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Parking Gates vs. Motorcycles


 Parking Gate

Like most of us, John Kerechek, an AMA member in Baltimore, Maryland, has had issues with a parking gate and his motorcycle;

I ride a BMW R1200CM to work most days. I park in a multilevel parking garage and have a monthly parking pass. The problem I'm experiencing is being able to leave the parking lot.

It seems, depending on the position of the motorcycle, the gate either opens or not -- mostly not
Most days an attendant has to manually open the gate.

The other day, I attended a class at another location and experienced the same problem -- the gate would not open. The attendant said they always have this problem with motorcycles.

I'm not sure, but there must be some type of sensing device the gates use that is not motorcycle-friendly. Are other riders experiencing the same problem, and if so, what have they done?

Unfortunately, the answer to this problem is not an easy one, and solutions are as varied as parking gate manufacturers and installers. Ultimately, though, the solution may depend on the owner of the property.

Carri Upton, a security gate installer who currently works at Texas Security Gates, says the systems they install are all solid-state 12-volt systems with a magnetic probe detector -- a loop of wire imbedded in the pavement.

"The probe sends a signal to an electronic switch called an 'operator' that tells it something is coming," she says. "Timers then close it automatically."

When closing, the gates use a safety cut-off switch that reverses the direction if it encounters an obstacle, Upton says.

The first thing to consider if the gate does not recognize you is to look at the area in front of the gate, and try to locate the loop itself. Look for an actual cut in the asphalt, usually in the shape of a square. Placing your motorcycle directly over part of the loop will have a better effect than sitting totally within it, Upton says. (This method may also work at stoplights as well.)

Another solution could come from politely asking management to adjust the sensitivity of the loop, Upton says. The system can be adjusted across a wide range -- at higher settings, something as small as a metal notebook can set it off.

Then there's another solution -- although it would require the parking gate owners to spend some money. "The property could even add something to the exit gate, like a photo eye," she says. "If anything breaks the plane, it tells the system to open the gate."

Then there's the other side of the coin -- the gate manufacturer who's far more cautious of motorcycles, usually for liability reasons. In Roselle, Illinois, Larry Landis, owner of Parking Systems Incorporated, describes the problem differently, and says there is no easy solution.

"The real problem," Landis says, "is that most bikes are aluminum."

He says they are 1/3 less detectable than steel with his equipment.

Landis says he puts a warning sign on all the security gates he installs, stating motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians are not allowed. His worry is that the arm could come down unexpectedly -- on top or in front of a motorcyclist.

Given a property that intends to have motorcycles coming and going, Landis says he would recommend a card, intercom, or token type system.

"The real problem," says Imre Szauter, AMA legislative affairs specialst, "is the fact that these manufacturers aren't designing gates for motorcycle use."

He recommends appealing to your state legislator and asking that they require state funded parking systems to allow motorcycles. "Any publicly funded parking facility should have provisions for motorcycle parking. To that end we are in the process of drafting model legislation that can be used in all states to correct this.

"Short of requiring facilities to make their gates accessible to motorcycles, there is no such thing as a perfect solution," Szauter adds. "One of the best we've seen so far -- at least in the short term -- is the one we were able to broker between motorcyclists and the City of Sacramento at a municipal parking garage."

A liability concern there was addressed and solved by reducing the length of the gate, and by creating free parking areas for motorcycles out of awkward spots where cars couldn't fit.

So, here's the final answer: If repositioning your motorcycle over the loop doesn't solve the problem, you're probably looking at an appeal to the parking facility's management. Be polite, and you may want to offer to help officials by providing you and your bike to help adjust sensitivity. Or suggest they cut a bit off the end of the arm.

No, there is no easy solution, but at least you know what you're up against.