Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Could Metro allow bicycles during rush hour?

Yesterday, San Francisco's BART system lifted its long-standing ban on allowing bicycles on rush-hour trains. Given bicycling's popularity in the DC area, and the Metro system's packed park and ride lots, perhaps a similar reform would work here.


Photo by San Francisco Bicycle... on Flickr.

After a lengthy trial process, BART will allow bikes on all its trains at all times, finally giving people an easy way to cross the San Francisco Bay with a bike. Like Metro, BART is overloaded through the urban core of San Francisco, and there were concerns that bikes would just make things worse.

The three trial periods were progressively more intense. BART allowed bikes on Fridays for a month, then for one full week, then for five full months. The agency wanted to measure how much disruption bicycles would cause and to gauge public support. As it turned out, the concerns were unfounded, and public support was quite high. Crowding did not get worse, and 79 percent of riders wanted to see the ban lifted entirely.

Like BART, Metro doesn't allow bikes during rush hour due to fears of crowding. But if passengers could bring bicycles on the train without inconveniencing others, there's no reason it would be a problem here.

Perhaps WMATA ought to consider a series of trials, too, to gauge how it affects our commutes. Metro is not BART, after all, and so may not be as good a fit. We won't know unless we try.

David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast living in Mount Vernon Square. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin

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I wish, there is basically no one on the train from Ballston to Vienna in the morning and back in the Afternoon, there is no reason for bikes to be banned on these segments. Metro is just too lazy to look deeper into it and wants a one size fits none policy

by Adam Lind on Oct 25, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

No. For the same reasons as last time. And I write that as a keen cycle commuter.

by renegade09 on Oct 25, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

Def friday. Trains are less crowded anyway. Perhaps only on end cars, the ones in the middle get kind of crowded.

by Richard on Oct 25, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

I often see bikers not following the ban, anyway.

by Chester B. on Oct 25, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

The govt encourages telework (and RDOs) to relieve congestion on the roads - but many teleworkes are transit commuters, and Fridays are very popular for telework and RDO's.

Result, metro is rarely crowded at Friday rush hour.

Allowing bikes on Metrorail on Fridays seems to have few downsides.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 25, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

No way. As crowded as trains are at rush hour, there is no room for a bicycle. I know it would be nice for the bicyclists, but there just isn't enough room.

by brookland_rez on Oct 25, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

A trial, especially on Fridays makes sense, however I'd wait until the additional railcars are delivered in a few months. That will convert many 6 car trains to 8 car trains, relieving crowding and making more space for bikes.

A policy where bikes are only allowed on the end cars or in the reverse commute direction would be impossible to enforce using the current process where enforcement is done by the station manager at the point of entry.

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

The newest railcars BART is buying will have special space devoted to bikes. See http://www.bart.gov/about/projects/cars/new-features.aspx. I would be OK with bikes on Metro during all times if this type of feature existed in our fleet. Otherwise I do not thing bikes work at crowded time periods, and I have been brushed against by a dirty bike while dressed for work because of crowded conditions and an inconsiderate person bringing their bike on at the wrong time.

by JDC Esq on Oct 25, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church
A policy where bikes are only allowed on the end cars or in the reverse commute direction would be impossible to enforce using the current process where enforcement is done by the station manager at the point of entry.

The same can be said for the ban on eating food or playing loud music without headphones. It cannot be enforced, but it doesn't mean Metro doesn't have the rules.

by Richard on Oct 25, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

@JDC Esq

SFist already has a guide to how not to be a jerk with your bike on BART. Size and dirt are on there.

by David Edmondson on Oct 25, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

@David - good find. Like I said, I would love bikes on Metro at all times but I think a corral like BART will be implementing would be needed first. Otherwise, as a last resort, when more 8 car trains arrive just designate the first/last car as a bike friendly car 24/7. I would be OK with that.

by JDC Esq on Oct 25, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

Agree that this would be nice, but also agree that the conditions don't exist for it to be feasible. My concern isn't really about crowding, but that there's no dedicated space for bikes on metro cars. It's doubtful the new rolling stock will have bike space. But, hey, I'm just hoping for air conditioning that doesn't rain on passengers and speakers that work.

by MJ on Oct 25, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

I ride my bike in order to avoid having to deal with metro.

by spookiness on Oct 25, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

The same can be said for the ban on eating food or playing loud music without headphones. It cannot be enforced, but it doesn't mean Metro doesn't have the rules.

The ban on eating is, at times, very strictly enforced and includes undercover sting operations:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=94999

Regardless, unenforcement of the bike ban would be more serious than unenforcement of playing loud music or eating. The latter don't impact Metro's mission of getting people from point A to B while bikes that take up space, not allowing people to get on a rush hour train, do impact the mission.

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

With the current need for trains to stop at the front of the platform, and the fact that most riders have not yet figured out this fact, those cars are often less full. So limit bikes during rush hour to the front car, and you have a potential solution.

The current rules state that you cannot enter a train if it is too crowded to do so. I would suggest that those who are concerned about getting stained by a bike already on the train should not get on that train. This reminds me of the argument made by car drivers when they need to give up one tenth of one percent of the roadway for a bike lane. It ain't their road, and the Metro car is not your car.

This proposal would have a significant and positive benefit to CABI in that many commuters now take it just one way and avoid riding them home from downtown due to the uphill nature of the terrain.

by fongfong on Oct 25, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

As a reminder, folding bikes are allowed on Metro at all times. I realize that folding bikes are expensive but if you're using it to commute to work, many rail riders can afford to chalk it up as a necessary expense of working/commuting. Bear in mind, the median income of a rail rider is over $100K.

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

BART is a completely different animal than Metro in this respect.

The Bay Bridge makes it pretty much impossible to bike into work from the East Bay, spare the most intrepid commuter. Alternatively, surface streets / bike paths are available from most areas served by Metro.

