Street Smarts: BART’s August Bike Pilot: Lifting Bike Restrictions

Street Smarts: BART’s August Bike Pilot: Lifting Bike Restrictions

Jon Spangler

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 yesterday, the same day that BART transbay service was cut because of the West Oakland fire. The BART 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 in mid-stream and second, by conducting a first-ever "Pilot Program to Test Removal of Bikes-on-Board Restrictions.". The upcoming pilot represents a major new initiative by BART’s impressive General Manager, Grace Crunican.

Under this limited pilot project BART will end its bike blackouts entirely during a trial period this August, including:

1. No bike blackout periods at all on all five Fridays in August.
2. Cyclists can board any train in any direction—as long as there is sufficient room.
3. Cyclists will be allowed on all station platforms—including the 12th Street and 19th Street stations in Oakland—during 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: bicyclists have always been banned during peak commute periods, though.)

Some BART passengers and some BART union members are wary of having bikes on all BART trains. 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 very much against BART rules. (BART’s new Bombardier cars will feature three doors and separate bike and wheelchair spaces to lessen space and access conflicts.)

Supporters of ending the bike blackouts and the pilot program cite this Bikes-on-BART rule, which 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) always emphasize the need for all BART patrons to be considerate and respectful of each other—especially when we are packed in like sardines because BART does not have enough of its aging cars to meet passenger demand.

Dramatic revisions are already underway to BART’s problematic first draft of the bike plan. BART Manager of Access Programs Steve Beroldo reported on the major changes—almost an about-face, as I see it—in the bike plan update he offered to the BART Board yesterday. (BBATF member Mariana Parreiras, who served on the External Technical Advisory Team (ETAC) for the bike plan, was supposed to address the bike plan for BART’s bike advisory committee. Because Parreiras lives and works in San Francisco she was unable to get to the BART meeting in Oakland.)

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.” He 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 also receive more emphasis in the revised plan, which is due later this summer. (A companion implementation plan—as yet unfunded and without a time frame, however—will cover the specifics of bike facilities and include more opportunities for local public participation.)

Under the direction of BART’s General Manager—and apparently just a few weeks ago—BART has dramatically increased its support for and consideration of bike access issues very late in the bike plan process. In a major turnabout for such a large and traditionally conservative agency, the revised bike plan will recommend thorough and fair consideration of both ending the bike blackouts and allowing bikes to use escalators.

BART’s dramatic bike policy changes are both historic and still underway. And many staffers inside the agency support these recent moves by GM Crunican. 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…

If you have news, questions, tips, or comments about any aspect of local transportation, we’re all ears. Contact us.


Submitted by Jon Spangler on Sat, Jun 16, 2012

The BART meeting video is now posted online. The Bike Plan presentation by Steve Beroldo starts at 3:32::00 (3 hours 32 minutes into the meeting).