TOTW: Park to drive out, especially on a hill

The riding tips on these pages are my personal opinion about matters related to motorcycle riding. They are not the official position of any organization, and are for your consideration only. They are not hard and fast rules, they should not necessarily be applied in all circumstances, and they should not be applied without thinking. Always use your judgement and take all current safety factors into account while riding. You are responsible for your riding, not anyone else (especially me). These tips were originally published by a motorcycle riding course, called “Tip of the Week” (the reason for the TOTW in the titles).

What’s the problem?

Many motorcyclists give little thought to the position of their bikes when parking. They simply pull into an available spot, dismount, and walk away.

Pulling in to a spot generally means that you must back out of it to depart. Backing out of a parking spot is generally bad practice for several reasons:

  • Pushing your bike backward is more difficult than riding it forward. You may lose your balance or lose control of the bike’s balance and drop it.
  • If you push the bike backward while standing beside it (generally the best technique) your ability to see oncoming traffic and other threats is impaired as you back out into traffic.
  • After backing out into traffic, you are forced to pause there while mounting, changing gears, and making other preparations to move. During this period, you are an obstacle. You are in danger of being struck, and are not in a position to take evasive action.

An additional, and more serious, problem can occur when you must park on a hill. If you pull into a parking spot on a downhill grade, or pointing downward into the low land beside a crested road surface, you will be forced to push the bike backward and uphill when you are ready to depart. Large motorcycles weigh many hundreds of pounds, and it may be physically impossible for you to push it backward up the hill.

Solution

Whenever possible, you should park your bike so that you can drive out of the parking spot rather than having to back out.

In double-lane parking lots, you should pull through an unoccupied double spot and park with the bike facing outward.

If only single spots are available, you should stop your bike outside the spot and then back into it so that you can drive out to depart.

When parking at the side of the street, you should stop your bike a few feet from the curb and then back it in, parking with the rear wheel touching the curb and the bike facing outward at an angle. You’ll be able to drive away with a clear view of traffic. (As an added benefit, you are taking up less parking space.)

Finally, if you must park in a location where you will have to back out of the spot, think about the slope of the land before you stop. Never stop where you will have to push your bike backward up even a gentle hill. Either back into such a spot, so you can drive out, or select another parking location.


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