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.
“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.