Motorcycle/scooter parking on *foot*paths – In a crowded city centre, this doesn’t make sense.

Some years ago I wrote about issues with the City of Melbourne policy of allowing motorbikes and scooters to park on footpaths, except in a few locations where it’s specifically banned.

The problem is, most of the guidelines seem to be ignored.

The guidelines

Here are the guidelines (see also: PDF version):

DO dismount and walk your motorcycle while you are on the footpath

DO ensure your motorcycle is at least one motorcycle length out from the building line to allow free passage of pedestrians (this is important as people with a visual and/or physical impairment may use the building line for navigation)

Motorbikes parked along the building line

DO park at least one motorcycle wheel diameter back from the road kerb, to allow pedestrians free access to and from the road and to parked vehicles (You can leave less space between your motorcycle and the kerb if you park next to a “no stopping” zone).

Parked about half a wheel diameter away from the kerb

DO NOT PARK where signs indicate that motorcycles are not allowed to park
the signs seem to be well observedUpdate Friday: Last night I spotted this:
Parking where you shouldn't, Flinders Lane

DO NOT PARK opposite any parking bay reserved for people with disabilities (marked with a wheelchair sign and symbol)

Parking adjacent to a disabled car parking space

DO NOT PARK where space is reserved for footpath activities such as street cafés
– it’s a bit hard to tell, as most such areas seem not to be well-defined.

Parking in what appears to be a designated outdoor cafe area

DO NOT PARK on narrow footpaths
– this is far too vague, but based on the second and third points, one could conclude that it means don’t park on footpaths so narrow you can’t leave a motorcycle wheel diameter from the kerb, and a motorcycle length from the building line. This should automatically make any footpath narrower than a motorcycle length (plus a wheel length) out of bounds.

Parking on a narrow footpath

DO NOT PARK on or near service access points, such as manhole covers, post boxes or rubbish bins

Parking over a manhole cover

DO NOT PARK near taxi ranks or bus and tram stops

Parking in a bus stop

Parking in a taxi rank

DO NOT PARK on private property without permission from the property owner
– some areas can be identified as private property, but it’s not possible to tell if permission has been given.

DO NOT PARK where your vehicle could damage the footpath, pedestrian facilities or landscaping
– I didn’t find any evidence of this.

DO NOT PARK within 1 metre of fire hydrants

Parking closer than 1m from a fire hydrant

There are just three locations where motorcycle parking is specifically banned:

  • Collins Street, south side footpath, between Exhibition Street and George Parade — I’m not even sure why this spot was excluded; the footpaths are wide, and it’s not particularly busy
  • Flinders Lane, south side footpath, between Port Phillip Arcade and Elizabeth Street
  • Exhibition Street, west side footpath, adjacent to Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Everywhere else, it’s permitted:

In Victoria you can legally park your motorcycle/scooter on the footpath (unless otherwise signed), as long as you do not obstruct pedestrians, doorways, delivery vehicles, public transport users or access to parked cars.

Motorcycle parking brochure

Common sense

Of course, common sense would suggest a few others points, such as…

Don’t block ramps to pedestrian crossings, particularly tactile guidance paths for the blind

Motorbike blocking tactile guidance path

…or block the footpath opposite a tram stop exit

Parked opposite a tram superstop exit

…or park in pedestrian malls

Is it permitted to park motorbikes in tram stops in the Mall? Not legal to drive it into Mall. Rego 1C9PW.

…or in the middle of a civic amenity such as public rotunda

Parked in the middle of a rotunda

Why does this stuff even matter?

Firstly, I have a philosophical disagreement with the idea of motor vehicles being parked (and driven) on footpaths.

Many CBD footpaths are already congested. As the CBD continues to get busier, it’s going to get worse. In the past ten years, total daily city numbers have grown from 679,000 to about 830,000 — about 22%.

While the number of CBD visitors using motorbikes remains proportionately low (less than 1% — a comment on the previous post said about 1200 per day), obviously as the CBD gets busier, the numbers are likely to increase.

