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BART Board Votes to Lift Bike Bans for Another Five-Month Trial

The BART Board of Directors last night voted to lift bike blackout periods for another five-month trial starting in July. At the end of November, the board will once again consider changing the policy permanently.

Photo: SFBC

The trial was approved with a 6-3 vote, with directors Tom Radulovich, Robert Raburn, and James Fang voting against it, instead favoring a permanent removal of the bans.

“What I keep hearing from staff is we’re there, we’re ready to do this,” said Radulovich. “So let’s do it tonight.”

Despite the board’s hesitance to fully commit, bike advocates lauded the move toward a change in policy, which BART surveys show is supported by 76 percent of riders. According to KQED, “an overwhelming 95 percent of the roughly 400 people who sent letters or emails prior to the meeting urged that the ban be lifted.”

“Today’s BART decision is a momentous occasion,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum in a statement. “For years people on both sides of the Bay have had to contort their lives simply because they needed to take a bike on BART but couldn’t during commute times. We commend BART for taking the smart steps toward opening up regional travel by bike.”

BART board member Joel Keller of Brentwood, who said he initiated the board’s 1997 vote to remove the permit requirement for bikes brought aboard trains, was confident the policy would be successful but still favored limiting it to a trial period to err on the side of caution. “I’m prepared to support this on November 30, assuming that the facts don’t change,” he said, “and there’s no reason for me to believe the facts will change.”

See more coverage of the two-hour hearing from the SF Chronicle and KTVU.

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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: 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.

Read more…

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A Week of Bikes on BART: How’s Your Commute Been?

In the third day of BART’s week-long trial to let bikes aboard during rush hours, the sky doesn’t seem to have fallen, just as it didn’t in the first trial during Fridays last August.

BART says it’s already received 850 survey submissions in the first two days, and the results will tell if the operation runs smoothly enough to warrant a permanent removal of the ban. But the picture so far from media reports and tweets from BART riders looks pretty regular — and better-than-regular for commuters who are no longer forced to board in the off-hours if they want to use their bikes on either end of their trip.

As KALW’s Isabell Angel noted after observing the Monday commute, “It seems like what hadn’t been working was the ban.”

Meanwhile, take a look at the contrast in Monday coverage from ABC 7, which reported a pretty uneventful day on BART, and KRON 4 below, which focused on the minority of riders who voiced opposition to the change in policy.

Whether you BART with or without a bike, how has your commute been this week? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to fill out the BART survey.

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BART to Launch Second Trial Week Without Rush-Hour Bike Ban

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BART will implement another trial to allow bikes aboard trains during rush hours, the agency announced today. Unlike the first trial, which tested the policy change during four Fridays in August, the new trial will run during the entire work week from Monday, March 18, through Friday, March 22.

The survey results from the August trial yielded some promising findings in favor of allowing BART riders to bring bikes aboard, provided they still abide by other rules against blocking doors and squeezing onto crowded train cars. While there were some mixed messages from the survey, overall 90 percent of BART riders said they didn’t notice a difference during the trial period.

“Our first pilot offered us great insight, but Fridays in August tend to be slow, and another round of testing and customer feedback is required before permanent changes to our bike access policy are considered,” said BART Board President Tom Radulovich in a statement.

Advocates from the SF and East Bay Bike Coalitions, which held outreach campaigns to encourage bike-toting BART riders to use courtesy during the August pilot, applauded BART’s initiative to take the next step on making the long-overdue change and pledged to continue their education efforts.

“We heard from countless bike riders on both sides of the Bay that the August pilot opened up regional commuting by bike for both experienced bike riders and those wanting to give it a try for the first time,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum.

Lifting bike blackout periods is one measure BART is pursuing as part of its Bike Plan, which aims to double bike-to-BART ridership within the next ten years. BART Board member Robert Raburn noted in a statement that the policy change is an important step in “expanding access and parking for bicyclists encourages riders to ditch their cars, freeing up car parking spaces for those who have no other option than driving.”

“BART is installing more bike lockers and racks monitored by security cameras, but when bike parking is filled the remaining option is to bring the bicycle on board,” he added.

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Are SFPD and BART Police Starting to Take Bike Theft Seriously?