Additionally, Metro is way more crowded and less orderly than BART.

by Kathryn on Oct 25, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

I would suggest that those who are concerned about getting stained by a bike already on the train should not get on that train. This reminds me of the argument made by car drivers when they need to give up one tenth of one percent of the roadway for a bike lane.

Government funded transportation should prioritize moving people, not inanimate objects like bikes or cars. And, I say this as someone who rides on Metro with a bike a lot and who often has to wait around until 7pm to do so.

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

I think it's important to bring up another system that doesn't ban bicycles during rush hour: The NYC Subway system. Obviously there are times and directions where it is not physically possible to bring your bike on a train, but the policy leaves room for people who reverse commute or who travel on less crowded sections of subway to bring their bikes with them during rush hours.

by Jacob on Oct 25, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

Selfishly, I would love to see this policy lifted. As someone new to bike commuting, bringing my bike on the metro in the morning and biking the 10 miles back home in the evening is how I have been able to work biking into my commute, at least to start. I reverse commute. I am never on crowded trains, and I would never try to force my bike into a packed car. The fact that I have to get up super early just to get on a train that is slightly less crowded than the rush hour trains going in my direction is silly. I wish Metro could trust me to make my own decisions about whether or not my bike will take up too much space, but I know that's wishful thinking.

by MetMet on Oct 25, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

@ Kathryn

It is also impossible to bike or walk between many of the outer stations excluding the Red Line where most stations are along the same street or within 2 blocks. Many of these stations even lack buses traveling between them so you are forced to take the train or a train and a bus combo to get between places.

The beltway and the lack of roads that cross it stops most if not all traffic between outer stations.

It is impossible to go between Dunn Loring, WFC & EFC, Franconia, Van Dorn & King Street, Brookland & Ft Totten, everything on the Orange line between Minnesota Ave & New Carrolton without going atleast a mile or 2 out of your way or in the case of Dunn Loring 3 or 4 miles

by kk on Oct 25, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

Government funded transportation should prioritize moving people, not inanimate objects

Which is why we should ban luggage and rolling bags during rush hours.

Metro is way more crowded and less orderly than BART.

Perhaps. But since there is already a rule that you can't take a bike onto a crowded car, what this means is that lifting the rush hour restriction will have less utility for cyclists as more cars will be off limits for them. But that is not a reason to maintain the ban.

bear in mind the median income of a rail rider is over $100K.

Even if true, it's irrelevant unless the wealthiest rail riders are going to help buy folding bikes for the poorest. Furthermore, as one who has commuted via folding bike/Metro, the folding bike is a real hassle and requires a lot more time (folding and unfolding) than a regular bike. The goal here is to encourage more people to bike and take transit. Requiring the bike to be folded and stowed doesn't do that.

by David C on Oct 25, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Yes. First car, first door only, with a nod to the train operator before boarding. If it's crowded, the op can say no.

by Greenbelt on Oct 25, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

It is impossible to go between Dunn Loring, WFC & EFC...without going atleast a mile or 2 out of your way or in the case of Dunn Loring 3 or 4 miles

The W&OD pretty much connects these three stations.

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

@Jacob - good point. The DC metro is typically much more crowded than BART, so NYC might offer a better comparison.

I frequently bring a bike onto the NYC subway (and I much more frequently ride on packed trains as a regular rush hour passenger)and I must say it's very nice as a biker to not have to worry about bike rules on the subway.

Even with no rules, I very rarely encounter a bike on a crowded train. I think most people are decent and respectful, and (like me) just wouldn't bring a bike onto the subway at a crowded hour unless they absolutely had to for some reason. Further, if the train is unexpectedly crowded and I have a bike, I'll wait for the next train. Not sure why we need a policy or a rule to get people to do what most decent people will do anyway.

Nevertheless the DC metro is vastly different in at least one big way here:

DC has elevators in every station, so it's REALLY easy to get a bike on the train in DC compared to NYC. In NYC you generally must be very motivated (and pretty strong) to bring a bike onto the train.

Maybe it's worth a 3-month trial period to see just how many reports we receive of ungainly bikers smearing oil on people’s work pants?

by IloveDC on Oct 25, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

Government funded transportation should prioritize moving people, not inanimate objects

Which is why we should ban luggage and rolling bags during rush hours.

A ban of oversized luggage the size of bikes would be consistent but a difficult policy to follow and enforce. Although, Amtrak does limit the size of carry-on luggage. Furthermore, a ban like that doesn't make sense after you've spent a lot of money building metro to airports and train stations.

bear in mind the median income of a rail rider is over $100K.

Even if true, it's irrelevant unless the wealthiest rail riders are going to help buy folding bikes for the poorest.

First, yes it's true*. Second, huh? WMATA's role is not to ensure every person has affordable transportation regardless of their income level. There will always people who won't be able to afford metro whether the barrier to affordability is folding bikes, the high cost of housing near metro stations or the fares themselves.

The goal here is to encourage more people to bike and take transit. Requiring the bike to be folded and stowed doesn't do that.

It does if it creates more space on the train so more people can take transit.

* http://www.wtop.com/25/1677783/Median-income-of-Metrorail-riders-102K

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

I think allowing bikes on Metro would be fine after Metro creates dedicated bike/luggage storage sections in the train cars. It is really tricky trying to get to the airport with a large suitcase in the morning. Kinda defeats the point of having Metro stations at National and Dulles.

by Chris S. on Oct 25, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

a ban like that doesn't make sense after you've spent a lot of money building metro to airports and train stations.

Banning bikes, even on empty cars, doesn't make sense either.

Second, huh?

If your point is that half of all riders are wealthy, so it shouldn't be a big deal for people to buy a folding bike, the response is "so what, others aren't wealthy and for them to buy a specialty bike IS a big deal." You can't just dismiss that, which is what you've done. If you're going to create a barrier to some people, you better have a good reason for it, and as of yet, no one has offered one.