Efficient movement of people around the city means encouraging the most efficient mode: that means pedestrians. But their space is being encroached upon by a relatively small number of other users.

Note that cyclists in general don’t cause these problems because they need to be left chained to something, such as a pole, restricting where they end up parked. Pushbikes are also physically smaller.

There are several problems here, I think:

Firstly, the rules as they stand don’t seem to be enforced, and are widely ignored, or perhaps not even common knowledge among motorbike and scooter riders.

Are they even enforceable rules? Or are they just guidelines? I’m guessing the latter.

Either way, whatever the rules are, riders need to be made aware of them, educated, and then the rules enforced — even if it’s just issuing notices advising of what not to do.

Secondly, the free-for-all just doesn’t make sense in a busy city centre. With pedestrian numbers continuing to increase, and motorbike riders accounting for less than 1% of the total daily CBD population, this is simply not efficient use of footpath space to have them sitting there all day. It probably explains why other capital city CBDs don’t allow it.

In comparison, many local councils have cracked down on footpath trading in recent years because of concerns about pedestrian flows and the vision impaired, and have provided clear rules about where traders can place displays, signs, tables, and so on. There doesn’t seem to have been any such clarity around motorbikes, and formalising the current guidelines and enforcing them would help a lot.

Where motorbike parking makes sense

I’d much prefer the policy was changed to allow motorbikes on the footpaths only in defined areas — opt-in rather than opt-out.

There are “motorcycle precincts” such as parts of Elizabeth Street where their presence is to be expected, and there are spots where it works fine, for instance opposite some tram superstops where there are wide footpaths with plenty of spare capacity, and barriers mean nobody needs to park cars or cross the road at that point.

Motorbike parking, out of the way, opposite a tram superstop

The other thing that should happen is the replacement of more on-street car parking with motorbike parking. It makes sense because motorbike/scooter parking on the street is more efficient use of space than car parking. Plus there’s lots of off-street car-parking, and in any case car traffic needs to be discouraged.

Motorbike parking, Queen Street

(I’m less sure that motorcycles/scooters are more efficient in traffic… it might be that they take up about as much space as cars when moving. Motorbikes are also, in the main, much noisier.)

If there isn’t a switch to opt-in footpath parking rules, then there should at least be a blanket ban on parking on narrow footpaths (going by the points in the existing guidelines) and bans placed on areas of high pedestrian traffic, such as around the railway stations.

Ultimately though, the City of Melbourne should be prioritising pedestrians on footpaths. They account for the majority of footpath users, with numbers increasing every year, and are the most efficient use of available the space.

Protests

When I’ve raised the prospect of a change on Twitter, people cite a motorbike protest some years ago which was probably how the current policy came about. Motorcyclists parked (quite legally) one motorbike per car spot in protest, and the council surrendered. They imply this could happen again.

You know what? The threat of protest doesn’t make it a good policy.

And I think you could predict my attitude to this specific protest — a protest inconveniencing CBD motorists (another minority mode)? Let them. I don’t care one bit.

One more thing

It’s very much in the eye of the beholder, but what about the heritage and character of our streets?

Beyond problems of efficiency, of footpath capacity… do we actually want every street in Melbourne to be overrun with parked motorcycles and scooters?

Motorbikes on Bourke Street

Update Friday

Last night I spotted a violation of parking where specifically signed that you shouldn’t. Picture inserted above.

And City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has advised me that, as I suspected, they are unenforceable guidelines, not rules.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

20 thoughts on “Motorcycle/scooter parking on *foot*paths – In a crowded city centre, this doesn’t make sense.

  1. Wow, I love your blog today. All those naught bikers! (A Current Affair would be proud of your expose). Very well researched and great photos.
    As someone who’s worked in the CBD for 33 years, I can honestly say that I’ve never been bothered by motor bikes on the footpath. But I’m able-bodied and just walk around them. For me, (a small percentage of ) jay-walkers, cyclists, motorists, taxi-drivers and delivery people cause more angst.

