BART is working to expand bike capacity on its new trains. (Ellie Doyen/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

BART to double bike capacity on its new trains

Multi-purpose space can also accommodate strollers, large luggage

BART is redesigning its Fleet of the Future trains to recognize another future, where people ride more bikes.

The agency is going to add a second space for bikes on each BART car, doubling each train’s capacity for bike commuters.

“People will stop riding BART if they can’t bring their bike on board,” said Janice Li, who represents San Francisco on the BART Board of Directors.

Li led the effort to push BART staff to increase bike capacity on its new trains. But the two bike spaces per BART car aren’t just for cyclists: They’re “multipurpose” spaces which will also benefit people with large luggage or parents with strollers.

While about 3 percent of BART riders who were surveyed by the agency last year carried bikes on board, that’s a number that could rise if the agency provided more spaces for bikes, according to advocates. BART’s Bicycle Safety Task Force and the group Bike East Bay were among the groups supporting two multi-purpose spaces.

Li, who sits on the BART board, is also an advocate with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

When BART surveyed people who bike, most gave BART high ratings (about 76 percent) for providing a space for bikes, but said the existing racks on BART’s new train cars don’t fit all types of bicycles. Only about 36 percent of people who bike said it was easy to use the bike rack.

“I love the idea and appreciate you thinking of us, but (the) execution doesn’t work with many bikes in the real world,” one anonymous survey respondent told BART. The Board of Directors supported removing the problematic racks.

At BART’s Board of Directors meeting Thursday, BART General Manger Grace Crunican seemed to push back against the idea of adding another multi-purpose space and BART Board member Mark Foley of Contra Costa County argued that commuters would hate to see more seats removed on BART cars.

But those cyclists are coming whether there is space or not, said BART Board of Directors Vice President Rebecca Saltzman, who represents Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Saltzman said she had seen at least one person with a bicycle awkwardly standing with it diagonally in a space meant for commuters to stand, because BART lacked options for him to safely and politely stow it.

Ultimately, BART Board of Directors President Bevan Dufty told Crunican that he and directors Robert Raburn, Liz Ames, Saltzman and Li all supported two multi-purpose spaces.

“Is the question, ‘Can I count?’” Crunican said, indicating she understood that the board had a majority in support of the bicycle community’s position

“I think we’ll go for the two spaces,” she said. “I can count, boss.”

BART has 84 of those train cars in its possession now and expects its full new fleet of 775 cars to arrive by 2023, a year-long delay first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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