It does if it creates more space on the train so more people can take transit.

True. But this policy doesn't.

by David C on Oct 25, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

Banning bikes, even on empty cars, doesn't make sense either.

No, it doesn't make sense to ban bikes on empty cars. If you can design a policy that will have widespread compliance that ensures bikes are only on cars with plenty of space for them, I'd be all for it.

If your point is that half of all riders are wealthy, so it shouldn't be a big deal for people to buy a folding bike, the response is "so what, others aren't wealthy and for them to buy a specialty bike IS a big deal."

First, if the median rider income is $102K, then more than half of riders can afford the difference in price between a folding bike and a regular bike. I don't know the stats but using reasonable assumptions like income is normally distributed with say a standard deviation of $30K, then 84% of riders make more than $70K in income.

Second, based on your logic, wealthier riders shouldn't just stop at buying folding bikes for riders who can't afford them. They should be buying regular bikes for riders who can't afford those.

Third, an acceptable quality folding bike can be had for $178. That's far less than any standard bike you'd get at a LBS and equal in price to many department store bikes:

http://www.amazon.com/Schwinn-S2278A-Hinge-Folding-Bike/dp/B000Y2ZFQ8

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

It does if it creates more space on the train so more people can take transit.

True. But this policy doesn't.

The policy of only allowing folding bikes during rush hour creates more space for people on trains because folding bikes take up less space than regular bikes.

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

If you can design a policy that will have widespread compliance that ensures bikes are only on cars with plenty of space for them, I'd be all for it.

First of all, we have an existing policy against bikes on crowded cars. Is there any evidence that this is being ignored outside of rush hour? I don't believe there is.

But there are several ways to ensure compliance. Education. Enforcement. Rules that don't allow bikes on at certain stations or off at others. And then the idea stated above:

First car, first door only, with a nod to the train operator before boarding. If it's crowded, the op can say no.

based on your logic, wealthier riders shouldn't just stop at buying folding bikes for riders who can't afford them. They should be buying regular bikes for riders who can't afford those.

Only if you were making the argument that requiring all cyclists to buy expensive bikes isn't a hardship because the median income in DC is $100,000. The point is not that some or many or most people can afford this. The point is that some can not. Thus it is a hardship. It may not be for you, but for someone it is.

That's far less than any standard bike you'd get at a LBS

It's also of far less quality. And you can get a standard bike for half that cost at Walmart.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Your-Choice-26-Huffy-Cranbrook-Men-s-or-Women-s-Cruiser-Bike/27941902

by David C on Oct 25, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

"If you can design a policy that will have widespread compliance that ensures bikes are only on cars with plenty of space for them, I'd be all for it."

I've got one. Allow bikes on fridays. Im guessing Friday peak is not more crowded than Wednesday just off peak (when bikes are allowed, currently). Given the patterns of RDOs and teleworking and leave, Monday peak might work also.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 25, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

Reverse commutes into Maryland beyond RFK, Anacostia, Mt Vernon, New York Avenue, and Dupont Circle are feasible. I suspect (but can not state where the boundary would be) that the same is so for Virginia Enforcement should not be any more difficult if bikes continue to be banned in stations inside those stations.

What has always been lacking, so far, is a volunteer advocate willing to pursue it from proposal formulation through to implementation.

by Jim Titus on Oct 25, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

Metro would need to remove seats for this to work. BART also runs 10-car trains during rush hour.

by Omar on Oct 25, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

(Keep in mind you are already allowed to bring on folding bikes! … that's what I use for my commute, even though full-size bikes are allowed, because sometimes cars have too many bikes and I have to wait for the next train)

by Omar on Oct 25, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

@Omar
Don't forget that BART also has only two doors on each of its traincars.

by David Edmondson on Oct 25, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church, the new rail cars designated for 8-car expansion are not going to be begin arroving until 2016 at the earliest, and power infrastructure upgrades are far from complete at this point.

I don't see this happening anytime soon in DC. Adding to what others have pointed out, the layout of the current cars is just not conducive to adding more bikes. Other transit systems have begun removing seats near the end of their cars to accommodate bikes but Metro upper management seems strongly against this. Even if they relented on tr seats, the silly triple stanchion layout used on the 2, 3, 4, and 5000 series cars make it very difficult to get even a single bike in and out easily.

by dcmike on Oct 25, 2013 3:08 pm • linkreport

And then the idea stated above:

First car, first door only, with a nod to the train operator before boarding. If it's crowded, the op can say no.

That would be a reasonable policy, assuming the op was trained to say "no" both if the train was crowded or if they expected the train to become crowded as it goes through the core.

But there are several ways to ensure compliance. Education. Enforcement. Rules that don't allow bikes on at certain stations or off at others.

As I stated above, I'd support the idea of a limited trial (let's start with Fridays) to see if it works and if there is widespread compliance.

The point is not that some or many or most people can afford this. The point is that some can not. Thus it is a hardship. It may not be for you, but for someone it is.

There are plenty of government policies that create hardships for people who find it difficult to afford compliance. Annual safety inspections for cars would be just one example (another example is Obamacare). The question is whether there's a good reason for the policy and whether there is support for people facing financial hardships.

The reason for the policy is to ensure we don't reduce the space for people on trains that are already overcrowded, making a bad situation worse. If you can design a new policy (with widespread compliance) that allows some bikes and doesn't have this negative effect, I agree it would be pareto optimal (some people better off, no one worse off).

With two bikes on even a relatively empty train, it takes some maneuvering and juggling to clear the path to the door so people can enter/exit. It would definitely slow down entry/exit and be a significant inconvenience for riders if people took bikes onto crowded trains, so any change in policy has to ensure that doesn't happen.

