Thursday night the BART Board of Directors shied away from lifting the ban on bikes during rush-hour, voting 6-3 to instead implement a 5 month testing period starting July 1. The vote means that between July 1 and December 1 bikes will once again be allowed on all but the first 3 BART cars during rush hours. However, the move appeases the opposition more than supports the cyclists and leaves the Board with an easy way out.
The test period will include “careful monitoring and a review in October”. This review will determine whether or not the ban is lifted permanently. The six Board Members who voted to implement the test period instead of permanantly lifting the ban argued that the two 5-day test periods in 2012 and 2013 did not provide enough data to make an informed decision.
The legions of bicyclists who filled the boardroom and the overflow room disagreed. They spoke of the hardships posed by the ban and the benefits of lifting it. The two test periods, especially the most recent week-long test in May 2013, produced overwhelming positive results. A large marjority of BART riders supported the lift of the ban and a very small percentage reported problems with cyclists or disruptions in their daily commute as a result of the bikes.They argued that the blackouts during rush hours deter many cyclists from taking public transportation at all in the Bay Area since they often get stranded in San Francisco during the evening rush hour. A lift on the ban will likely increase the number of people commuting by public transportation as it will allow those who would prefer to ride their bikes, but can’t work around the blackout times, to again ride BART to and from the city.
The test period will be an important indicator of the negative impact of bikes on the trains during rush hours. The success of the program will largely depend on ridership numbers and whether the positive numbers observed during the week-long test periods (“about 25 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to ride BART if they could take their bikes along, while 11 percent said they were less likely to ride if they had to share the trains with bikes, six percent of those surveyed brought their bikes on BART during the experimental period, and 3 percent said they avoided BART because of the test”) are proved accurate.
Cyclists in the Bay Area can help make the lift of the ban permanent by taking advantage of the test period. Take your bikes on BART, participate in the experiment, but be courteous to your fellow BART passengers. Its true that right now the burden of proof is falling on the shoulders of the cyclists. For the next five months cyclists will have to make the extra effort to ensure that the ban is lifted permantly. In the meantime, brush up on your BART etiquette. Refresh your memory by participating in a cycling etiquette class or simply reading the BART Bike Rules. It might be a bit tedious, but in the end it will benefit all cyclists in the Bay Area.
Bart Bike Rules: http://www.bart.gov/guide/bikes/bikeRules.aspx