Tuesday, May 27, 2008

When bikers ride BART in groups

I do see both sides to this bike dilemma: BART is sometimes not the most bike-friendly service, yet at the same time, how can BART fit all these bikes during peak hours. With gas prices still on this ridiculous rise, the problem will only get worse as more commuters turn to cheaper alternatives. Today, I rode the the train towards the end of peak hours where bikes were allowed onboard. I was just tired and have a long day at work ahead...so decided to take an extra 15 minutes at home in the morning to finish up my morning smoothie.

Typically, whenever I have the luxury of taking this slightly later train, I do see 2 or 3 bikes per car, and they don't really get in the way. However, today, there were 7 FULL-sized bikes in my car and boy, did it get crowded!!

The riders looked like college students and their bikes immediate blocked both doors and the aisles. They insisted on being in the same car, but I looked in the car in front and in back...both had a few bikers in them so it didn't make sense for me to ask a few of them to move cars since it would just crowd another car.

I felt like I was inside a bike garage. I was seated but every few minutes, a bike wheel rolled over my feet, or a bike handle bar jammed in my face. A few other passengers actually moved cars because our car just became a crammed-up bike garage. I was too tired and cemented in my seat that I decided to observe all the way so I have some material for the blog.

The bikers were definitely biking rookies as they didn't even move their bikes to let people out at Embarcadero and Montgomery. Passengers were not happy, as they tiptoed around the bikes just to get out. At Civic Center, it was practically just me and the bikes, and one of the bikers straight stepped on me as she was trying to maneuver her way to an empty seat. That just about did it for me...before I walked out of the train, I said to them politely but instructionally, "You guys should have split into two groups or something so you don't block the train doors. And generally, there is an bike etiquette, you're supposed to stay out of the way to let people in and out of the trains. Is this your first time?"

Their reply was "Yes, this is our first time taking BART. We'll be doing this all summer. They'll be more of us riding bikes to classes together."

They're innocent and learning...I couldn't say much more but, "Good for you. Way to be green."

Bike ridership on BART will only increase with these outrageous gas prices and now with summer vacations! I guess the rest of us will just have to put up with bike-packed train rides.


Anonymous said...

The BART rules, as posted in the trains and stations, don't help much either. They state "use good judgment" when it comes to dealing with crowded cars. Yeah right, that works. The rules should be more prescriptive: "No more than X bikes per car. Bikes must yield to other passengers." Or some such. Good judgment leaves a lot of leeway...

Anonymous said...

Bicycles or luggage, which is worse? In both cases, it seems that many don't have a clue as to "etiquette" let alone use good judgment or common sense.

Rules are only good IF they are enforced. The only portion of the bike rule I see enforced on a semi-regular basis is the TO telling a bike riding patron to board a car other than the lead unit.

Anonymous said...

I've been guilty of this in the past. I know it's not good, but when the alternative is to wait for another 20 minutes, especially when you've been waiting already, you just want to get moving. I don't know any simple solutions.

Anonymous said...

There is indeed an etiquette that newcomers to bringing bikes on BART need to learn, which is mostly composed of common sense courtesy. I have been riding bikes in the Bay Area for transportation since I first came here in 1985, and I have been taking bikes on BART for that long too. Keep the bikes out of people's way getting on and off the train. Move them very carefully if there are other people nearby. If you need to stand to do that, you stand, if you need to wheel the bike off the train at stops to let people off you do that. Taking the bike up the escalators is illegal, but tolerated by some station staff if you wait until everyone else has gone up it (I choose to use the elevators). You have responsibility to not inconvenience everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Most of the cyclists are aware of the BART rules, they just don't care. I got tired of the flippant attitude from people who know better so when I see crowding situations now, I simply call BART Police and they deal with it 2 - 3 stations down the line.

SongMonk said...

This article from today in the Merc is relevant to the issue you raise.


bartmusings said...

Thanks for sending, songmonk.

bartmusings said...

From Merc News...problems with bikes onboard are just the beginning. Read on. Thanks for SongMonk to sending.

'Large shifts in behavior' during commutes create new problems
By Gary Richards
Mercury News
Article Launched: 06/02/2008

As gas prices climb menacingly toward $5 a gallon, Silicon Valley residents are changing the ways they commute - but some of the new solutions are creating problems of their own.