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

The reason for the policy is to ensure we don't reduce the space for people on trains that are already overcrowded....

But then the median income of the average rider has nothing to do with that. The argument that the policy is good and that good policy sometimes exerts a hardship is very different from the argument that this isn't a hardship. And the latter is what I was arguing with.

by David C on Oct 25, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

But then the median income of the average rider has nothing to do with that.

I think you have to weigh the good of the policy against the impact of the hardship. Metro's median rider income implies that the impact would not be widespread, so there are probably better ways of helping people facing financial hardships than eliminating policies that work for the vast majority.

That said I agree there are potentially ways of modifying the policy so that some people are better off without anyone being significantly worse off.

by Falls Church on Oct 25, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

NO.
The DC metro area has a well developed bike share system so taking your bike on the train to get the last mile is not needed.
I do not want to know what the Orange line crush would look like with the addition of bikes.

by andy2 on Oct 25, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

Rush hour, no except maybe reverse commute lines but then it becomes a complicated rule to enforce, however it would be good for commuter trains. I see Amtrak is moving in the direction of providing space for them as well.

by BTA on Oct 25, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

How many more people can fit onto a train without seats? Many people have probably already accepted that they will probably be standing instead of sitting during rush hour. Metro should remove some seats on select cars and allow bikes to ride those cars.

by CX on Oct 25, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

Andy2 - there are no CaBi stations in Fairfax county, or in PG County.

BTW other benefits

people who bike one way, but want to transit home due to a change in weather - or they stayed later than expected and its darker than they are comfortable riding (in the winter sunset is BEFORE the time that bikes are currently allowed)

I mean all the reasons people ride on weekends.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 25, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

For people who ride + transit in a particular way every day, it can make more sense to have two bikes. It's not entirely comparable, but when I worked in Towson, I had a bike at Penn Station in Baltimore. But you can't take a regular bike on MARC. And I rode my home bike to Union Station.

I know for me occasional use of Metro during rush periods and wanting to have bike accommodation has to do with getting to a destination from Metro on one-off trips. E.g., a couple times/year I go to conferences at GMU. I suppose I could take the GMU bus from Vienna Metro. Instead I prefer to ride my bike. It's a reverse commute trip early in the morning, but the meeting starts around 8:30. I have gotten out after 7am. One time a WMATA worker just gave me the Metro & Bikes brochure. The other time the person didn't say anything (well, she asked for the newspapers I was getting rid of so she could read them).

by Richard Layman on Oct 25, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

Oh yeah, plus WMATA has about 2x (not quite) the ridership of BART, so the system is much more congested.

Thanks to JDC Esq. for the link to BART car upgrades. It would be nice to have such an improvement on WMATA cars.

WRT NYC subway cars, they seem more roomy, even with more passengers, because of the bench seating and fewer number of seats, plus some cars have 4 doors.

by Richard Layman on Oct 25, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

When Metro was designed there was a deliberate effort to make it a suburban, white-collar, commuter rail system. They didn't want to be anything like the urban, blue-collar systems in Chicago, Boston, and especially New York. At that time, riding a bicycle had a distinctly blue-collar perception. As others have noted, why are bicycles banned when there is no general ban on large or dirty luggage items (as this page illustrates: http://www.thewashcycle.com/2012/03/peak-hour-trains.html) . The ban has always been more about keeping the wrong kind of people off than any practical consideration.

A lot has changed in the past 40 years. Cycling, particularly commuting by bike, has become a pretty solidly white-collar thing to do. Urbanism is fashionable again, suburbs are out of vogue.

I predict that this will end up like gay marriage or marijuana legalization, once the ban is lifted people will quickly forget it ever existed and wonder what the big deal was.

by contrarian on Oct 25, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

I said without going out of your way to get between the stations taking the trail makes you go out of the way.

Anything that is not alongside I66 takes you of out the way.

The only ways to get between them are 66, Gallows to either Idlywood or Lee Hwy then up Leesburg Pike and then Haycock, Leesburg Pike/Broad Washington or the trail to EFC none are direct routes as could be done in many other parts of the system such as in DC, Arlington, PG County (Blue Line), or Mont County.

by kk on Oct 25, 2013 11:22 pm • linkreport

Most of the time there is not enough room during rush hour. There is no way that will work without people being injured and marked up from dirt. More falls from the platform are also certain when mixing crowds, speed, and bicycles. (Now I’m in trouble – no one is allowed to speak a negative word about bikes on GGW.)

by AndrewJ on Oct 26, 2013 6:20 am • linkreport

No. The trains are way to crowded at rush hour. However, as an accommodation to the hot shot bikers, I would let them use the tracks during rush hour. :)

by Jasper2 on Oct 26, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

Such a laughably bad idea, I have a hard time believing the NASA engineer is blindly defending it so.

A non-folding bike takes up the real estate in a crowded rush hour car of what, 6, 7 people, and is difficult to maneuver around in the best of circumstances. Can you imagine someone with his bike positioned near the door of a car when it reaches say, Metro Center and a mass of humanity is trying to get on or off?

Awful.idea.period.

by Cami on Oct 26, 2013 6:37 pm • linkreport

I don't know, why don't we just try it and see if it works? If I saw a train go by packed to the gills I'd maybe just wait for the next one. I do that sometimes even without a bike.

by Drumz on Oct 26, 2013 7:25 pm • linkreport

Because there are lots of things we assumed would lead to destruction when nothing actually happened after all.

by Drumz on Oct 26, 2013 7:26 pm • linkreport

I'm not blindly defending this. I'm defending this with the backing of every single bit of evidence that is out there. Namely that there are many transit systems that allow for bikes during rush hour, and they do so without people being killed, injured or begrimed. While many transit systems have gone from ban to no ban (as BART just did), none that I know of have gone from no ban to ban. Even DC used to have a blanket ban on bikes on Metro that they eventually lifted and that has resulted in zero problems.

