After several pilot projects testing bike access on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains, BART officials recommended that bicycles be allowed on trains at all hours and in all stations. This would be a big change from the current rules under which riders can’t bring bikes on trains during peak commute hours or into the cramped 12th and 19th Street stations.
The restrictions were set up to prevent overcrowding on busy trains. But after heavy lobbying by cycling groups, BART has been looking into changing the regulations. In August 2012, the agency conducted a three-day test allowing bikes on trains and in all stations during rush hours. From that, BART officials learned commuters prefer to have the first three cars bike-free, which was tested in a follow-up pilot in March.
Other cities allow bikes on subway trains at all times, including New York City with no restrictions, and Washington, D.C. which restricts which doors of the car cyclists can use.
BART surveyed more than 1,000 riders over the course of the week-long pilot in March. Three-quarters of those surveyed said the bikes had little to no impact on their commute. The most common complaint was overcrowding, with 19 percent of riders saying the trains were too full, bikes or not.
About a tenth of riders said they would be less likely to take BART if bikes were allowed on trains at all hours. But almost a quarter of riders surveyed they would be more likely to take BART without the restrictions, a finding that got the attention of agency brass.
The next step was to devise a plan that invites cyclists who might start riding BART more if they could bring their bikes on board but without alienating the 10 percent who didn't want to pack into a crowded train leaning up against a dirty 10 speed back tire.
Part of the solution is culture. To make the commutes better for the riders who expressed concern, BART officials say they will promote better “bike etiquette.” That includes putting up more signs cautioning bikers not to get onto crowded cars and wait for the next train as well as creating special places for riders with bikes to wait at some especially cramped stations. BART also recently introduced a feature on their website that lets riders check out how full a train is before they board – giving bikers a way to avoid crowding trains.
BART officials took their findings to their Board of Directors last week, recommending that the bike restrictions be lifted. The Board will likely make a decision later this month.