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Thread: WMATA Metro Rail Bike Policy

  1. #1
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    Post WMATA Metro Rail Bike Policy

    Hi, I'm new to WABA and this forum. After searching the forum a bit, the most recent thread (2012) regarding Metro's bike policy included many replies in support of upholding WMATA's no rush hour, no exceptions rule against bikes on the rail system. While I respect the view that some consider taking bikes on trains during rush hour a safety issue, especially crowded trains, there are many instances when Metro cars are not crowded during rush hours. If anyone reading this agrees that Metro's bike policy is arbitrary and unjust, I would like to encourage you to write to Metro at boardofdirectors@wmata.com and feel free to use the letter and graphic attached here. 160126_WMATA_Bike_Letter_WABA.pdfClick image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    CROWDED STATIONS AND TRAINS

    I wrote to them recently to suggest that they modify their peak hour policy, but not to remove it entirely. While I bike a lot, I also ride Metro a lot too. I can understand why the policy is in place. If there were a lot of bikes on crowded Metro trains, that would slow down loading and unloading of those crowded trains by a huge amount. Just one cyclist could block off much of one end of a car. Even if they try to stay out of the way, it's very difficult to do so in crowded conditions. I've experienced this myself over the winter, as I've taken my bike on Metro during the hour before the 4 pm ban takes effect. Some of the trains are mostly empty, but many others start filling up by 3:30 or 3:45 pm. At that point, bikes do start to be an impediment to quick loading-unloading of passengers.

    There can also be problems at crowded central DC stations such as Gallery Place, L'Enfant Plaza and Metro Center, plus busy and smaller stations like Farragut West. I think there actually can be safety issues, especially at Gallery Place where the walkways are relatively narrow for such a busy transfer station. Even without bikes present, many pedestrians come dangerously close to the platform edges because of the crowded conditions. I've personally seen some people almost get pushed off by rude or inattentive people trying to get from one platform to the other line. I've had to walk close to the edge on many occasions myself. There really isn't room for people to be rolling bikes in those heavy crowds at peak times.

    I know this isn't the case at some of the stations farther out from downtown DC. But how would a mixed policy be instituted? It could be very complicated to do so. Inbound trains only? But those trains head toward the crowded transfer stations of Gallery Place, L'Enfant Plaza and Metro Center. Only at certain stations? Well, people might use those stations to head to the central transfer stations, which would cause problems.

    I suggested that Metro push back the start of the afternoon ban to 4:30 pm and have it run only to 6:30 pm, thus an afternoon ban from 4:30-6:30 pm, two hours instead of the current three hours. But after I sent that note, I noticed that some stations and lines do get fairly crowded by 3:45-4:00 pm. Not every day, but often enough that if the official policy were changed, there would definitely be crowding and safety issues at busy stations.


    MY IDEAS ABOUT MODIFYING THE TIME PERIOD OR ADDING BIKE RACKS (probably not practical)


    I've been thinking about the issue this winter, but I couldn't come up with a good solution, other than the change to 4:30-6:30 pm for the weekday evening bike ban. I really don't think the evening ban should be removed completely. In any case, I see the occasional cyclist who still brings a bike onto Metro between 4 and 7 pm, but not too often. I'm OK with the policy not being strictly enforced, as long as there aren't major safety or crowding issues from people not following the ban. It doesn't happen often enough to be a real issue.

    Other solutions would be cumbersome and expensive, such as adding some sort of bike rack to the front of Metro trains. (It wouldn't work to have a bike rack at the back end because the train operator wouldn't be able to see if someone was trying to place or remove a bike from that rear rack. This would be a huge problem if the train took off while a cyclist were trying to remove or place a bike on that rack.) The front rack would be right in front of the operator, so there's no way he/she could overlook the use of that rack.

    While the rack itself wouldn't represent a huge capital cost for a large system, would the placement of those racks prevent Metro from swapping those cars and putting them into the middle of trains? I don't know if all Metro cars are capable of being lead cars, but I've seen cars with operator controls in the middle of trains. If those cars had front bike racks, those would have to be removed before the car could be placed in the middle of a train set. Perhaps there could be machines that could quickly install or remove the bike racks at the main Metro railyards. I don't think the racks would have to be swapped during the day, or at most, once a day for certain cars.