So there is some evidence about how this would work and it is all in the direction of removing the ban. If people have ANY evidence at all that this - when tried elsewhere - has caused problems offer it up, otherwise it is the naysayers who are blindly supporting a bad policy. So far Cami all that you and those who share your opinion have to offer up is fear. And when we point out that it works elsewhere, we're told that WMATA is different. And also fear. The analogy with gay marriage is dead on. There is a lot of ignorance based fear about how destructive this policy change will be, but the reality never measures up to the doomsday scenario.

by David C on Oct 26, 2013 8:46 pm • linkreport

@andy2

"NO.
The DC metro area has a well developed bike share system so taking your bike on the train to get the last mile is not needed.
I do not want to know what the Orange line crush would look like with the addition of bikes."

That is a huge lie, all of the DC metro area does not have a well developed bike share system.

In DC SE & NE east of the Anacostia there arent many, north of Military RD there are none, east of North Capitol ST there are only a few all in the same general area.

None in PG County, None in Fairfax County

Most of Arlington County and the City of Alexandria are not covered

So where is this well developed system ? If it was well developed there should be one within 2 miles at the most wherever I go in the Metro Area

by kk on Oct 27, 2013 2:59 am • linkreport

During rush hour, you could easily allow bikes on the reverse commute and/or outside the downtown area. E.g. Get someone from Shady Grove to the Zoo, and they can ride the last few miles.

They could also make this easier by reducing the number and arrangement of seats near the end. Bikes dont have to take up a lot of room, but they don't fit easily into the current space. For example, remove the two rows on one side at the end, giving space for bags, bikes, etc.

People say that can't be enforced. We also have rules on eating, drinking, loud music, fighting etc that are policed in transit, and not at the entrance. Bikes should be easier to enforce.

by SJE on Oct 27, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

To those who say that bikes take up a lot of room: They can take up a very small space if they can lie flat against a surface. The problem is that the trains are not configured that way because of the way that we have seats.

by SJE on Oct 27, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

Andy: "The DC metro area has a well developed bike share system so taking your bike on the train to get the last mile is not needed."

Perhaps that applies to some parts of DC, not all. It certainly does not apply to most of the Metro area. I live a mile from downtown Silver Spring, a relatively dense and urbanizing area. There is a CaBi station near the SS metro, but nowhere near my house. How to get to the Metro? What if its 3+ miles?

Another factor to consider is the role of Metro in getting people off the roads. A lot of people in burbs drive to Metro, park, then ride. You are reducing some driving, but not as much as if you allowed them to ride.

by SJE on Oct 27, 2013 6:19 pm • linkreport

"The DC metro area has a well developed bike share system so taking your bike on the train to get the last mile is not needed."

The critical thing about this is that it is either true - making the rule change irrelevant - or it is not, making the comment irrelevant.

If bikeshare truly is a superior choice to taking one's own bike for all possible users in all possible situations, then changing the rule will result in no change in behavior. It would be like a rule allowing people to eat, but only if it's Arby's. Since no one ever eats food from Arby's, the rule would never come into play.

But if there are situations when taking one's own bike would be more desirable, then the premise is false and can be ignored.

Either way, it's completely meaningless and requires no response.

by David C on Oct 27, 2013 8:44 pm • linkreport

In addition to the issues with bikes on packed trains themselves, the people pushing this nutty idea continue to disregard the potentially fatal consequences of shoving large wheeled objects through the mass of humanity on the narrow crowded platforms of the downtown stations with the track-center layout.

Someone will probably start yapping about luggage or something, but the reality is that the pool of people trying to wheel luggage through the metro at rush hour simply isn't as large as the potential pool of people wanting to bring "just one little bike". Luggage is also smaller.

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 7:48 am • linkreport

Mike if it's potentially fatal, you should be able to find some evidence somewhere in the world where someone was killed because of a bike on the platform if not the potential is very very small.

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 8:38 am • linkreport

I'm not interested in most of the world, only the already dangerous platforms downtown.

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 8:40 am • linkreport

Oh, and the last time I saw numbers it was 3-5 people on the tracks per month. Some suicide attempts, but most by accident.

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 8:44 am • linkreport

But Mike, I can only disregard the danger of bikes on crowded platforms if there is some evidence that there is danger in that for me to disregard. All you have presented is fear. I don't want make decisions based on your fear.

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 8:46 am • linkreport

How many of those people on the tracks were there because of bikes?

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 8:47 am • linkreport

It sounds like we should ban pedestrians on the platform. It's just too dangerous!

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 8:47 am • linkreport

Folding bikes are still allowed at all times aren't they? If someone wants to commute with a bike during peak hours that would be the way to go.

by BTA on Oct 28, 2013 8:55 am • linkreport

And you want your preferred mode of transportation to increase the risk to others. Sorry, I don't care about your preference. it's become very fashionable these days to label legitimate concerns as "fears" as a way to trivialize them. I consider it a fairly juvenile attempt to avoid the issue. Where, exactly, is a bike going to fit at peak rush at say, Smithsonian? I've ridden BART, and the platforms just aren't that bad. Every time this discussion comes up we hear silly responses like "well, cyclists will be the one group in DC that will simply be polite and respectful, so we don't have to worry about it" [right]. Or "well, the bikes can go in special train cars" [like those exist]. Or "well, we can allow bikes only on certain trains in certain directions depending on the time of day and whether it's a holiday or a work day or a weekend or if the moon is full or..." [yeah, that's understandable and enforceable]. Or "well, it'll be easy when we rip out all the posts and seats near the door so there's a big open space the way there is in city X" [let's focus on the transit system we actually have, or change that before we have this discussion].

