Christine Culver of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition said there will be a large demand for bicycle space from commuters and tourists alike, and she would like to see 15 percent of the seat space devoted to bikes. “Sonoma County is bicycles, the people who ride bicycles is growing exponentially,” Culver said.
It’s a trade-off, SMART spokesman Chris Coursey said. The more amenities, the fewer seats. The cars can hold 70 to 80 seats, but a bathroom takes up six seats, two bicycle racks take up two seats and a snack bar takes up six seats.
It is very disappointing to see SMART staff propose the use of bike racks. And it is even more embarrassing that bikes might get bumped to accommodate a wine bar or power room.
Bike racks are an outdated and inefficient solution for on-board accommodation of bikes on trains. The problem with bike racks is quite evident to anyone who has tried to bring a bike onto Caltrain: cyclists routinely get ‘bumped’ from otherwise empty trains simply because the bike racks are full.
The preferred method for on-board bike accommodation is to treat bikes like any other large bulky item — no different than baby strollers or suitcases. Provide a large ‘flexible-use’ space, preferably in the vestibule area. This space can be used for: wheelchairs, luggage, bikes, or (if trains are SRO) standees. Passengers are surprisingly good about figuring out for themselves how to best manage space, in a way that is far more efficient and flexible than bike racks. This is the approach taken by BART and most European operations.
Sadly, even if SMART staff were to follow industry best-practice, they still may have no choice but to rely on racks. With its ill-advised decision to run heavy DMUs, the FRA is going to require bikes to be strapped into racks, which could limit how many bikes will be permitted.
An example of industry best practice of flexible-use space near the doors. Passengers can figure out amongst themselves how to arrange their luggage, bikes, and wheelchars in this area. The articulated design and wide aisles makes it easy to distribute load evenly along the train, in case the space gets overcrowded.