  2. Ordinarily I agree with you, Daniel, but I find this argument to be slightly ridiculous for a number of reasons.

    (And I’m leaving aside your point that “footpath” has the word “foot” in it, which is literally the least convincing argument you could make on this issue. Should bicycles, motorcycles, trucks and 4WDs be banned from carparks because they’re called “carparks”?)

    I’m not sure of the relevence of the fact that some motorcyclists ignore the rules and park illegally. The same can be said of every kind of vehicle, but no one is suggesting that for example cars shouldn’t be allowed to park as freely in the CBD because some cars park illegally.

    Clearly, as you identify, the rules need to be enforced. There are more than enough footpaths in the CBD wide enough to accommodate a row of motorcycles with plenty of room for pedestrians and street access, so I have no sympathy for a motorcyclist who puts their own convenience above others and parks illegally.

    So if the rules are actually enforced, the argument comes down to whether you think footpath parking is inherently a good thing or not. You’ve identified a couple of reasons why you think it’s not, but I’m not so convinced. I have to say that I have literally never been invoncenienced by a motorcycle, scooter or bicycle parked on a footpath before (even those parked illegally), and until reading this post have never considered that they might be a problem for anyone. I know my experience isn’t representative, but neither is yours.

    And, seriously, the “heritage and character” of our streets will be improved by removing motorcycles from the footpath? Really? What about the cars parked centimetres away? Why are they OK for the “heritage and character” of the CBD but motorcycles aren’t?

    I think it’s best for everybody if motorcycles are allowed to park on footpaths with the exception of the areas currently banned, and (importantly) that these exceptions are actually enforced. The first step should be a blitz on illegally parked motorcycles, and the “problem” of motorcycles on the footpath will start to sort itself out.

    The alternative, as you identify, is that motorcycles instead park in ordinary on-street parking spaces, which is a horrendously inefficient use of space and will be worse for everyone.

    Can I ask that if you were a motorcycle/scooter rider, would you pay for and park in a regular car space, or would be perfectly within your rights to park on the footpath?

  3. Apparently I had a stroke while writing that last sentence… allow me to rephrase.

    Can I ask that if you were a motorcycle/scooter rider, would you pay for and park in a regular car space, or would you park on the footpath, as you would be perfectly within your rights to do?

  4. @Bradley, no I certainly wouldn’t expect riders to pay for parking when they can park for free on the footpath. That’s not what I’m suggesting, and in a way this post isn’t aimed at individuals, it’s aimed at policy-makers.

    As I said in the post, more on-street parking for motorbikes (as pictured — not ordinary spaces, but special motorbike spaces, and free, just as it is now) would help.

    Do current conditions prevent people walking around now? For the most part, no, but on narrow footpaths it does present a problem for those with limited mobility, particularly those in wheelchairs.

    But more broadly, does pedestrian congestion cause issues? I’d argue yes. If the footpath throughput is limited by too many obstacles, it puts a cap on the number of pedestrians that can use it, which in turn influences people’s travel decisions. At an extreme level it could be: Is the walk to/from the station becoming too slow? Maybe I’ll stop using the train and drive instead. (Remember, in some spots ped congestion is so bad people regularly walk on the road to avoid it.)

    That said, I agree with you that the logical first step is to make sure the current guidelines are effectively enforced. And communicated — I’m not confident that riders are actually aware of them, otherwise I doubt they’d be ignored so often.

  5. As you’ve shown Daniel, the rules as they stand are complex and uncertain. I’m enthusiastic about the potential of powered 2 wheelers as a transport mode but I don’t think pedestrians in a dense area like the CBD should ever have to share space with any sort of motorised vehicle (except wheelchairs).

    I think motorcycles and scooters in the CBD (a) should only be permitted to park on the street or in private parking facilities and (b) should be required to pay for the parking space they use. Parking spaces need to be taken away from cars and re-sized for bikes (and priced accordingly).

