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BART permanently lifts rush hour bike ban

Isabel Angell
A sign reminding riders not to bring bikes on crowded BART trains

The Bay Area's transit agency voted unanimously last week to lift the long-standing ban on bikes aboard trains during rush hour. After the five-month pilot program ends on December 1st, bikes will be permanently allowed on all BART trains, at all times. 

Previously, riders couldn’t bring bikes onto most trains during peak commute hours. There’s still some restrictions: bicyclists aren’t supposed to board crowded trains, and bikes are never allowed in the first car, or the first three cars during rush hour.

It’s a big victory for bike advocates, who have been pushing BART to do away with the ban since the 1970s, when bikes were completely banned. Surveys from three pilot programs (one is ongoing) showed most riders don’t mind sharing trains with bikes. In the latest survey, 79 percent of those surveyed were in favor of allowing bikes on board during commute hours.

Still, about one quarter of riders surveyed said allowing bikes on board made their commute worse. Common complaints included cyclists pushing their way onto crowded cars or taking up seats reserved for seniors and disabled riders.

BART staff said they had made an effort to spread awareness about bike courtesy across the system using signs and decals on cars, and mentioned the East Bay and San Francisco Bicycle Coalitions had worked to get the word out to their members. Staff said they were producing more signage, and would work on ways to step up enforcement of the existing rules.

At a meeting, union leader Antonette Bryant, who represents train operators, expressed concern that bikes might make it harder for the operator to move quickly through a train in an emergency, or make evacuations more difficult. She said the workers were disappointed BART staff hadn’t formally included them in their survey of riders.

Many of the directors said they were concerned about the safety issued  raised by Bryant, but felt satisfied enough by the staff’s response that they would take another look to vote in favor of the rule change.

The Board did make an amendment to the rule change: if weekday ridership surpasses 450,000 for three consecutive months, staff will reevaluate the rule change.