BART’s New Green Machine Bike Racks

A step closer to solving the bike-theft-at-stations issue?

One of the new bike racks at 16th and Mission BART. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
One of the new bike racks at 16th and Mission BART. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

BART has launched a pilot project at 16th Street/Mission and Pleasant Hill stations of a new type of bike storage security device. They’re called “Bike Keep” racks, but Streetsblog prefers to call them the “Green Machines.”

Register to use them here.

From the BART release on the new rack/Clipper-activated locking devices:

A new generation of technology-rich bicycle racks is just coming to market. These racks lock the frame and one wheel with a mechanism that is significantly stronger than the traditional bike rack and U-lock combination. They also feature an alarm that sounds if someone tampers with the bike. Users access the racks with a Clipper card, but solely for the purposes of locking/unlocking the racks — the racks will have no access to the financial or any other data from your Clipper account.

BART posted a video to explain how they work.

Steve Beroldo, BART’s bike program manager, said he discovered the product on the Internet, tried them out, and was impressed with the technology. BART is saying they are the first transit agency in America to offer them.

Streetsblog definitely approves of having bikes locked with a Clipper card (at no charge, according to BART–it’s just used like a key). That said, Streetsblog prefers the BikeLink lockers because it completely encloses the bike, and makes it darned near impossible to steal wheels, lights, seats, etc. The downside is the time to set up the BikeLink card, which is annoyingly separate from Clipper, but the price is nominal. The new green machine lockers lock the front wheel, but you’ll still need your own lock or chain to secure the back wheel. And, of course, your seat is still vulnerable.

That said, Ryan Russo, head of Oakland’s DOT, during his interview with Streetsblog last week, demonstrated how he uses a stretch of bike chain with some rubber tubing around it to secure his seat:

Some old bike chain and rubber tubing (to avoid catching your pants on it) keep this seat secure. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Some old bike chain and rubber tubing (to avoid catching your pants on it) keep this seat secure. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

It’s nice that BART is moving steadily forward to make their system more compatible with cycling, from permitting bikes on trains at all hours, to setting up BikeLink stations, lockers, and attended facilities, to these new green machines. Obviously, even the best U-locks can be defeated, and it’s kind of a bummer that it’s so hard to stop bike theft. As Streetsblog covered a few years ago, theft is a major impediment to cycling.

Streetsblog hopes Muni will do more to get with the program too to discourage bicycle theft and make its rail vehicles more accessible to cyclists.

Streetsblog would be curious to hear how its readers are using bike racks, lockers (such as BikeLink) and what they think of these new green machine bike lockers at BART stations. And what are their experiences taking bikes on transit overall?

Post your experiences and bike/transit security strategies below.

  • I like the idea, especially being able to integrate the Clipper card, instead of a separate card like BikeLink. These might work great at college and university campuses as it discourages students to abandon their bike or lock it up long term, and even if someone abandons it, the Clipper card number can trace back to who left the bike.

  • murphstahoe

    It’s not really “integrated” with Clipper. It just leverages off the fact a Clipper Card has an RFID in it.

  • Ford GoBike is going to be doing this as well to match the card’s serial number to unlock the bike.

  • tiabgood

    This only locks one wheel? That means cyclists will have to continue to bring a lock. Hrm.

  • thielges

    it is probably a good idea to carry a lock anyways if you plan on ever going to a destination that does not have this sort of rack. Or your Clipper card ever fails (happened to me once so far)

  • thielges

    Marry the Clipper capability of this rack with the security of Bikelink and you have a winner. I’m not sure how much these exposed racks cost but they might not be substantially cheaper than Bikelink lockers.

    It is actually a good idea to charge a nominal rate as Bikelink does to avoid a Tragedy of the Commons with some bicyclists hogging the parking for long periods of time. Maybe even use an escalating rate: start at a nickel an hour but double that rate as each 24 hours passes (along with sending an email alert to the Clipper owner). Eventually someone is going to have to periodically sweep away abandoned bikes.

  • mx

    I really like that this is linked to the Clipper card, but BART had to go and ruin all the convenience by adding a registration requirement. On Twitter, they claimed this was so they can get feedback from people, but I find it incredibly obnoxious that they would throw hurdles in the way of riders just so they can send out surveys or something.

    The way to make infrastructure like this useful is to make it as convenient as possible. People would think you’re crazy if you told them that everybody in the city had to register in advance to use parking meters or park in parking garages. Other bike storage systems require advance registration, special cards, credit cards, instructional videos, etc… That works if you consider yourself a Cyclist with a capital “C” who stays on top of these things and carefully plots out their options, but if you’re just a person who has a bike and would like to leave it somewhere for a bit, that’s all a bunch of work. Even if the registration is a simple process, it’s still far more complicated than “tap the Clipper card you already have on this square and go.”

