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Friday, February 27, 2015

Why BART Bike Stations Are Actually Very Cool

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 10:23 AM

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Yesterday, I was headed to downtown Oakland to do some work and run some errands. Halfway there, however, I checked my back pocket only to realize I had forgotten my lock. I was screwed.

I'd have to turn around and go home, wasting my time. And I'd probably miss my deadline for this very column.

Then it hit me: The new BART Bike Station is open, where you can park your bike for free

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BART is scrambling to make the transit system even more bike-friendly, adding new elements, including this new Bike Station which opened up this week at the 19th Street stop in Oakland's Uptown neighborhood. There are already bike stations at the Ashby, Downtown Berkeley, Embarcadero, and Fruitvale stations, and now this new one — apparently stations may be in the works for MacArthur and Civic Center.

BART brags that you can take advantage of the new Uptown station to store your bike, “while you work, play, or shop on BART.”

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It may have taken a few years for the transit agency to create “world class bicycle parking facilities,” but even if it's happening slowly, it's still happening. It’s easy to see BART is pro-bike, but it’s also kind of counter-intuitive: Why would BART work so actively to promote cycling, when it's in the business of pushing transit? Intuitively, making it easier for cyclists to use BART makes for more BART ridership, and if those bicyclists have more secure parking, that means fewer bikes on BART, and more room for people. Right?

When I visited the Bike Station on Thursday, I even ran into BART District 4 Director Robert Raburn, who was dropping off his own bike for the afternoon. Raburn has been a vociferous bike advocate on the BART Board, helping to remove the BART ban on bikes during rush hour. I also spoke with Thomas Denesha, who was working the station at the time. Denesha told me that bike parking had doubled every day since the station's soft opening last Monday. If that pace continues, we're guessing it’ll be tough to find a spot to park by next week.

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These bike stations are operated by an organization called BikeHub, not directly by BART. While BART covers rent to provide free parking for the 130 bikes, BikeHub staffs the retail and repair shop, hopefully making enough revenue in repairs and sales to pay employees. At the Uptown Bike Station, Denesha told me the sop can handle any maintenance or repair a commuter might require, so if you get a flat on the way to work, you can leave your busted bike at the free parking garage and the BikeHub mechanics will fix it up for you by the time you return. 

The 2012 BART Bike Plan says that “Bicycle parking is the most visible, symbolic and arguably the most important component of the BART system in terms of its potential to encourage passengers to access stations by bike.” The new Oakland Bike Station certainly drives the point home that cyclists are welcome on BART — even if it'll probably be some time before we see the next generation of cars, which, fingers-crossed, might offer better bike facilities. 

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About The Author

Leif Haven

Leif Haven

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill — literally and metaphorically.


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