    Metrobuses already have front bike racks. I never used those before last year. But now that I have, I've found them to be very convenient and useful. It's possible to bring my bike to locations throughout the DC-area suburbs without having to bike all the way there. If I had to bike from VA to MD, I'd be tired before I even started biking in MD. Plus there aren't always easy bike routes between the jurisdictions and suburban towns and cities. MetroRail could have similar bike racks. They aren't difficult to use, after you try them the first time. It might be trickier to have bike racks on the front of a MetroRail train because you can't stand in front of the train while placing/removing the bike.

    Perhaps there could be a similar but modified bike rack, one that swings forward to allow placement/removal of the bike while the cyclist is standing on the platform. This could work, EXCEPT that station platforms switch from the left to the right as the trains pass through DC and into the suburbs. The bike rack would need to be able to swing out to both sides and still be stable and secure on the front of the train. Perhaps one of the mechanical engineers or mechanically-minded people here could come up with a design. I don't think it would be too complicated. Most of the bike rack could be identical to the existing Metrobus bike racks. It would just need a hinge mechanism on both sides, along with an easy way for someone to unlock the rack from the side and pull it out toward the platform edge.

    If such racks were installed at the front of trains, this could allow bikes to be brought on trains without impeding pedestrian entry/exit from crowded trains.

    However, this wouldn't solve the problem of rolling bikes through very crowded stations. Until Gallery Place in particular is redesigned or modified, this will always be an issue with allowing bikes in the system during the weekday afternoon rush. I think it's a valid concern. And those concerns will result in strong opposition to any proposal to end the afternoon bike ban.

    ...

  3. #3
    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    BIKE & RIDE ROOMS, BIKE LOCKERS

    I'm not sure if I posted on the earlier threads you mentioned. If I did, I don't remember what I posted. But these are my current thoughts, based on my recent experiences of bringing a bike onto Metro and also from frequent regular use of Metro (without a bike). The safety and peak-hour operating efficiency issues really do need to be addressed when proposing to modify or repeal the afternoon bike ban. I say this as someone who does find the policy to be frustrating on occasion, especially in the winter when the days are much shorter. This is because I either have to get back before 4 pm, or I have to wait until after 7 pm to board with the bike, or take a long trip in evening hours through areas without ideal bike infrastructure and through areas where the risk of crime is higher at night.

    Other than the modified hours and the (probably impractical) bike rack idea, I haven't come up with a good solution for this. I'm not making regular commutes out to the farther suburbs, so I can modify my plans. I know some people that live in the suburbs who bike to a Metro station, lock up their bikes at the station, then take Metro to downtown DC. In the evening, they take Metro back out to the suburban station, and ride their bikes for the last part of the trip. Thus, they avoid the peak hour bike ban. Most or all of the suburban Metro stations have bike lockers, which are better for those who follow this approach frequently. I recognize the risk of bike theft for those who lock their bikes to the U racks at Metro stations. (Almost every single Metro station has bike racks now, except just a few in DC where the dense office/retail development doesn't allow much space for bike racks. But at those locations, there are almost always other bike racks nearby. There's also less of a need to lock a bike at those stations. Someone can easily bike to a nearby Metro station in those cases.)

    I don't think the comparison to guide animals is fair. Those animals are necessary and it wouldn't be practical for the persons to walk several miles in place of the MetroRail trip. Large luggage can be an issue, but many of the people bringing the suitcases are out-of-town visitors who will have no idea about local Metro policies. Even if large luggage were to be banned, there would be so many visitors violating the policy that it would be unenforceable or there would have to be a fair amount of officers devoted to watching the airports and Union station for people with rolling suitcases. This would be silly and it would never happen.

    I think the difference with bikes is that it's much easier to travel outside of the MetroRail system on them. That's what they are designed for. Vision-impaired individuals and those carrying heavy suitcases can't easily walk a few miles, but it's pretty easy for a cyclist to bike a few miles. Almost all of the cyclists will be area residents, so they are likely to be familiar with Metro policies. Or at least they will become familiar with them quickly. I see relatively few cyclists disobeying the 4-7 pm bike ban.