It's also important to make sure that a policy change of this magnitude is actually sustainable before implementing it. As I see it, either the number of bikes is really low, at which point I don't see that it's worth the cost and trouble of making a change that benefits a statistically insignificant number of people in a system that's already at capacity and bleeding money, or the number is really high and the bikes either do cause safety issues or push people out of the system, in which case making the change is counterproductive.

If people want to focus on making improvements over time that could make this more viable at some point in the future, that would be great. Changing the seating design for better space efficiency would be great (but, frankly, I don't see wmata going that way regardless of how hard people try). The tough nut to crack is addressing the limited elevator and platform capacity at the downtown stations. Making the elevators bigger and more numerous, clearing the platforms of obstructions, and fixing the design problems that tend to feed new arrivals onto overcrowded platforms via escalator are things that need to be addressed before attempting to make bicycles a significant part of metro usage.

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

That would be the way to go.

If true, then no wine would change their behavior if the rule changed. Everyone who wants to take their bike on is already taking a folding bike and changing the rule have no impact.

But as one who used to take a folding bike on metro, I know that a folding bike is more expensive more time-consuming and less convenient than a regular bike. Which means if you value those things, then a folding bike is not the way to go

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

"[yeah, that's understandable and enforceable]. "

What would be not understandable or not enforceable about a Friday only rule? How would that be the harder than the current rules (which allow bikes after rush hour) and on weekends?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 28, 2013 9:17 am • linkreport

Am I the only one who perceives that Metro has already relaxed the rule a bit in the morning, by allowing you to complete your trip after 7:00 am as long as you enter well before 7:0 am and don't exist at one of the extremely crowded stations? Until reading articles on ggw I actually thought that you simply had to board the train by 7:00 am.

by JimT on Oct 28, 2013 9:33 am • linkreport

The trains are too crowded for bikes. Wheelchairs, strollers and fat people should also be banned.

by bajin on Oct 28, 2013 9:34 am • linkreport

Nothing helps a discussion like hyperbole. Because, sure, restrictions on whether certain types of bikes (which amount to pure preference) are the same as restricting the disabled.

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

"Nothing helps a discussion like hyperbole. "

Yes. Now explain to me which stations are more crowded rush hour on Fridays, than at 6:59 AM on Wednesdays?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 28, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

All WMATA buses have bike racks on them. If you have to combine modes and have access to your own personal bike rather than bikeshare, then perhaps this is a better option for you.

by Jeff on Oct 28, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

I have no idea, and I'm not the one pushing for a policy change. I'd suggest that you go out, take some overhead shots of every station in the system as well as side shots of the trains through the course of a day on a couple of Fridays and show that there's adequate space and that congestion is, systemically, not a source of concern. Once someone has put in a level of effort greater than complaining on the internet, then we can have a fact-based conversation about the impact of the suggested policy change. "This one time, this one station I used on a Friday wasn't very crowded" doesn't really get the conversation very much further, and repeating it doesn't change that.

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

Mike

Dave edmundson, raised the idea, based on the change at BART. YOU are the one making a claim - that there can be no change because WMATA changes are crowded. I am merely responding to you.

I ride metro regularly on Fridays, including a couple of the usually more crowded stations, and they are rarely crowded on Fridays.

I believe someone has posted data day of the week use to GGW.

I think the idea should be explored. And I think arguments about constant congestion, as a reason to simply assert that this is a bad idea, period, require more justification than you have provided, esp wrt to the issue of Fridays. Personally I think there would be minimal risk to a pilot project on Fridays, but I am open to someone wanting more data first.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 28, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

And, to refresh people, here's what a BART car looks like:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bart_C1_car_Interior.jpg note the amount of space on the wall (equal to the amount of space in one of the newer metro cars *plus* an additional row of seats). WMATA cars simply aren't laid out like that, and it's a pretty significant difference in how easy it is to get a bike onto a car. The WMATA stock could fairly easily be modified to work like that, and doing so would be a great step that would improve the experience under the existing rules.

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

another option, BTW, would be too charge extra for taking a bike on board (no, Im not sure how that would be implemented). That would both tend to limit the number of cyclists doing this, and would help to address revenue problems and so help add capacity.

If the bike racks on buses gain in popularity, at some point some means to allocate that space will be needed. I have never yet encountered a situation of someone not being able to use the rack, but on several occasions I have noted both racks slots being taken.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 28, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

Limiting the scope to reverse commutes, I can tell you that RFK simply is not all that crowded in the morning rush hour, nor are any of the platforms east of RFK. So there is excess capacity on the morning outbound commute from RFK to all points in DC and PG east of the Anacostia River. I see no reason why DC cyclists intending to go to those destinations could not all collect at RFK, making this easy to understand and to enforce.

The same logic applies to the other spokes of the system--you just have to pick the collector point that makes the most sense.

by JimT on Oct 28, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

Where, exactly, is a bike going to fit at peak rush at say, Smithsonian?

I don't know. Sometimes more people don't fit either. At those times I elect to wait for the next train. If I had a bike I would presumably do the same. Train operators constantly remind people how far the next train is behind so that those who'd rather wait can do so.

by drumz on Oct 28, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

Mike: thanks for that photo of the BART trains. There has been talk for years about Metro redoing the seating because the current arrangement is not optimal for packing in people. Making the train like BART would be good for both bikes and people.

You also raise some good points, but you don't address restricting bikes to the reverse commute or outside the downtown.

by SJE on Oct 28, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

And you want your preferred mode of transportation to increase the risk to others.

There is zero evidence that bringing bikes on Metro will do this. Zero.

it's become very fashionable these days to label legitimate concerns as "fears" as a way to trivialize them.

A legitimate concern is based in reality. One can point to facts that support the legitimacy of that concern. Fears are based on emotion and one can only point to their feelings to support them. What we have here, then, is fear. I'm not trivializing a legitimate concern, because there isn't one to trivialize.

