BART commuter with bicycle
A commuter prepares to board a BART train with her bicycle in August, 2012 (SF Bicycle Coalition/Flickr)

by Bryan Goebel

BART appears poised to end the transit system’s ban on bicycles during peak commute hours.

The agency’s staff is recommending that its board of directors adopt a new policy allowing bicycles on board from 7 to 9 a.m., and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. That follows what BART says was a mostly successful one-week pilot in March in which a majority of riders surveyed favored lifting the restrictions.  According to BART, 76 percent of riders had a favorable reaction, and bicyclists did “not impede or delay service.” A similar pilot was conducted in August 2012.

During the test runs, BART did not see a big surge in bicyclists, mostly because rush hour space on trains is scarce. Under the new policy, bicyclists will still not be allowed to board the first three cars or any crowded trains.

“A week’s too short of time for people to, you know, take a new job or give up their parking space or make big changes in their commute patterns, but based on that week we feel like whatever the change is, is something that BART can handle,” said BART Board President Tom Radulovich.

Radulovich said the survey also found that at least a quarter of riders said they would consider bicycling to BART if the restrictions are lifted.

BART commuters with bikes
Commuters with bicycles pack into a BART train on August 3, 2012. (SF Bicycle Coalition/Flickr)

“We have a problem of parking lots filling up, with cutbacks in feeder transit service,” Radulovich explained, “so, I think we’re looking at bikes as an access mode, and if this got a whole bunch of people who weren’t riding BART at all, or who were driving, that’s a win for us, and for the region.”

The agency is currently planning a number of long-term projects to accommodate bicyclists, such as providing more secure bike parking at stations. BART is also in the process of retrofitting its fleet of trains to provide more bike space near the doors. That involves removing seats, which will also benefit people with wheelchairs, strollers and luggage.

BART directors are scheduled to vote on the plan Thursday night and will have three options:  keeping the ban in place, conducting a more extensive five-month trial or ending the restrictions, which would go into effect in July.

At least one member of the nine-person board, Zakhary Mallett, has expressed some reservations about ending the ban right away.

“I will only be comfortable assessing this if there’s a longer-term pilot in effect,” he said.

The new policy would cost the agency about $195,000, mostly for printing signs and materials informing riders of the change.

BART Directors to Vote on Ending Commute-Time Bike Restrictions 23 May,2013KQED News Staff

  • As a member of the BART Bicycle Advisory Task force since 2011, I have been closelyinvolved with both bike pilots since last summer and have seen BART staff evolve from opposition to or skepticism about bikes on BART during commute hours to supporting a permanent end to the blackouts.

    Tonight’s resolution would never come before the Board without the full support of BART’s skilled, careful, and conservative operations staff, who would never propose or support anything that would compromise BART’s excellent service. (Nor would the bike advocacy community want to oppose them on an issue like this.)

    If the Board of Directors approves a permanent lifting of the blackouts it will be the first time since BART opened in 1972 that bicyclists will have the same access to BART trains as any other BART passenger.

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