  6. “Do current conditions prevent people walking around now? For the most part, no, but on narrow footpaths it does present a problem for those with limited mobility, particularly those in wheelchairs.”

    Again, if these rules were actually enforced motorcycles wouldn’t park on these narrow footpaths. If a motorcycle length of space is left between the building and the parked motorcycle, there’s ample room for wheelchairs/prams/pedestrians (assuming most wheelchairs and prams aren’t wider than a motorcycle is long, which I think is fair to assume).

    I’m not sure how many of those special on-street motorcycle parking spaces there are in the CBD, but they’re certainly not plentiful enough to come anywhere near satisfying demand, even if you were to double the number available. And it would be even worse outside the CBD, where motorcycle-only parking is practically non-existent. As you mention, car drivers wouldn’t be happy to see motorcycles and scooters taking up entire car spaces each, which is what will happen if you drive them away from footpaths.

    Enforcing the rules we currently have may not fix everything, but I think just taking that step alone would have a tremendous positive effect. The rules essentially say “park anywhere as long as you’re not blocking pedestrians“, so by definition if the rules were enforced there would be no problem. Obviously the real world isn’t as ideal as that, and you’ll never get motorcyclists to completely stay out of pedestrians’ way, but I don’t think footpath parking as a concept is at fault here. With proper enforcement of the current rules, even with increased pedestrian traffic in the city, we should be able to share the footpath.

  7. It really does seem that Victoria is the only state to allow motorcycles to park on footpaths. As your photos very clearly show, it is a free for all for the riders and they take no notice of rules or guidelines. I can’t see any reason why parking on footpaths should be allowed and it should be stopped.

  8. Bradley #6:

    Why should motorcyclists get to park for free on footpaths when there’s ample street space and private parking facilities that could be redesigned for motorbikes? What’s the argument for the implicit subsidy?

    It’s always difficult for a public body to sustain labour-intensive enforcement by inspection when the rules are complex and open to interpretation.

  9. If councils spontaneously decided to turn every car space into motorcycle parking, I would strongly support kicking motorcycles off the footpath. But that’s not going to happen.

    In the current environment (read: ridiculous preferential treatment of cars at the expense of all other modes of transport in the CBD), as long as they’re in no one’s way I think motorcycles are best parked on the footpath and off the street, especially on the ultra wide footpaths of the CBD, South Melbourne, St Kilda, etc. On particularly busy sections of footpath (William St.), by all means put up a no-motorcycles sign and force them elsewhere, but if the footpath can handle it and as long as they’re in no one’s way, what’s the harm?

    The key phrase there is “as long as they’re in no one’s way”, which doesn’t happen currently but isn’t beyond the capabilities of parking inspectors to enforce.

  10. Bradley #9:

    Harms include (a) interference with pedestrian movement (b) high enforcement costs (c) sterilisation of footpath space that might be used for other purposes e.g. cafes, landscaping (d) safety: many motorcyclists ride their bikes on and off the footpath (e) foregone parking fee revenue that could be used for civic purposes(f) motorcycle noise brought closer to adjoining land uses. You could fit multiple motorcycles in a single car space, no need for Council to repurpose every car space.

  11. All of those except (b) and (e) are theoretically covered by the current rules.

    (a) As mentioned, motorcycles are supposed to leave ample space for pedestrians and are forbidden from parking on “narrow” footpaths. On any footpath which is not “narrow” by the current definition but which has high enough pedestrian throughput to make motorcycle parking undesirable, put up a sign.
    (c) Motorcycles are already not allowed to park in spaces used by cafes or similar businesses.
    (d) This is also already illegal and should be enforced.
    (f) This is a ridiculous point. Motorcycles are only supposed to be “on” when on the road, in which case it’s no different to motorcycles driving on the road. This also ignores the fact that scooters are in fact often far quieter than cars.

    So from that, I would infer that your argument against footpath parking essentially comes down to the fact that motorcycles don’t pay parking fees, which I don’t particularly agree with but is a valid point. If motorcycles were charged a higher registration fee in exchange for being allowed to park on footpaths, would that satisfy you?