Where, exactly, is a bike going to fit at peak rush at say, Smithsonian?

They probably aren't (although there could be room somewhere). They won't be allowed on crowded trains, so that won't be an issue.

"well, cyclists will be the one group in DC that will simply be polite and respectful, so we don't have to worry about it"

I have a higher opinion of my fellow man than you I guess. But yes, social enforcement can do wonders. Especially along with actual enforcement.

As I see it, either the number of bikes is really low, at which point I don't see that it's worth the cost and trouble of making a change

What cost? What trouble? This wouldn't cost a penny. In fact, it would make money by filling deadhead space.

In the end none of your concerns are validated by the experience of any other transit system in the world. You're in the difficult position of having to explain why DC's transit system is so uniquely incapable of doing this that we need a ban. And that is hard to justify.

Especially when you look at very busy days such as during the Cherry Blossom festival and realize that there are non-rush hour times that have more users than the standard rush hour does. During those times, bikes are not banned, and no one is pushed in front of a train by stunt-bike riding cyclists on the platform. Like I said, this is all just fear, not fact.

All WMATA buses have bike racks on them.

We get it. There are a plethora of options. One could just take taxis everywhere too or just ride their bike the whole way. The point is that when considering all of these options, for some people being able to take their bike on Metro would be the BEST option if it were allowed. All these other options are sub-optimal for some small group of people. And the ban comes with no benefit. So please, stop talking about other options. If you are, then you're missing the whole point. If we banned hats on Metro, you could just say "well, leave you're hat at home. Problem solved. It's optional after all." But that misses the point that banning hats on Metro would be stupid. And so is banning bikes on a transit system that has shown that it can handle them, when many other transit systems (including the largest in North America) has shown that they can handle them even at rush hour.

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

Fine, I a stupid fraidy cat. Status quo still wins, and you're not making friends or advancing your cause if that's the best you can come up with to support your position.

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

Dear Falls Church,

I hate to break the news to you but the first several batches of new 7000 series cars will only replace existing 1000 series cars and not contribute to WMATA fleet expansion. Other new cars will allow the Silver line to not "borrow" cars from other lines and reduce the spare ratio in the WMATA fleet.

by Steve on Oct 28, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

So when there is a distinct lack of evidence of harm from removing a ban (and indeed have many examples of how other systems have adapted) that means we are still better off than the ban than simply finding out what might happen by removing the ban.

We should ban bikes because we ban bikes already.

by drumz on Oct 28, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

And I'm not trying to be cute. It's just that many people have expressed a legitimate concern about crowding and space for bikes on metro. HOWEVER, just because your concern is legitimate doesn't mean one can still proceed without evidence. The process has been:

1. somone proposes allowing bikes on metro during rush hour.
2. People say "what about the crowds".
3. someone explains that other systems handle it and that there isn't a lot of data on what would happen in DC. Nor is there really a way to significantly study the problem without actually doing some experiments.
4. People say it'll never work relying on the previous argument that things are crowded and we're better off never knowing what would actually happen.

Look, why don't we try it and if its a disaster we'll stop and if not then we'll celebrate the fact that we made it easier to travel without a car in Greater Washington?

by drumz on Oct 28, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

the logical next step is for someone to take the day of the week data available (I believe on Planitmetro) and DEMONSTRATE that some weekdays are lighter than others. I dont usually do data analysis of that type here, but I just might.

That would provide sufficient evidence to justify a real life test.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 28, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Status quo still wins

Unfortunately that is too often true. Momentum is a powerful thing and people are afraid of change. Still, that is a pretty sad defense and only about half a peg up from "well, life isn't fair."

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

I take my bike on the metro at 6:30am on weekdays, thus beating the 7:00am cutoff. I enter the train at the rearmost car or at the rear doors of other cars and try to stay out of people's way. Being that early in the morning means the trains aren't too crowded however if the trains were busier, the problem could be limiting the cars that could be boarded with a bicycle and ensuring that the cars chosen for bicycles had the appropriate layout, e.g. a space in the rear of the car that does not interfere with other passengers. Some cars have a good space but others do not. I think that the idea could be implemented with a little bit of planning on the part of WMATA.

by CyclistinAlexandria on Oct 28, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

@drumz: you're being disingenuous. We both know that it's a heck of a lot easier to start something "just to see how it goes" than it is to stop it. Even if there were a rash of people getting pushed off platforms by bikes, we'd be hearing that it was "just a fluke", "most of the time that doesn't happen", "it's still pretty unlikely", etc.

I also note that nobody replied with anything substantive to what I regard as the biggest problem: the already bad situation of platform crowding on the side-platform stations. The DC metro has a fairly unusual configuration of extremely constricted platforms coupled with escalators that tend to push more and more people onto the platform even when it's at capacity. This has long been recognized as a problem with the design of the system, and it's not something you see as often in other systems. E.g., NYC tends to have wider platforms or tunnels/access corridors to absorb some of the load, or stairs that limit how many people make it to the platform (when it's full, people can just stop on the stairs). Even the NYC columns that were such a bugbear in the design of the DC metro tend to help separate walkers from standers by forming natural travel lanes. I just don't see how bikes can do anything but exacerbate an already-existing problem. It's possibly something that can be addressed in some way, but the "let's just do it and see what happens" crowd hasn't presented any ideas. (Except, of course, "that's just fear".)

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

@CyclistinAlexandria "I think that the idea could be implemented with a little bit of planning on the part of WMATA"

Yeah. But we're talking about implementing it for the DC metro in this world, right?

by Mike on Oct 28, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

It shouldn't be hard to re-ban bikes. We have staff at every station already during these hours. I don't see what's disingenuous about banning something that has been proven to cause trouble rather than banning something that might cause trouble.