    If the only purpose of the registration requirement is to send out surveys, then send out the interns with clipboards instead.

  • YohanSF

    So, previously I would carry my 7-pound steel U-lock with me to bart and lock my bike frame and two wheels up with it.

    Now, I can carry my 7-pound steel U-lock with me to bart and lock my rear wheel up with it.

    Meh.

  • YohanSF

    This doesn’t have the security of Bikelink. At very least, the rear wheel is fully exposed, to say nothing of your seat, components, etc. Do as you like, but I won’t be leaving my rear wheel unlocked in bart.

  • Mike Jones

    Just buy some locking skewers…. brains rather than brawn 🙂

  • thielges

    I guess I wasn’t clear. What I meant was add the Clipper-enabled entry controller to the box-cage physical security of bikelink. Right now bikelink is not nearly as useful as it could be due to the hoops required to jump through to acquire a bikelink card. And then that card is only good for one thing.

  • Mike Jones

    Individual “Bike Lockers” are large and expensive. Marry this simpler technology with “personal lockers” to safely store your stuff while you’re away. Not 100% convenient, but you probably don’t usually leave your lights of panniers on your bike when you park elsewhere…. as I’ve said “locking skewers” solve the wheel problem.

  • Except that there’s thing called “other places” in between BART and home.

  • Price-comparison per bike with BikeLink Group Parking: Missing
    Footprint-comparison per bike with BikeLink Group Parking: Less
    Price-comparison per bike with BikeLink lockers: Certainly less
    Footprint-comparison per bike with BikeLink lockers: Less
    Point made about leaving bikes at station? Yes, thanks! A higher bike modal share will make bike carriage a challenge during commute hours.
    Balkanization of bike-to-station solutions: Check!
    Works for BART, not for MUNI: Check!? (See “Balkanization”)
    Relevancy that you still need your own lock: None, unless you never stop anywhere between home and a BART station.
    Keeps parking underground in stations without ramps, making carriage of heavier city bikes, not to mention long-tails or Bakfiets difficult at least, because, um, you want to take your kids to school on the way to BART: Oh, Todd! The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good!
    Elevator that can transport all bikes mentioned in previous question? Some of them.
    Any information in this article – which is screaming for it – about assigning etc. BikeLink membership to Clipper 2.0? Nope.
    Number of Dutch train and metro stations that have bike parking inside a fare gate: Probably none, because it doesn’t make any sense.
    Statement from BikeLink (again, screaming)? None.
    Power goes out and: Unknown.
    Hackable: Like everything
    Lose Clipper whilst parked? Unknown.

    I think the best solution is a sort of combination of e.g. Ashby BikeLink Group Parking with the underground Civic Center BikeLink Group Parking that’s next to a “dumb” room: Situated only at streetlevel and as to the BART (or Amtrak, Caltrain etc.) station as possible and is as straight a line from the closest bike paths (this means on either side of a major street in some cases) to the downwards egress. The structure would provide the same type of rack on both sides, including space for larger bikes. It would have a BikeLink entrance and a normal one. The size of the structure would be fixed but there would be a dynamic partition that adjusts based on demand, changing the proportions of the two sides. It would be transparent (like Civic Center) and also allow people – one of whom is a BikeLink user and another who isn’t – who ride to the station together or exit BART etc. together to take virtually the same path in both directions.

  • Affen_Theater

    Many Clipper cards are unregistered (ie anonymous). Registration is needed to associate name and valid contact info for a Clipper card prior to authorizing it for Bikeep use. This ensures you have someone to contact when:

    • bikes are left for too long or abandoned (rack needs to be freed up)
    • to help prevent a thief claiming they “lost” their card to get “their” bike back via remote unlock (Bikeep says they can review video to see if the person requesting a remote bike unlock looks the same as the person who locked it up)
    • or any other time you need to contact a user regarding their use of the Bikeep network

    If MTC were to require Clipper registration and allowed Bikeep access to that info, then Bikeep probably wouldn’t need their own registration.

  • Affen_Theater

    True! They can customize/configure installations to use any RFID enabled card or device (phone). The card merely provides a unique serial number / identifier (ie database “key”). Their website / videos also show people using a smartphone app to lock/unlock their bikes.

  • Mike Jones

    I still carry a lock, but a small one just to lock the frame, not the wheels too.

  • What if you want to stop for something on the way home where you’re out of sight of the bike?

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