You can commute across San Francisco Bay on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), our mostly-fabulous light rail system. Bicyclists are fortunate that bikes are allowed on the cars; it wasn't always this way. Even though the system is bike-friendly, I was a little nervous the first few times bringing my bike on BART. Since then I've learned a lot from watching other bike/BART commuters, boiling down to three main things:
- Know the rules
- Be polite & communicate
- Secure your bike
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Step 1: Rules? Rules!
BART has rules about bringing your bike on trains. The most important:
- Bikes are never allowed on crowded cars. There must be enough room to comfortably accommodate you and your bicycle.
- Bikes are never allowed on the first car of any train. The operators will get on you for this, and it holds the train up for everybody.
- Bikes are not allowed in the first three cars during commute hours (7:00 to 9:00 AM and 4:30 to 6:30 PM)
- Bikes are not allowed on escalators. This rule makes a lot of sense in terms of safety, yet I see it broken all the time. If you're not strong enough to carry your bike up the stairs, use an elevator.
- Bicyclists must yield to other passengers and not block aisles or doors.
- More info about biking on BART.gov
Step 2: Be Polite and Communicate
It's tempting to collect special green smugness points for riding your bike AND taking public transportation. However, note that SF is already brimming over with smug, and there's enough animosity towards bicyclists from automobile drivers trying to learn how to share the road. We don't need added animosity from the other people using the trains. Be kind and considerate, it will help all bicyclists; be an ambassador of awesome and help our culture transition to sustainable technology.
- Always defer to pedestrians. They're just trying to get to work. And now here you go trying to maneuver a big hunk of metal with pointy bits that are going to bite their shins. Take it slow, make eye contact, and say "excuse me."
- When you board, check to see where the other bicyclists are getting off. It's a huge pain for everyone to have to shuffle around their bikes at the last minute if the train gets crowded later. Smile and ask where the other bicyclist(s) is getting off. It's part of BART bike culture.
Step 3: Secure Your Ride
Two tricks for securing your bike on the train:
- Use your helmet straps to secure the bike frame to the rail.
- Use a velcro cable tie as a parking brake. Seriously, this is such an awesome trick: put it on your front brake and your bike will be stuck to the spot like a rock.