A Scooter’s Guide to Philadelphia Two-Wheeling

Maybe you’re just thinking about getting a a scooter or motorcycle.  Or maybe you’ve traveled here from afar (why?) with your bike already in tow.  Either way, congrats on your interest in joining the Philly two-wheeled community.  (We are a fun and entertaining bunch.)  Below is some information / advice I’ve gathered over the years to help  navigate some of the “practicalities” (e.g., “I don’t have a garage. Where do I park the damn thing?”;  “What do you mean this DMV/PennDOT location doesn’t do both licensing and registration!?”;  “Who should I call when a drug addict steals my spark plug boots!?”; etc.).  It’s not formal legal advice or anything.  Please use your good judgment and common sense.  But you still might find it useful.

Table of Contents

  • I Don’t Have a Garage.  Where Do I Park The Damn Thing?
    • Residential
      • I Purchased an RPP.  Where Do I Put the Stickers?
      • I Purchased an RPP and Got a Ticket Anyway.  How Do I Challenge?
    • Non-Residential/City Parking
      • Non-Virtual Permit Parking
      • Virtual Permit Parking
      • There Is A Car In the Corral.  How Do I Narc?
  • I Ride a 50cc and What To Move Up or I Want To Learn To Ride a Motorcycle
    • Do I Need a Special License?
    • Is There a Course I Can Take To Learn?
  • Are There Riding Groups In Town?

 

I Don’t Have a Garage. Where Do I Park The Damn Thing?

The Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Codes both contain language that prohibits parking a scooter or motorcycle on the sidewalk. Both PPA and Philadelphia Police Officers have the power to issue you a ticket if you do. The fine will vary depending on the section of town in which the bike is parked when it is ticketed.  But you can’t fold the bike up and put it in your pocket – so what do you do?

  • Residential:  PPA recently (relatively recently) began allowing scooterists and motorcyclists to park on the sidewalk adjacent to their homes, if they have a Residential Parking Permit. Information about that may be found on PPA’s website (here, here, and over here). An RPP will run you about $35.00 per year. If you have more than one bike (and somehow have room adjacent to your home for all of them), then you need a permit for each machine. Some folks resent having to pay to park on the sidewalk adjacent to their home (e.g., I have to shovel the sidewalk in the winter; the city doesn’t shovel; I can put a bench in front of my house; why can’t I park my bike there?, etc.). For me, $35.00 per year seems like a reasonable price to pay to not to have to worry about being ticketed. If you like that peace of mind too, I recommend that you get an RPP.
    • I Purchased an RPP, But Where Do I Put the Sticker? It is true: bikes don’t have rear windshields. When you get the RPP from PPA, you will get the permit sticker itself (i.e., the one that has your “zone” on it), a handful of “little orange dot” stickers, and an 8.5 x 11 print-out with your permit information. Personally, I have stuck the RPP sticker (upside-down/backwards/etc.) on the mudflap over my license plate. I also festoon the plate itself with orange dots. (That way, anyone who might start to write up a ticket should see the sticker and the dots.) I’ve also kept the sticker tucked away in a drawer and just put the “orange dots” on my plate.
    • I Purchased an RPP, But I Still Got a Ticket, Now What?  We live in an imperfect world. If you received a ticket for residential sidewalk parking that you believe is incorrect, send a photocopy of the 8.5 x 11” RPP confirmation page that you got from PPA in with the ticket. I also recommend including a brief note that explains that you already have an RPP (as per 8.5 x 11 receipt), etc.  If the ticket was issued by a cop, you may be stuck, but it is probably worth challenging anyway.
  • Non-Residential/City Parking: OK, folks, this is somewhat complicated. (Please always consult the Fair Parking FB group or the PPA website or blog for the most current information.)  Here is what I can tell you: Throughout Center City and West Philly, there are specially marked areas that are designated as “scooter and motorcycle corrals.” PPA’s list of corral locations is here and the “interactive map” is here.
    • Non-Virtual Permit Parking: If you purchase $5.00-worth of parking time at a parking kiosk and display the little chit/receipt on your bike, that entitles you to park all day in any corral around town. This $5.00/day deal applies to corrals only. (Please note that some corrals are Loading Zones until 10 am. )  If you only need to park for 20 minutes (which costs some amount less than $5.00), you can purchase only the 20-minutes of parking that you need and then move on with your life after 20 minutes.
      • Where Do I Put The Kiosk Receipt? Take a picture of the kiosk receipt in case it is blown away, falls off, or is stolen.  I recommend wedging the receipt in between the license plate and frame, so that anyone writing a ticket should see it.
      • What About Cell Phone Parking? PPA is still working out the kinks, but the same rules should apply to scooter corrals, even with the cell phone parking app.  That is: if you pay for $5.00-worth of parking through the app, it should be good all day in the corral.  If you pay for less, stay for the amount of time you paid for, then get outta there.
    • Virtual Permit Parking: PPA offers “virtual permits” for MCs/Scooters.  These permits are only good in the corrals.  The cost is $75.00 per quarter or $250.00 if you purchase a virtual permit for a full year.  Currently, virtual permits can only be purchased in person at the PPA location on 8th Street near Market.  When you go to the PPA office, you need: the bike’s registration; proof of insurance; your driver’s license; and a method of payment (e.g., credit card).  Even though the permit should take effect immediately, I have heard about glitches while the PPA computers update.  If you get a ticket, send in a copy of the 8.5×11″ receipt that you receive from PPA.
  • There Is A [Delivery Truck, Moving Van, Lamborghini] Parked In the Corral.  How Do I Narc? If you are trying to park your ride and discover a four-wheeled interloper sitting in the corral, you should call the PPA Radio Room (215-683-9773).  PPA will try to dispatch an enforcement officer to ticket the vehicle.  Some corrals are Loading Zones until 10am, so it is possible the vehicle may be there legally.  Double check signage before dropping a dime on them.

I Ride a 50cc and Want To Move Up and/or I Want To Learn To Ride a Motorcycle

  • Do I Need a Special License? In Pennsylvania, you need an M-class license for a bike over 50cc.  (Read about my M-Class licensing adventures here.) If you take the Motorcycle Safety Course that the state offers (see below), you can test out on a scooter rather than an MC, but your license will be stamped Scooter-Only.
  • Is There a Course I Can Take To Learn? There is! Lookie here.  The course is free and fills up quickly!!  At the end of the course, you can test out for an M-class license.

Are There Riding Groups In Town?

Indeed there are! Hostile City Scooter Club Philadelphia is a local scooter group. They maintain a Facebook page (here) and typically host a rally in July. The Royal Bastards Scooter Club also has a local chapter in Philadelphia.  Check out their Facebook page here.  Both groups occasionally meet for brunches and weekend rides.  They also have information about other rallies in the area.  (The “area” can reach from Virginia to New York to central PA.)