BART’s August Bike Pilot: Lifting Restrictions, Improving Access

This is Part II of a series on the draft BART bicycle plan.

As I wrote in Part I, there are significant problems with the April draft of BART’s new bike plan, which was presented to the BART Board of Directors June 14–the same day BART transbay service was shut down by the fire in west Oakland.

The agenda, complete meeting packet, and video of their meeting are all here.

BART is literally in the middle of dramatically improving system-wide bike access in two ways: first, by significantly revising its draft bike plan and second, by conducting a first-ever Pilot Program to Test Removal of Bikes-on-Board Restrictions.The August 2012 pilot project is a major new initiative by  BART’s impressive General Manager, Grace Crunican.

BART will end its bike blackouts entirely during a limited trial period on the five Fridays in August. It will look like this:

1.  There will be no bike blackouts at all on the five Fridays in August.

2. Cyclists can board any BART train in any directionas long as there is sufficient room.

3. Cyclists will be allowed on all station platformsincluding San Francisco’s Embarcadero station and the 12th Street and 19th Street stations in Oaklandduring the trial.

4. All other bike-related rules will apply during the pilot: there will be no escalator access or other special treatment for cyclists.

According to the June 8 memo from the General Manager to BART’s Directors:

“The goal of the pilot program is to test the impact on passengers and train operations of having bikes in the stations and on the trains during peak periods. Allowing bikes on board at all times can make BART more convenient for people and potentially increase ridership.

The pilot will be evaluated from an operational perspective, from the perspective of bike riders, and from the perspective of non-bike riding passengers…If the pilot demonstrates…potential to ease the restrictions…we will begin the process with… our bicycle and access committees and bring suggested changes to the Board for discussion.” 

(As a matter of BART policy, passengers with luggage, baby strollers, or wheelchairs are never excluded as a user group from rush hour BART trains: only bicyclists are banned during peak commute periods.)

Some BART passengers are wary of having bikes on all BART trains. Some wheelchair users  fear that hordes of cyclists could take up all the wheelchair spaces on crowded BART trains, but usurping wheelchair spaces is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act and against BART rules.

(BART’s new Bombardier cars will  feature three doors and separate bike and wheelchair spaces.)

Supporters of ending the bike blackouts and the pilot program respond that this Bikes-on-BART rule is always in effect:

“Regardless of any other rule, bikes are never allowed on crowded cars. Use your good judgment and only board cars that can comfortably accommodate you and your bicycle. Hold your bike while on the trains.” 

It may seem obvious that everyone is helped by “good judgment” and common courtesy when sharing crowded BART stairways, elevators, platforms, and trains.

Discussions of improved bike access at the BART Bicycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF) have emphasized the need for all BART patrons to be considerate and respectful of each other—especially when we are packed in like sardines–with or without bikes, luggage, or other objects in tow.

Dramatic revisions are already underway to BART’s problematic first draft of the bike plan.

The revisions are reflected in the bike plan update offered to the BART Board last Thursday by Manager of Access Programs Steve Beroldo. (BBATF member  Mariana Parreiras, who served on the External Technical Advisory Team (ETAC) for the bike plan, was also scheduled to update BART’s Directors, but she was unable to reach the Oakland meeting from San Francisco.)

According to Beroldo, BART’s point person for bike programs, “We’ve reviewed over 200 public comments and about half of them want to see an end to the bike blackouts.”

BART has dramatically increased its consideration of bike access issues late in the bike plan process under the direction of BART’s General Manager—apparently just a few weeks ago. 

The revised bike plan will recommend thorough and fair consideration of both ending the bike blackouts and allowing bikes to use escalators. Steve Beroldo promises that the security of BART’s bike parking racks, as well as the BART Police Department‘s current efforts to combat bike theft, will receive more emphasis in the revised plan.

A companion implementation plan—as yet unfunded and without a timeframe, however—will cover the specifics of bike facilities and include more opportunities for local public participation.

BART’s dramatic bike policy changes are historic–and they are still underway. Many staffers inside the agency support these moves. They are great news for Bay Area bicyclists and for those who want BART and other transportation agencies to be more responsive to rider needs. Stay tuned…

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have represented Alameda County on the BART Bicycle Advisory Task Force (BBATF) for about a year. As always, my comments here are solely my own and they do not represent the official or unofficial views of BART, the BBATF, or any of its members.

Look for more about Bikes on BART and the BART Bicycle Plan, coming soon.

If you have news, questions, tips, or comments about any aspect of local transportation, contact us or leave a comment.

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