BART police had some welcome news for Bay Area cyclists this week: An undercover sting led to the arrest of an alleged thief in possession of ten bikes and more than 100 bike parts. It’s a nice follow-up to the SFPD’s arrest last July of a thief who had 114 stolen bicycles.

Some stolen bicycles recovered by BART police this week. Photo via CBS 5

Stories of successful bike theft crackdowns in San Francisco aren’t common, but it’s promising to hear that local law enforcement officials are directing resources to address the problem, since the perceived low risk of stealing bikes is what makes bicycles such an appealing target for thieves.

As Streetsblog New York City relayed last August, the Priceonomics Blog looked at why bike theft is so prevalent, even when “it seems as if stealing bikes shouldn’t be a lucrative form of criminal activity.” The conclusion? Bike thieves are rarely caught, and even if they are, they rarely face jail time, and that’s what draws them to the business.

A 2007 estimate of SF bike theft put the citywide number at 2,000 to 3,000 bikes per year. In the Mission, an average of 60 bikes are stolen every month, officers said at a workshop on bike theft prevention held by the SFPD last week, according to SF Weekly.

Read more…

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Bike Station Coming to Civic Center BART/Muni Station Next Summer

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A BART bike station at Embarcadero. Photo via Oakland Local

BART and Muni Metro riders who bike to Civic Center Station would have less reason to worry about getting their wheels stolen if a planned bike station is installed next June, potentially adding a sectioned-off parking area and a fix-it-yourself repair station.

The bike station, which is currently being designed, would add 150 to 175 bike parking spaces outside of the paid areas, allowing it to be used by both Muni and BART passengers. The number of regular bike racks inside the paid BART area would also be expanded.

“The existing facilities are at capacity, and projections for demand just keep going up and up,” said Maria Lombardo of the SF County Transportation Authority in a recent presentation to the agency’s board of directors.

Currently, Civic Center Station has 63 bike racks, which can be reached by anyone inside BART’s paid fare gate area. Muni Metro riders, who aren’t allowed to bring bikes aboard trains, have no bike parking available in the station.

Bike stations, which are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed, already exist at Embarcadero Station as well as Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART Stations in the East Bay. BART also plans to open a bike station at 19th Street in Oakland by the next Bike to Work Day in May.

Existing bike racks at Civic Center are located inside BART's paid fare gates, but still leave bikes susceptible enough to theft to deter many would-be bike commuters. Photo: bsii/Flickr

Expanding secure bike parking is a key piece of BART’s recently-adopted Bicycle Plan [PDF], which sets out to double bike-to-BART ridership in the next ten years. BART surveys [PDF] show that the existing bike stations are one of the system’s largest draws for bike commuters. Surveys at Downtown Berkeley and Fruitvale stations revealed that 17 percent of bike station users would bike to BART less often without the security offered by a bike station, while another 19 percent said they wouldn’t bike to BART at all. Twenty-one percent said they would instead bring their bikes on BART trains, which are already regularly at capacity.

The Civic Center bike station is expected to cost $830,000 and to be funded with BART Prop 1B Lifeline funds, Prop K sales tax funds, and the Prop AA vehicle registration fee.

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This Weekend’s Traffic Frenzy: A Success for Sustainable Transportation?

The SFMTA created a temporary separated bike lane on the Embarcadero this weekend. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

This weekend’s massive convergence of events saw possibly one of SF’s largest influxes of travelers ever. And by many accounts, the city’s efforts to get visitors to come by transit, foot, and bike were largely a success.

No doubt, transit riders were packed: BART saw 319,484 riders on Saturday, blowing its previous weekend ridership record of 278,586 out of the water. SFMTA officials estimated Muni took on an extra 100,000 to 135,000 extra riders each day, according to the Chronicle.

The bike counter on Fell Street counted a record 4,000 bikes on Saturday. Image via SFMTA's Livable Streets Facebook page

The surge of bicycle traffic “Wiggling” it to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival also broke the single-day ridership record for the SFMTA’s bicycle counter on Fell Street, which counted 4,000 bikes on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a Mercury News headline read, ”traffic woes [went] mostly unrealized” throughout the Bay Area.

