Caltrain leaving bicyclists out in the cold

Bicyclists will likely continue to be turned away from commute-time trains on a regular basis if they do not park their 10-speeds at the station or purchase foldable bikes, according to a new Caltrain report.

As Caltrain continues to break ridership records — 40,000 people board trains each weekday — one of the groups most affected has been bicyclists, who must board cars equipped with bike racks at the end of the trains. Nearly 10 percent of Caltrain riders are bicyclists, many of whom say they are regularly “bumped” from trains during peak commute hours.

For 18 months, the agency has been preparing a plan to solve the bike-related problems, and it recently released the results of the research, which include policies to improve accessibility and expand bike parking spaces by as much as 50 percent at some stations.

Bicyclists said their biggest concern, however, was having to wait for extra trains when the first one that arrives is full. In September, the only time Caltrain has recorded statistics on the issue, 51 out of 2,400 bikers, or 2.1 percent, were bumped. Ridership has soared since then, however, and many trains are now full for regular riders and bicyclists alike, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

“We’re not going to be able to continue to add bike cars because not only are the bike cars becoming crowded, but all of the cars are becoming crowded,” Dunn said.

In addition to a lack of funding and a limit on cars per train, Dunn said, the agency can fit about two passengers on its train for every bicyclist who boards. The agency said it hopes the extra parking spaces will encourage bicyclists to leave their bikes at the station, but that is not an option for commuters such as Shirley Johnson, who needs her bike at both ends.

Johnson, who takes Caltrain between San Francisco and Foster City each day, said she gets bumped from a train at least once per week.

“I don’t ever know if I’m going to get on that train at night,” Johnson said. “It’s extremely frustrating.”

Johnson is not alone.

“If I’m not careful, I could get bumped every day of the week,” said San Francisco-to-Burlingame commuter and bicyclist Marc Brandt.

“I miss my first train, usually,” said his cousin and fellow bicyclist, Adrian Brandt.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

7%: Weekday riders who bring bikes on board

About 2%: Additional weekday riders who park bikes at station

1,900: Total bike parking spaces at all stations

16 or 32: Spots for bikes on bike cars

10 Busiest stations: That have parking and access concerns

139: Capacity of Bombardier cars without bike racks

123: Capacity of Bombardier cars with bike racks

148: Capacity of gallery cars without bike racks

107: Capacity of gallery cars with bike racks

January 2007: Bike plan started

June 2008: Results of bike plan released

Source: Caltrain

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