  12. And I neglected to mention point (b), which has to do with the cost of enforcement.

    Cars are often parked illegally too, and no one suggests that the cost of enforcing parking regulations for cars necessitates removing car spaces entirely. Why are motorcycles different?

  13. As a wheelchair user I can not say that I have ever had a problem with bikes, provided they were parked following the guidelines. However I would question if bike parking should be allowed on footpaths given it reduces pedestrian access.

    I have had problems with bikes parked on narrow footpaths and I will avoid using narrow streets where possible because of the increased chance that the footpath might be blocked. It can also be an issue if the pedestrian ramp is partially blocked as in some of the pictures. If the ramp is steep I often need to go up on an angle for stability meaning that I need the full width of the ramp.

    I think it is also important when talking about policy in these areas to recognise that you often need to allow more than the minimum possible space for a wheelchair to get through. Wheelchairs come in different shapes and sizes, some are easier to move than others and the users have differing skill levels.

  14. Daniel I think scooters are certainly more fuel efficient than cars, and cause less pollution and less wear to the roads.

    As for those big motorcycles, there should be a maximum decibel limit for those, either the limit is not enforced or the limit is too high in the first place.

    I like how in England they paint “double white lines” on gutters where parking is not allowed. Here in VIC, they put up those “S” signs every 10 metres…which costs money, adds clutter, and is not as clear as putting double-white lines along the gutter.

  15. Thanks all for the interesting discussion. It should be noted that I’m still not clear if the guidelines for motorbike/scooter parking are actually enforceable at present.

    @Chris, the public transport guidelines for mobility aids are that they be no bigger than 80cm wide… allowing a bit more space for getting through a gap, perhaps a space of at least 1.3m needs to be allowed. ( http://ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/accessible-transport/mobility-aids/ )

    @Jacob, interestingly, it appears some motorbikes can use anything up to 8.8 litres/100 km, which is close to a typical car (though most motorcycles are around half that, and many cars above that). http://www.totalmotorcycle.com/MotorcycleFuelEconomyGuide/2012-MPG.htm So one shouldn’t assume that motorbikes are more fuel-efficient than cars, though most of them would be (and scooters would be).

  16. 14

    They use less fuel but usually have less clean engines (the focus on engine pollution controls has historically been car pollution) and so non-CO2 pollution is higher.

    The UK uses double yellow (no parking) and double red (no standing) not double white.

  17. #16

    Tom the first and best

    Sorry Tom, ha ha, double yellow and double red lines. I wish we did that here. So much better (and probably cheaper?) than having those “S” signs every 15 metres along Fitzgerald Road, Laverton North.

    Sometimes the signs get hit by cars or removed by vandals.

  18. I ride a small scooter for about half of my trips to/from work. It is much more fuel efficient and less polluting than a car, and costs a shade less than $3 a day (80c for fuel, the rest for all other costs – this includes the occasional weekend ride for pleasure, and various cross-town trips). If I commute to work I usually park just out of the CBD, but when I do park in the CBD it’s definitely compliant with the guidelines. Remember, the other half the time I’m a pedestrian, so stupid parking pisses me off too.

    That said, there are very few instances when I’ve actually been inconvenienced by motorcycles parking on the footpath.

    All they need to do is clarify/enforce/sign things better. The guidlines are pretty clear: don’t block pedestrians. And if a place is particularly congested, they should sign it, and enforce it.

    The (beneficial) effect of motocrycle use on congestion has been studied: http://www.gizmag.com/motorcycles-reduce-congestion/21420/ . It’s worth looking at the actual research paper for the details. Of most interest was the fact that in free-flowing traffic a bike takes up about as much space as a car (following distances become more important than the size of the vehicle) but in congestion, especially if they are allowed to filter to the front of queues, the space taken up rapidly approaches zero.

    (And before someone jumps in about lane splitting, I’d bring your attention to Australian road rules Reg 141(1)(c). )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>