    Most people who bring bikes intend to ride them, not bring them on Metro. For those who are making longer trips, locking the bikes at a Metro station is one alternative. In addition to the bike lockers and the bike racks, WMATA is now adding Bike & Ride rooms at certain suburban stations. There's already a large one at College Park, MD. New ones are being added at Vienna and East Falls Church. Fairfax County built a large bike room near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. These are good options for many cyclists who don't want to take long-distance bike commutes but who still want to ride for at least part of their trips. There is probably a need for more bike rooms, including some on the Blue and Yellow Lines in Alexandria/Fairfax, the Red Line in Montgomery County and the Green/Orange/Blue-Silver extensions in Prince George's County.

    BIKE RACKS ON BUSES

    For others, the bike racks on Metrobuses are another option. I think all of the suburban bus systems also have bike racks on their buses too. Prince George's County was the last jurisdiction to add bike racks, but they have now done so (just last year). Montgomery County, Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County have bike racks on their buses, in some cases for more than a decade. I believe the central Maryland buses have bike racks too (in the Howard County/Laurel areas). DC Circulator buses also have bike racks. This is a good way to travel longer distances with a bike without having to ride it, whatever the reason is (such as if the total trip distance is very long, or if certain sections of the trip pass through areas without good bike infrastructure).

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...endly-at-last/

    Of course you are free to petition WMATA to change their policy. I don't have any problem with that. I just don't agree that a complete removal of the policy would be wise, not when there are other options. For situations where the existing options are not ideal, there can be solutions such as more Bike & Ride rooms, instead of changing the bike-ban policy. Ideally, some sort of bike rack could be installed on trains and the central DC transfer stations could have much wider walkways. But the bike rack idea probably isn't practical, and it will be a long time (and very expensive) before the central DC transfer stations get wider walkways.
    Last edited by PotomacCyclist; 01-30-2016 at 03:13 PM.

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    I have a three issues with the argument about bikes and crowds on Metro.

    First, why are bikes less safe than large pieces of luggage and strollers?

    Second, most rail systems, 13 out of the 15 largest US subway systems, allow bikes anytime. Their answer to the crowds and safety issue is to ask people with bikes not board crowded trains. From what I've read broadly about that policy is that 99.9% of people with bikes thankfully have common sense and courtesy and abide by the policy.

    Third, there are many more instances where it is safe and comfortable to board an uncrowded train during the ban hours, than when it is not. Regulating for the few exceptions rather than fair access for all is bad policy.

    Here are some examples of actual U.S. Rail Public Transit Policies for Bikes, any of these would work on the DC Metro:

    NYC Transit Subway

    Bicycles are permitted on Subway trains at all times. However, we strongly recommend that cyclists avoid boarding crowded rush hour trains. Be courteous to your fellow passengers by standing with your bike, moving it so others can pass, and not blocking doors.

    http://web.mta.info/nyct/safety/bike/

    BART Trains

    Please observe all bike rules if you plan on taking a bike on a train. Although bikes are allowed on all trains at all times, there are some important exceptions:

    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
    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. Bicyclists must yield to other passengers and not block aisles or doors. If you are taking your bike on BART, it's your responsibility to know and follow all bike rules--please read them.

    http://www.bart.gov/guide/bikes

    Maryland Transit Authority Light Rail

    Allowed anytime unless: If the train is crowded due to morning or afternoon rush hour, sporting events or special events, please wait for the next train.

    https://mta.maryland.gov/sites/defau...s_Brochure.pdf

    Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

    SEPTA is proud to be a bicycle friendly transit system and encourages bicyclists to use our services to complete journeys to work or to explore our great region.

    Port Authority Transit Corporation

    Customers may transport bicycles on trains at any time.

    http://www.ridepatco.org/travel/bicycles.html

  5. #5
    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    One difference between bikes and luggage/strollers is that it's far easier to travel on surface roads by bike, so there is another option. As far as the safety issue, there probably isn't a huge difference. All of them pose problems at Gallery Place, as well as causing problems for efficiency (loading/unloading trains, moving through stations).

    The option of alternate bike travel plus the stroller/children element could make this a tougher argument to win politically. This is apart from whether or not I agree with the policy.

