Will the BART Board Take the Sensible Step of Lifting Bike Bans?

After a second uneventful trial, it’s as clear as ever that BART is due to lift the ban on bikes during rush hours.

A commuter takes a bike aboard BART during the March trial period, and the sky doesn't fall. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfbike/8578799224/in/set-72157633052317021/##SFBC/Flickr##

The BART Board of Directors, which is set to vote on the policy change next week, held a hearing last week on the results of a one-week trial in March, during which the agency surveyed passengers about the effect of allowing bikes on trains during rush hours. The trial followed an initial experiment in August that lifted bike bans on four Fridays.

The results of the March trial were similar to those of the August trial, with 75 percent of survey respondents reporting that the change had “little or no effect on their trip.” More promising is the finding that the number of respondents who favored retaining the bike blackout periods dropped from 37 percent in August to 23 percent in March.

“The bottom line is it was a non-event,” said Alan Smith, vice chair of the BART Accessibility Task Force, who observed behavior on BART during the March trial.

Shirley Johnson, who conducted research for the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Bikes ONboard campaign, pointed out that out of 36 major transit systems in the U.S., 75 percent allow bikes on board during rush hours, including the New York City subway.

BART board member Gail Murray is one of the strongest critics of lifting bike bans. “They talk back to you, they don’t listen to you,” she said of "rude" bike-toting customers. Image: BART Board TV

Johnson also pointed out that “cyclists are already avoiding crowded trains” on BART during the periods when they are allowed on board, since not all of the most crowded trains run during the current blackout periods.

As a condition of lifting the bike blackouts, BART staff propose keeping bikes off only the first three cars of trains during rush hours — a provision that was included the March trial. BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo said the agency is also taking measures to better accommodate bikes, including expanding designated on-board areas for bikes and wheelchairs, as well as adding bike parking at stations. BART plans to launch a “bike etiquette” campaign to remind bike-carrying riders not to board crowded trains and to follow other rules, like the prohibition against bringing bikes on escalators.

“Our ultimate goal is not large numbers of bikes on trains, but a higher percentage of riders using bikes to access BART,” said Beroldo.

With the SF and East Bay Bike Coalitions calling on supporters to urge the BART Board to lift bike blackouts, BART District Secretary Kenneth Duron said the agency received 87 emails generally supporting the policy change. “Unlike past types of campaigns we’ve received advocating for a particular position,” he said, “each of these emails have all been personalized.”

Commuter Disney Bolin told the BART board that to make her commute from West Oakland to San Francisco, she must leave two hours before work to board her BART train before the ban begins at 7 a.m. Her job is beyond walking distance from BART, and she feels safer biking to West Oakland BART station than walking, she said.

“My bicycle and I are very adaptable and don’t take up very much room — no more than someone bringing groceries, or luggage, or a cotton candy cart, or any of the other crazy things that I’ve seen taken on BART,” said Bolin. “Just like any other customer, we’re well aware that we should wait for the next train if it’s already too crowded — even if we don’t have our bike.”

Most BART board members seem to favor the policy change, but strong reservations were voiced by members Zakhary Mallett and Gail Murray, who shared anecdotes about their negative experiences with bicycle users.

“I’m sure most of you have experienced those rude bike riders who won’t listen to anything,” said Murray. “They talk back to you, they don’t listen to you.”

“I see a lot of possibilities for tension,” she added. “Despite the fact that 99 percent of the bike riders are nice, it only takes those few to make the commuters who want quiet space angry.”

BART Board President Tom Radulovich pointed out that when it comes to accommodating other transport modes, policy decisions aren’t typically driven by “generalizations by mode of transit as a class of people.”

“You rarely get a ‘you people’ thing with motorists,” he said. “Although there’s good motorists and bad motorists, there’s good parkers, there’s bad parkers, we tend to want to accommodate them — same thing with walkers, but cyclists tend to be judged as a class, and judged by the bad apples.”

“I don’t want to always assume the lowest common denominator, because if we assume that self-policing is impossible, we couldn’t have any public realm. We couldn’t have public transportation, because we rely on the vast majority of people behaving according to the rules most of the time.”

  • foo

    One thing I found that helps with lots of bikes on a BART car is to stack them against the bar where the bike silhouette thing is, sort of like on Caltrain. That way you pack in a bunch of bikes in a small area. I was going always offer other bikers to stack theirs on mine when they get on.

  • noname

    Is it me or does Murray’s comments make it sound like she’s never ridden BART?

  • Based on the way she brings up stereotypes as though they were relevant to a public policy discussion, I’d say whether or not she rides Bart is the least of our problems.

  • +1 – when you make the big time and get a publicly elected position, you have to grow up

  • noname

    Fact. Her words are pretty offensive on many levels.

    And I guess understanding how mass transit works isn’t a a required skill to be a board member.

  • Anonymous

    There is some truth to her words. Don’t believe me? Check out the pics of clueless bicyclists at the BART Idiots Hall of Fame Facebook group.

  • Anonymous

    Most of the bike pics (a small fraction of the posts) on that page are simply people complaining about folks taking bikes on board during the ban period. Recursive argument is recursive.

