Next Round in Fight for Bike Space on Caltrain

BIKES ONBoard and the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bicycle Coalitions urge advocates to chime in

Bicyclists Boarding Caltrain
Passengers with bicycles wait to board Caltrain. Photo: Bryan Goebel/San Francisco Streetsblog

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Caltrain is electrifying and getting new trains. But the new trains, as Caltrain plans to configure them, may only have enough space for 72 bikes, as opposed to the 77 they can accommodate on the aging diesel fleet they run today. That is not ideal for riders who need to take their bikes, especially given projected population and ridership growth.

But thanks to pressure from advocates at BIKES ONBoard (BOB), the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC), and the SFBC to provide more space for bikes on the new trains, Caltrain has agreed to take another look at the issue.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, the Caltrain Citizens Advisory Committees and the Bicycle Advisory Committee will hold a work session to figure out a configuration that can meet the promised one bike space for each eight seats. “Basically, Caltrain is trying to limit reconfiguration to only two or three bike cars,” wrote Shirley Johnson, who formed BOB to help advocate for bike space on BART and Caltrain, in an email to Streetsblog. “But we need four or more to meet the board-mandated 8:1 ratio of seats-to-bike-spaces and simultaneously get enough seats within view of bikes to deter bike theft.”

Below is one of BOB’s recommended configurations, which differs sharply from what’s currently planned for the new trains:


Beyond the ratio of bike spaces, BIKES ONBoard, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition are taking issue with Caltrain designs that have riders store their bikes on the lower level, but sit in the upper level or at the ends of the car, with no view of their bikes. As Streetsblog reported previously, advocates say this is like ringing the dinner bell for bike thieves.

“Caltrain has the opportunity to potentially reconfigure train layout to address bike theft on-board,” wrote the SVBC’s Emma Shlaes, in a blog post about the issue. “Bike security, on and off board, is the number one concern of SVBC and our members, as this will determine the comfort and convenience of being able to bike to and from Caltrain.”

Caltrains current proposals segregate bike space and seats. Image: Caltrain
Caltrain’s current configuration options segregate bike space from seats with dedicated bike cars. Image: Caltrain

According to documents for the meeting, Caltrain staff will provide large drawings of the new EMU (electric multiple unit) cars. Attendees will be asked to arrange seats, seats with tables, and bike racks in the cars.

Johnson has posted more details on the configuration options here.

Poles and other infrastructure and work is now visible along the route as Caltrain moves toward electrification; the new trains cars are on the way. Cycling advocates want Caltrain to include enough space for riders who need their bikes on both ends of their commutes. Today, cyclists sometimes get “bumped,” and have to take a later train, if there aren’t adequate spaces available.

Caltrain asks riders to report when they are bumped so that the railroad can quantify how much space it needs for bikes moving forward. They have a “bump” report online which breaks down which stations and trains experience the most bumps.

The tomorrow/Wednesday, April 17th  meeting will be at 5:45 p.m., Bacciocco Auditorium, 2nd Floor, 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos.


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