Around the Embarcadero, the SFMTA tested out some of the strategies in the People Plan, which is aimed at facilitating car-free travel to the America’s Cup yacht races. The agency set aside a widened, physically separated area for pedestrians and bicyclists on the Embarcadero in the northbound direction. That allowed planners to test out the impacts of removing a traffic lane to inform plans for improvements during the main races next year, as well as any possible permanent changes further down the road.

Read more…

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BART Survey: Promising Findings for Lifting the Rush-Hour Bike Ban

BART released results Friday from its survey of riders’ attitudes toward the pilot program that lifted the rush-hour ban on bikes each Friday in August. Although BART and media reports have called the findings “split” and “varied,” the responses in some key areas look promising.

The vast majority of the more than 7,500 respondents felt that lifting the ban had little or no impact on their commute. As BART board member Robert Raburn put it to the Chronicle: “Many of the passengers just shrugged it off and said, ‘What’s the difference?’”

Here are the survey highlights, as summed up in a statement from BART:

Findings tending to support eliminating the blackouts included:

  • 90% of respondents aware of the pilot who rode during the commute reported they did not personally experience any problems related to it. (Of the 10% who did experience problems, the most commonly cited problems were bikes blocking aisles, doorways and seats; bikes entering crowded trains; and bikes running into or brushing up against people.)
  • When asked if lifting the blackout would impact their likelihood to ride BART, 25% said they would be more likely to ride. (10% would be less likely to ride and 66% would be equally as likely to ride.) “Interestingly, almost half the respondents skipped this question, which could mean that they were not sure of the answer (unable to anticipate if they would change their behavior or simply thought allowing bikes would have no impact on their likelihood to ride BART)” the survey states.

Read more…

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Bikes on BART, Day 1: All Signs Point to a Smooth Morning Commute

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With bikes let loose on this morning’s rush hour BART commute, all signs indicate that things went as smoothly — if not better — than usual. Our most recent search on the Twittersphere turns up not a single complaint, and reps from the East Bay and San Francisco Bicycle Coalitions, as well as BART, are reporting generally positive comments.

On a KQED radio forum this morning, East Bay Bike Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera said one bike-to-BART commuter told her he had more room on his train, since he no longer had to compete with a backup of bike commuters that normally fills the cars up immediately after the end of the blackout period.

“He actually had an easier experience this morning,” she said. “It was less crowded, and it made me realize we’re actually distributing the bikes better throughout the system by allowing them during the commute hours.”

Whether you commute with or without a bike, be sure to let BART know how your trip goes as the pilot runs through four more Fridays.

Check out more photos from this morning on the SF Bike Coalition’s Flickr page, listen to the entire KQED forum here, and check out a video below just posted by BART.

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Advocates: Help Make BART’s Rush Hour “Bikes On Board” Pilot a Success

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[Update: BART released a video explaining the bikes-on-board rush hour pilot.]

BART announced a pilot last week to lift the ban on bikes aboard rush-hour trains each Friday in August. The news is cause for celebration among bike advocates, who are calling upon bike-toting passengers to help make the pilot a success by setting a good example with courteous behavior. If the pilot proves successful, BART could move toward removing more blackout periods.

“Today we have a chance to win full-time access, something we have been working on for years,” said East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera in a post last week explaining the etiquette for bringing bikes on board. Both the EBBC and the SF Bike Coalition are searching for volunteers to help inform BART riders about the upcoming pilot and monitor how it works.

BART staff will evaluate whether to expand or end the pilot based on “feedback from riders, both cyclists and non-cyclists, and an analysis of operational issues, such as the amount of time a train remains at each station to accommodate bicycle boarding,” the agency said in a statement.

Of course, the rest of BART’s rules will still apply: No bikes will be allowed on the first car of a train, and riders must still avoid blocking doors, squeezing onto crowded cars, and causing delays in any way.

“BART’s pilot project follows the lead of the New York subway. In New York, bikes are allowed, with the caveat for passengers to be courteous and to use common sense,” BART board member Robert Raburn said in a statement.

The pilot is a promising sign of BART’s commitment to implementing its new bike plan, which aims to double bike-to-BART ridership within ten years. Although BART management has long resisted reducing blackout periods, advocates and agency staff say there’s a more open attitude under the new general manager, Grace Crunican.

BART said any permanent lifting of blackout periods will have to be approved by its board of directors.