    Also, here is the actual caption from one of the posts:

    “This morning on the SFO train from Richmond .. and then two more bikers got on the train .. I’m about ready to start doing the same since BART doesn’t seem to want to enforce their own rules .. i’d love tor ride my bike to work.”

  • Anonymous

    You must have missed the pic of the hipster blocking 3 seats with his fixie. Or the woman bicyclist drinking coffee from a ceramic cup. And there are more. Many more.

  • Anonymous

    I saw both those pictures and the others but still fail to see how they justify the ban. If there is a problem with rider courtesy (blocking seats, open food containers) then target that. It’s a problem that’s not restricted to people with bikes, and no reason to punish people who are not being rude or inconsiderate.

  • J

    Sometimes I think the rest of the country doesn’t know that bicycles are allowed on the NYC subway 24/7. It’s kind of shocking to go elsewhere and find these bike bans on systems that are used way less than the subway. Obviously, you don’t want to try and take your bike on the subway during rush hour cause everyone will hate you, but legally, it’s permitted.

  • Kevin

    I agree. There should be signs encouraging bikers ask what people’s destinations are and to stack their bicycles in this area. When I’m riding BART, sometimes I ask if I can stack my bike against another persons’, sometimes I don’t feel like asking but would like to anyway.

  • I knew all those coffee drinkers on BART were cyclists!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, ive spent a lot of time sitting in that seat with a folding bike, and when somebody sits down next to me holding their bike up awkwardly I always tell them they can lean it on mine.

  • Faded_seaside

    I still don’t understand the logic of banning bikes from the first three cars of the train.

  • cmu

    I guess BART is not as crowded as the NY subway. It’s stupid to allow bikes during crowded commute hours when there’s barely room for people. Even as an avid biker, I’d never inconvenience others this way, it would just give people another reason to hate cyclists. And before anyone brings up strollers, it’s a false comparison…strollers have another body in them.

  • It’s not logic, it’s politics.

  • Is it stupid to build gigantic parking lots at BART stations where there’s barely enough housing?

  • It will still be against the rules (and common sense) to bring your bike aboard when the car is full. Not every part of the system is full during commute hours.

  • Anonymous

    Radulovich’s comments are well thought out and articulate. I hope they are heard.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Tom has decades of experience at BART of being right and being completely ignored while diligently representing the interests of his electorate (as well as those of every transit rider in the region and every taxpayer in the country.) Compare and contrast with. oh, say, James Fang.

    Completely admirable, and completely depressing.

    Speaking of being wrong every time and being rewarded handsomely for always doing the wrong thing, note that former BART president, PG&E functionary and Orinda suburbodroid Dan Richard, the BART Board point man for ramming through the fiscally disastrous extension to Millbrae, have progressed onwards and upwards to fucking up the entire state by fronting High Speed Rail for exactly the same mafiosi.

    Do the right thing, and get to debate with morons about bike hours.
    Do the wrong thing, and get to direct hundreds of billions of dollars to your friends.

  • Some riders do not want to interact with cyclists.

  • Some cyclists do not want to interact with cars. Tough noogies.

  • mikesonn

    That’s isn’t the reason. My goodness.

    I thought it was only the first car, and I figured that was to ensure that the driver could easily exit if needed and/or ensure disabled access.

  • Anonymous

    The point of the pilot programs was to see whether allowing bikes on board during commute hours would create the kind of problems you are concerned about (people forcing their bikes onto jam-packed trains) and the evidence showed that it did not. It is nice to have empirical evidence that cyclists are not in fact jerks and idiots.

  • Disabled access is also important too. Cyclists could easily take spaces that are designated for the disabled. If a disabled rider comes onboard, cyclists will have to move their bikes away from the disabled spot and block other parts of the rail car. I don’t think designating just one car for the disabled is enough. (Caltrain has one disabled car and is sometimes full).

  • mikesonn

    I think you just talk to talk.

  • Maybe they need to say “no drunken smelly homeless people in the last 2 cars” – some riders do not want to interact with drunken homeless people. In fact, if we did a survey of what riders do not want to interact with – cyclists or drunken smelly homeless people – guess what the drunken smelly homeless people would win hands down.

    Now Andy can eloquently explain to me why my assertion that people would rather interact with drunken smelly homeless people than with cyclists. Careful Andy – you cannot cite some sort of “safety” reason with respect to the actual bicycle, because that is not what you asserted in your first comment. And frankly “safety” reasons became sort of a crock once BART got into the business of transporting people with 200+ pounds of luggage to the Airport

  • Anonymous

    The point of lifting the ban isn’t to allow people with bikes to jam them onto crowded cars. It is to allow them to bring their bikes on board when there is space, and when the ban is unnecessary and overreaching.

    The same rule applies on busy trains outside of the commute hours ban period and the world hasn’t ended. Why not just say “don’t bring your bike on a crowded train at any hour”, which has a lot more useful application than a blanket ban. Thoughtful people will follow thoughtful rules.

  • Anonymous

    Radulovich is always spot on. Radulovich for mayor!

  • I have nothing against the cyclists, and I do think that BART can lift or seriously relax the current ban. I think that there will be some negative impacts that can be reasonably mitigated.

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