Both sides deserve some criticisms

October 3, 2008 at 5:48 pm 3 comments

Sometimes I feel like I need to stay away from that controversy between bicyclists, who want easy bike access on every train, and Caltrain, which is facing various political and operational challenges. On the other hand, I feel both sides deserve criticisms because such a distraction hampers Caltrain’s ability to get the upgrade it needs for the future.


  • Just to be honest here, some people will choose to park their bikes if more safer parking is provided at stations.
  • Also to be honest here, some folks will take advantage of a folding-bike subsidy if it is provided. Remember this is commuting, not some kind of a bicycle outing or a race. Caltrain shouldn’t be designing the bicycle program around those who only want to take their $5000 bikes between their homes and their offices. Remember, there are those who commute with K-Mart bikes and generally they are not as vocal as others are.
  • Some bicyclists feel that they’ve a special privilege because they believe the bicycle program has saved Caltrain. Regardless, Caltrain is still the most bicycle accessible rail system in the country with no surcharge, permits, or peak hour restrictions.


  • Caltrain should strive for consistent bicycle capacity. 16-bike limit on some Bombardier trains is not acceptable, and that gets the most criticisms. Every Bombardier trains should have two bike cars for fairness sake.
  • Bike rack design on Bombardier cars wastes space and the idea of a flow doesn’t work with the current rack design. Caltrain should look at ACE, who also operate Bombardier cars. ACE puts the bike racks on one side of the car and all seats on the other side. That leaves more room for bikes to move around. Caltrain could easily increase capacity from 16 to 20 by just rearranging racks on these cars.
  • With the gallery cars, Caltrain should consider relocating the second bike car closer to the first car, as well as providing clear signs in front of the train indicating a second bike car. Unlike most other rail systems, Caltrain experiences unususally long dwell times at station, which increase overall travel time and decrease average speed. Bicyclists crowding on the first car, and with some running to the second car, only worsen the situation.

No one is truly right and no one is truly wrong here. It is just too much political bickering. With the approval of a bike parking plan, both sides should be working on practical solutions to reduce bumping and get the upgrade Caltrain needs in the long run.


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jym  |  October 4, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    =v= Ahh, the fallacy of the middle ground. Forgive me if I have criticisms of your criticisms, but the truth must out.

    At-station bike parking will solve part of the problem. Warm Planet’s valet parking does solve part of the problem, and the Bikestation at Palo Alto was well-used. However, secure parking is expensive and Caltrain has never committed to supporting it for more than a trial period.

    Yes, people will take advantage of a folding bike subsidy, or of folding bikes. I have folding bikes myself. The room for folding bikes is even more limited than for full-sized bikes, and is already at capacity during peak use.

    Bikes-on-board built Caltrain’s ridership in its desperate days, and it is indeed a slap in the face that Caltrain would completely ignore us when making moves towards express service and electrification. Comments about “feelings” of “special privelege,” are vapid and divisive; what matters is what works. Bikes-on-board is a success, and it simply makes no sense to try to undo success.

  • 2. andychow  |  October 4, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    The lack of funding for bike station demonstrate that we have a larger problem with the way we fund and plan transportation. It is not necessarily in Caltrain’s mission but Caltrain is doing as much as it can.

    For now Caltrain has no limit on folding bikes.

    Remember it is not only Caltrain is facing bike issues, bicyclists who ride buses face the same issue too.

  • 3. murphstahoe  |  October 30, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Caltrain does have a limit on folding bikes. It’s not published or official but if 70 people showed up with folding bikes, the conductor would have to make a judgement call that it is unsafe to bring more of them on board. Caltrain doesn’t have a “limit” on passengers either, but if 20,000 people tried to board a train – you do the physics.

    Folding bikes do not vanish into thin air when you bring them on the train. Caltrain’s official policy is “Folding bikes are allowed on any train car as they are no wider than 32 inches at the widest point.” and ” Folding bikes must be able to be stored under the seat in front of you or be placed in the luggage racks provided by Caltrain.”

    There is room for 6-10 bikes in the luggage rack, tops. The vast majority of folders I see on the train could not fit under a seat. The folding policy has not been enforced but people have bought folders that don’t fit policy under the guise that they are acceptable. A rash of folders might force Caltrain’s hand in being more strict, leaving many new foldie owners in the cold.

    There might actually be a technical issue with putting 2 cab cars (all bike cars are cab cars) in close proximity. The most obvious issue is that the bike car cannot be put where the handicapped car runs, because that car is placed so that it aligns on the platform where the handicapped loading area is, not necessarily easily moved (for example the high loading platforms at MV/PA/Millbrae.


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