    Part of my thinking is that I'd rather see "political capital" spent on issues like more protected bike lanes, better trails, promised trails (such as the greatly reduced trails that were promised alongside the Inter-County Connector), plowing of trails and bike lanes after winter storms, and faster Capital Bikeshare expansion (although the slow pace of expansion is primarily the result of the Bixi bankruptcy and not DDOT/Arlington lack of funding). While there is a lot to like about local bike infrastructure and policies, there is also room for improvement, and progress probably won't be made on every item simultaneously.

    If WMATA decided to remove the ban, I wouldn't protest it. But I'm not sure if I would personally celebrate it either. I have mixed feelings about it. I'd prefer to see a bigger push on some of those other issues. I know some people have brought up the topic of Metro and bikes here and elsewhere. I'm not sure about the overall interest. I know there is some interest in the issue, but nearly as much interest as plowing, protected bike lanes, etc.?

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    I agree that "political capital" should also be spent on issues like more protected bike lanes, plowed bike lanes, better trails, and expanded Bikeshare. However those issues take more than political capital, they need actual capital. It's trickier to get both political will and money working in concert. I'm not saying we shouldn't all continue to fight for those infrastructure investments, I'm saying that lifting the bike ban won't cost WMATA anything and it is an outreach to a sector of ridership inviting back to the system. It seems like a win-win to me for WMATA and people with bikes. Getting a bike lane built takes a lot of advocacy, money, and changing hearts and minds. Changing the Metro bike ban seems like something that could change more swiftly if enough people say something to the Metro board, because it wouldn't cost them anything.

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    Comparing your bike to a human child is not a great way to start an argument with a transit agency. Particularly one that caters to tourists and families during much of the year. I believe we have gone down that route here before.

    Your bike, as well as my bike, belt drive or not, is a dirty filthy thing. Your luggage, is not. Your luggage is also not 6 feet long and 2 feet wide.

    I was denied entry to metro on black friday around 4:30pm at Union Station. Was I bitter? Of course. Those trains were silly empty with little to no actual 'rush hour' that day. Do I get why they do it? Absolutely. You're going to take a bike on a train in Rosslyn at 5pm? Right. They don't allow it because people are wildly inconsiderate of each other. If you ask people to make a judgement call, they are going to judge that their convenience is more important.

    See road traffic in the region.

    *And of course -
    Folding bicycles that are folded are permitted inside railcars at all times. During peak periods, folding bicycles must remain folded and securely fastened while traveling through the system.
    Last edited by dplasters; 02-01-2016 at 09:02 AM.

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    Is there anything new to say that wasn't already said the last time someone popped onto the forum just to advocate for this issue? http://bikearlingtonforum.com/showth...ring-rush-hour

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    Could you show me where I compare a bike to a child? Like actually pull the quote?

    I compare the SPACE a bike takes to the SPACE a stroller takes up. A stroller is a mode of transportation for a person, as is a bike, and believe it or not, people do use bikes to transport their children also. 6' x 2' bike? What model do you have??

    Do luggage wheels and stroller wheels roll on magic dirt-free roads or sidewalks?

    Are people in this part of the U.S. so much more inconsiderate than others in 13 major U.S. cities with subways who allow people with bikes to ride anytime and to make good-faith calls on what trains are too crowded?

    Yes, this issue was discussed before --3 years ago. If you read my original post, I acknowledged that. It is clear by that thread that the most vocal people in this forum don't agree with my point of view and that's ok. All I simply asked is if anyone here happened to agree with my point of view that the ban was arbitrary, it just takes a moment to let WMATA know.

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    This usually reduces to "Well there are good reasons bike could be a problem, and while they would not be if people used common sense (only putting their bikes on uncrowded trains) there is reason to believe that many would not follow that" vs "it works in SF (a city with a rather similar metro system) so why not here" I dunno, people are more polite in California? Maybe, maybe not.

    Meanwhile I agree with Potomac Cyclist, there are ways to make it better at the margins. Have the no bike hours end at 6:30. Maybe improve at other times? (I once wanted to take my bike on metro from Old Town to Springfield, on a July 4th, but no bikes on metro on the 4th, because of the massive crowds. I understand I could not prove the direction I was heading, but this was hours before the crowds gathered) How about allowing bikes on during peak hours on Fridays, which generally get much lighter metro ridership? Would that be too confusing?

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