Transit ridership is up across the Bay Area, but riders say parking at Caltrain and BART lots is so jammed that you have to arrive before 6:30 a.m. to find a free spot.

More drivers appear to be leaving their cars at home and bicycling to transit, but bike racks are filling up on local buses and Caltrain, and some riders are being left behind.

Those who use express buses out of Gilroy and Santa Cruz say it's hard to find a seat. On the BART line in Fremont, it's standing room only.

Some drivers are thinking of moving closer to their jobs. One fellow has even removed seats in his van to lighten his load and boost mileage.

"We are seeing large shifts in behavior," said Chris Knittel, an associate professor of economics at the University of California-Davis, who says this spike in gas prices is different from years past. "Compared to previous times, consumers now appear convinced that these prices are here to stay."

That attitude can lead to long-term changes, from the type of vehicles we buy to where we live.

"Not everyone buys a new car each year or moves every year, so it will take a while for these choices to filter through the economy," Knittel said. "But the process is under way."

For some, forking over $65 to fill up a Camry or
$180 for a diesel truck is spurring immediate changes.

Elizabeth Finkler of San Jose is leaving her car at home and biking to a bus stop to get to work in Santa Clara.

Trouble is, only two bikes fit in the rack in front of a bus. And one night she was the fifth bicyclist waiting to catch a bus home.

"The driver wouldn't let me on because he already had two bikes on the rack and lots of passengers in the bus," she said. "I ended up speeding over to Scott Boulevard to get another bus and barely made it home for a visitor expected at 7:30."

The problem is more acute on Caltrain, where one in 15 riders wants to bring a bike on board, according to a Caltrain survey. Three in five say they've been bumped from crowded trains at least once in the past year, and one in four former riders who used bikes said being bumped is why they no longer take the train.

"It just got to be too much of a hassle," said Dan Ramirez of Mountain View.

John Calderon of San Jose often can't find a parking space at the Diridon depot in downtown San Jose. "Two or three times a week I have to scream over to Santa Clara" to park, he said - a drive that costs him an extra hour because fewer trains stop there.

Parking is even worse in Sunnyvale, where spaces at the Caltrain lot are limited and drivers arriving late often risk getting a ticket by parking in city lots that have a three-hour limit. And BART riders showing up after 7 a.m. can forget about parking at Fremont or Union City stations.

But transit is a relief for Ken Oliver, who bikes to the Morgan Hill Caltrain depot and then rides an express bus to San Jose.

He figures the cost of the train is better than spending $8 a day on gasoline. "With the monthly passes that my company subsidizes," Oliver said, "it is a no-brainer. The bus is well used. Always full."

Ian Crew of San Jose says his commute by BART to Berkeley is getting more difficult. First he can't find a parking place, then he can't find a seat. His wife works in San Francisco, and her gas expenses have the couple thinking of moving near the North Berkeley BART station so he can walk to work and she can take BART. "We may even sell one of our two cars once we move," he said.

The State Board of Equalization reported Friday that Californians have burned less gas every month for most of the past two years, with consumption falling 2 1/2 percent in February (factoring out the extra day in the leap year). The same trend is showing up nationwide, according to a federal transportation review.

But not all transit officials are convinced that high gas prices are the sole reason for increased ridership.

The Valley Transportation Authority revamped its bus system in January, adding more runs on its 15 most heavily used routes and increasing express bus lines.

Caltrain has seen a steady increase in riders since it added express service, shaving 30 minutes off a San Jose-to-San Francisco trip. And BART ridership keeps going up, for reasons beyond the price of gas.

"Congestion, bridge tolls, the ease and cost of parking in San Francisco and Oakland also play a big role," said BART spokesman Linton Johnson. "People don't change their habits overnight simply because the price of gas went over $4 a gallon. It takes time for people to feel it in their pocketbook."

Not for Donna Williams of Sunnyvale and her husband, Jim. They purchased scooters a year ago that get 80 to 90 miles per gallon. They promised their teens they would be careful and not do anything stupid - no lane splitting or riding to the front of a line of cars at a red light.

So far, so good. And so fun.

"Getting to work is now a blast," said Donna Williams, 46. "As an added benefit, we are also feeling about 25 years younger.

"Instead of spending $50-plus per week on gas, we spend $4. And talk about being green. Bet your Prius can't do that."