Usually, bikes aren’t allowed on San Francisco-bound BART trains during peak morning commute hours, or back to the East Bay in the evening. And they’re not allowed in the 19th Street or 12th Street stations during commute hours at all. But this week, BART has opened up all hours and stations to bikers. It’s a trial period, and to make it work, BART officials and cycling groups are urging to riders follow the rules: no bikes on the first three cars during peak hours, and no bikes on crowded trains. The transit agency has also produced an explanatory video about the pilot program.
Robert Raburn is on the BART board of directors, where he represents parts of Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda. I ran into Raburn as he was wheeling his own bike around the station, making sure everything was going smoothly. He said he was excited to see how things go this week– but that people have to be patient.
“The reality is that in many cases we’re not going be able to open the floodgates and allow hundreds more bikes on any one train," he said. "That won’t work. We’re asking all bicyclists to use common sense and courtesy.”
At least this morning, the common-sense approach seemed to be working. In the hours I rode the train –- from 7:00 to 8:30 -– I didn’t see anyone shoving their bikes onto a packed car.
It seemed like what hadn’t been working was the ban. I talked with John Dillon at the 19th Street station– a station that usually doesn’t allow bikes during peak hours.
“Usually I ride my bike to a station that’s about two (stops) further away and then illegally put it on a train I’m not allowed to ride and try to keep it out of people’s way. But I have to get to work,” he explained.
When I talked to him, Dillon had just let a crowded train pass by. He said he always waits for a car with more room -- even if it means missing two or three trains.
Keith McKinnon takes BART from El Cerrito Plaza to Embarcadero every day. He said he regularly sees bikes on trains they’re not supposed to be on, but it doesn’t bother him. When I asked him if bikes ever make the train too crowded, he shook his head.
“No, the bicyclers usually stay out of people’s way,” he said. “They’re usually off on the side. So no."
Of course, not everyone flaunts the ban– I talked to plenty of people who were excited to finally board with their bikes. Ronnie Haning said that’s why he took BART today.
“I like riding my bike on the weekends,” he said. “Why not, you know, commute for a week?”
BART’s already updating cars to make more space for bikes. The fleet will be fully modified by June. After this week, BART officials will meet with community members, and survey commuters to decide whether they want to get rid of the bike ban for good.