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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tips for Bringing Your Bike on BART at Rush Hour

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Oh dear. Just ... oh dear. In North Berkeley. - LYDIAT/FLICKR
  • LydiaT/Flickr
  • Oh dear. Just ... oh dear. In North Berkeley.

Welcome to The Spokesman, our bi-monthly bicycle column written by French Clements, a San Francisco resident and distance cyclist who considers it pretty routine to ride his bike to Marin County or San Jose and back. He belongs to a club, the SF Randonneurs, and is active in numerous aspects of the cycling community.

Government entities are hardly known for experimentation. But, like someone posting in Craigslist's Casual Encounters, BART continues to test some limits. You've probably heard how: Every Friday this month, they're giving up the rush-hour ban on bikes. They'll analyze the results (which seem promising already) and determine whether the so-called "bike blackout" is really all that necessary.

The pilot program is part of the 2012 Bike Plan, a broader effort by BART to suck less on commuters' accounts. That means, according to the system, "better on-site bike parking, improved in-station circulation for bikes, and better bike access in neighborhoods with BART stations." Note that the targeted goals here are purely infrastructural. The idea is to make it easier for bikers to get to and around BART stations, but doesn't address capacity issues in the trains themselves (which seems a little odd, but hey, baby steps). The system hopes to double bike mode share over the next 10 years to 8 percent.

Dig a little in the Bike Plan for some nifty factoids. Most cyclists feel they live within a bikeable distance from a station, for instance. And the increase in bike mode share from 1998 to 2008 -- the span of the plan's central survey -- is double the increase in pedestrian use. Downside: more bikes staying locked in the station means more theft, and theft remains a real deterrent for bikers. Not everybody will use those fancy bike lockers, and not every station has them. Even though the Bike Plan states that it's not an objective to increase the number of bikes on peak-period trains, BART is smart to acknowledge that their ridership might hit a ceiling if their bike policies stay as is.

So, yeah, the following three Fridays are crucial. Get your respectful ass out there, give high-fives to the people in green BART shirts after you fill out their paper survey, or take their online survey. If you're kind enough to read this column, your voice needs to be heard. Some tips for a smooth ride:

  • Rush hour means more crowded trains, but it also means more trains -- if you bike most places instead of driving, you're probably patient enough to wait a few minutes for a less crowded car.
  • At least one savvy rider brings a long Velcro strap for attaching his bike to fixtures in the train. Frees up a hand or two to read with.
  • Don't forget about the accessible gate.
  • Folding bikes: They are a lifestyle choice! They're also a decent option, bike ban or not.
  • If you're a trainspotter or into spreadsheets, this tells you which trains and what times will be most crowded on Friday BART trains in August.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Chain grease offers a looming specter to suited pant legs everywhere. Bikes can get awkward. In BART's delightfully cautious wording: "If the pilot clearly demonstrates the bike restrictions are needed, the blackouts will remain in place. If the pilot demonstrates there is some potential to ease the restrictions, next steps will be proposed."

Here's to next steps!

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