Ride the Rails
All Aboard: cyclists board a regional train with cruiser bikes (Photo: Beach Cruiser on flickr)
Federal governments and transit authorities must make every effort to integrate bicycles and cycling into national rail, bus and airport systems as part of an coherent approach to intermodality.
This includes mandating that rail operators permit bicycles to be brought on board all lines, the allocation of dedicated bicycle comparents on trains as well as the provision of parking for cyclists riding to local, regional and national rail stations as well as regional and local public transit stops.
Some train operating companies require that a reseveration be made in advance when bringing a bicycle on board and may limit times in which travelers may do so. There is often a fee charged for this as is the case with bringing a bike on an airplane.
Ideally, if the rail operator mandates that a separate ticket must be purchased for bicycle(s) before boarding, then this should be made available for sale online for printing or from a ticket vending machine in addition to the ticket counter at the station.
Light Rail (LRT)
Non-dedicated bicycle compartments are often implemented on subways and regional trains through the use of folding seats that by default are folded up. This makes bringing a bicycle or wheelchair (which have priority access in these areas) on board much easier as such seats remain in a space saving position when not in use.
Bike Racks: vertical bike racks are increasingly using for light rail applications (Photo: Payton Chung on flickr)
In Australia, recently the city of Melbourne decided to ban bicycles on public transport trains during rush hours / peak times. This author, understanding of the reasons why this decision was made, suggest the restriction be refined so that all bicycles with the exception of folding bicycles not be permitted due to size and safety concerns.
In Munich, Germany, passengers transporting bicycles with a wheel diameter of 20" or less do not have to buy a separate bicycle ticket. Munich's deputy major, Hep Monatzeder, of the Green Party is lobbying to lift the ban on bicycles during peak hours. Unfortunately, bicycles are not allowed on streetcars in that city.
Regional- and Intercity Rail
Bike Compartments: passenger railcars provide space for bikes on regional trains (Photo: mandiberg on flickr)
Bikes are best transported on trains in specially-marked rail car sections or compartments with mechanisms like metal racks and latches or loop holes and nylon straps, to secure and/or lock bicycles for unattended transport.
Dedicated bicycle compartments are found on regional and long distance trains. The area somewhat resembles a freight car in that it lacks seating providing only mechanisms for bicycles and human-powered vehicles to be securely fixed to the inside of the rail car for the duration of the journey. Full-size bicycles -even velomobiles- can be stowed in available bicycle compartments either via reservations or on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the U.S., Amtrak allows folding bikes to be brought on board as carry on luggage with some limitations and full-size bicycles can be stored in available bicycle compartments on a first-come, first-served basis. In Canada, Via now provides train service for cyclists linking Toronto with the Niagara region but the extent to which bicycles are otherwise permitted on board remains unclear.
Ticket to Ride: high-speed rail operators should permit bicycles on express trains (Photo: thisisbossi on flickr)
High-speed trains are in widespread use in Europe and Japan with usage in the United States currently in the northeast corridor (NEC) and in China on two main routes. The ability to bring full-size, non-folding bicycles and HPVs on board varies however greatly.
Public and private rail network operators must allow bicycles on all high-speed trains to encourage intermodality and trip chaining, which in turn, helps to bolster rail usage and operating revenues.
You should contact your local member of parliment voicing your concern if bicycles are not currently permitted on to the high-speed or regional trains you use or there is a lack of adequate bike parking facilities. Public pressure helps to change legislation and by-laws.
Wheels of Steel: folders on trains are ideal for trip chaining over any distance (Photo by the author)
A workaround to any rail operating company that bans full-sized bicycles from high-speed or even regional trains is to make use of a compact folding bike which can be brought on board in a bag as carry on luggage.
Folding bikes or folders provide the ultimate in intermodal convenient. Where other bicycles are banned during peak hours or entirely from buses, streetcars, subways, regional- and highspeed trains, folding bikes are allowed in many cities and as such are seeing a surge in popularity in cities where a large majority of commuters rely on public transit.
See the folding bikes page for more information.
Park and Ride
Direct Connection: cycling to the train station provides for easy intermodality (Photo: Mark Hillary on flickr)
When it's too far to walk to the local subway or regional train station or a car is not viable (due to parking difficulties, etc) and public transit comes too infrequently, a bicycle often provides the best solution.
For people who cycle to subway or train stations, cycle friendly municipalities should provide bicycle parking in the form of racks, shelters or even lockers at stations to support intermodality and to enable cyclists to securely lock up their bikes.
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