Red Hook woman battling for biker rights

Motorcycle and scooter enthusiasts say city policy is sending them on a highway to hell.

Bikers are forced to avoid parking on blocks with muni-meters because, they say, there is nowhere for them to secure the paper receipt that the machine spits out, leading to a clear-cut case of vehicular discrimination.

But a Red Hook resident is hoping her advocacy will compel the city to switch gears.

Cheryl Stewart’s newly formed New York Motorcycle and Scooter Task Force will seek to convince the city’s Department of Transportation to make accommodations for bikers in neighborhoods like Park Slope, which just recently had the high tech meters installed on Fifth and Seventh avenues.

Stewart, 47, a sculptor by trade who owns a total of seven motorcycles, said New York should follow the example of cities like Toronto, which recognizes motorcycles as efficient means of transportation and allows riders to park free in any muni-meter zone.

“We think that’s the ideal solution, at least until the city sets aside special metered parking for us,” she said. “We should be encouraged rather than discouraged.”

Motorcycles are free to park anywhere cars are, and the city dispenses plastic muni-receipt holders upon request, according to DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel. To obtain a plastic holders, bikers can contact DOT’s pre-paid parking card unit at 718-786-2513, he added. Gastel said the agency has yet to hear from the task force.

Task force treasurer Jesse Erlbaum, 37, said the intention is that any proposal the group submits will be compatible with the interests of the people who live and work in the various neighborhoods.” Scooters and motorcycles typically don’t mix well with automobiles in street parking, bikers note. Last year alone, Erlbaum said his two bikes were knocked over four times costing him $1,000 in repairs. “Our interest is for our members to feel secure with their property,” he said.

The muni-meter issue will present a “tremendous opportunity” for the DOT, Erlbaum said. “I think we are all concerned with making the city a better place to live,” and permitting people to travel efficiently in the city is better for business, and better for life.”

Stewart said bikers often get a bad rap. A recent “South Park” episode skewered bikers as attention seeking noise makers. “Why is it that every time we try to have a relaxing day, a bunch of a******s on their Harley motorcycles show up?” a character on the show wondered.

Stewart said she thought the episode was funny, but not representative of herself or any bikers she knows. “We are the community, we are friends and neighbors. We don’t like unneighborly motorcyclists any more than the next person. We are trying to create a climate of respect.”

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