchard Beach has secret parking laws that only pertain to motorcycles.
She walked a few yards away and dialed her cellphone while Darren and I donned our safety gear. Just before I pulled away she came back. She’d been given the OK, by her supervisor, to void my ticket. I asked her if it was because I was going to write about it. She said, no.
She made it clear the next time I came to town it would still be illegal to park in a car spot. They were just voiding this ticket because, well, just because.
If you planning to cruise into Old Orchard Beach this summer on two wheels or three, consider yourself warned. They may arbitrarily give you a ticket, but they also may arbitrarily void it as well. It’s their call.