Metro platforms are crowded. Bikes may exacerbate, but they might not as well. Again, if I know the platform/train is supercrowded I take steps to be cautious and courteous. Most everyone else does as well and whether they have a bike with them or not won't change their response.

You say,
I just don't see how bikes can do anything but exacerbate an already-existing problem.

Ok, fine. But that shouldn't be the basis of the system wide policy. It's important to know what people feel but it's also important to know what the actual effects are as well.

but the "let's just do it and see what happens" crowd hasn't presented any ideas.
No, there have been lots of ideas. Allow bikes on fridays. Allow bikes on reverse commuter trips, allow bikes in only certain cars or areas of the train. I guess you could model it somehow but is it really worth that effort when one could just allow the bikes on board and see what happens?

by drumz on Oct 28, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

Mike, that's not a problem with bikes though. It's a problem with overcrowding. If we ban bikes because of this issue, then we should also ban the Silver Line, because it will be far worse. That said I think the contribution of bikes to this issue will be at best trivial.

But, for solutions: we don't allow bikes onto crowded platforms ( unless a rain is being offloaded) as a general rule, and we ban bikes during rush hour at stations with frequent crush loading. If crush loading is the problem, than get policies that more nimbly address it.

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

bikes are allowed on weekends and holidays. I wanted to take my bike on the metro on inauguration day, and they said "no you can't"

The world did not end. A policy started (esp as a test) can certainly be reversed.

And I do not think the platforms are more crowded on friday at rush hour than on a typical midweek day just prior to/just after rush hour.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 28, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

Mike: I agree that the platforms are overcrowded in some areas, but then we should ban bikes only on those areas where there is overcrowding. The reverse commute side and/or outside the downtown there is no crowding. At Silver Spring, you could almost RIDE your bike on the reverse commute side.

by SJE on Oct 28, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

@Mike I also note that nobody replied with anything substantive to what I regard as the biggest problem: the already bad situation of platform crowding on the side-platform stations.

I think that both SJE and I have replied by suggesting schemes for reverse commutes that do not involve allowing bikes onto crowded platforms. Would you agree with us that bikes can be allowed on reverse commutes outside of the core?

by JimT on Oct 28, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

1. I agree with the point that this could be done, with a ban at some stations, e.g., not at Union Station, Metro Center, Gallery Place, because of overcrowding.

You could get off at a station like NY Ave. or Judiciary Square and not be much inconvenienced, and it would reduce the potential problem of hyper crowded platforms.

2. Although yes, it would be better to have hooks, etc. to better fit the bike into a crowded space, which we have to acknowledge, the cars are crowded.

3. JimT -- technically, you are supposed to be out of the system by 7am, not on it by 7am... But yes, you can get away with it, at least I have going out to Vienna via Takoma, although Takoma doesn't have its elevator under the scrutiny of the station personnel.

by Richard Layman on Oct 28, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

Some trains are too packed and demand is just too high to accommodate someone with a bicycle. Unless there's ample space, it's rude to even try.

For this to work, the person with the bicycle will have to show great restraint, give priority to others, and pick a car wisely.

If you need to travel with your bike on a regular basis on Metro buy a folding bike. I use a folding bike, and they are wonderful to ride in the city.

by kob on Oct 28, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

True, we have to rely on people's good nature. That doesn't always work for the best. But is that enough for a wholesale ban?

I'll say it again. I (and many others) don't get on cars that are too crowded even without bikes. Our behavior would stay the same if some of us had a bike. Others might still try to pack in. There's not much we can do besides dirty looks and the train operators telling people to wait for the next train that at rush hour is only a couple minutes behind.

by drumz on Oct 28, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

It's not a question of manners entirely, it's one of space. They should let them in off peak outside of the core, but I can't imagine a bike fitting comfortably in a train heading downtown at peak. Metro cars are just not designed to maneuver easily around things that large. I usually have a hard time figuring out where to put a suitcase when the train is filling up.

by BTA on Oct 28, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

But lots of things take up space. What about bikes is so intrinsically different from large luggage or stroller overkill?

by drumz on Oct 28, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

Rather, if space is the chiefest concern then it's curious why it's just bikes that are banned?

by drumz on Oct 28, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

For this to work, the person with the bicycle will have to show great restraint, give priority to others, and pick a car wisely.

As I said before, I used to commute with my folding bike. It was on the Orange line from New Carrollton to Virginia Sq. Now a folding bike doesn't exactly fit in your pocket. It takes up a bit of space on the floor - probably enough space for one or two people (so those who are worried about space and saying the folding bike is the solution are missing that part). Usually the train had cleared out by the time I got to Virginia Square and I could easily get off. But sometimes it was still quite crowded. More than once I was unable to disembark before the train left the station. If I had a real bike, that would be about 10 times worse. Which is why I wouldn't try to do that and neither would anyone else.

Have you ever tried to get on a crowded train with a rolling bag or, god forbid, a stroller. It's almost impossible. A bike would be just as bad as the stroller. And if Metro did a good job of letting people know that it was against the rules to get on a crowded train it would be worse. No one would take pity on you and move to make room for you the way they do if you have a stroller. In fact, people would probably yell at you.

Go to Metro Center as an NBA game is finishing and try to get on a train with a full-sized bike. It's allowed then and you can still count on never being able to actually do it. Be as pushy as you can and no one will let you on. So, that's why we don't have to worry about cyclists commuting this way. It can't be done and it would only make you miserable.

by David C on Oct 28, 2013 8:57 pm • linkreport

So, that's why we don't have to worry about cyclists commuting this way.

Amen, brother.

by drumz on Oct 28, 2013 9:15 pm • linkreport

Saw a guy trying to offload his full sized bike a Farragut North this morning. He didnt even try the elevator to the mezzanine, just plowed up the escalator creating problems for everyone.

Farragut North is problem enough as it is, they need to add a few more staircases.

by Richard on Oct 31, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

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