BART survey shows bikers, other passengers getting along

BART riders seem to have adjusted to bicycles on trains at all times, with complaints down despite more bicycles and generally more riders since new rules were implemented in 2013, according to a new survey by BART.

In 2013, BART abandoned rules banning bicycles from BART cars during busy commute hours after several pilot test periods. A survey of 2,300 riders presented at today’s Board of Directors meeting found there were 3,800 more weekday BART trips with bicycles from 2012 to 2014, an increase of more than 20 percent.

Despite that and increased BART ridership over the same period, fewer respondents reported that trains were too crowded over the same period. In 2013, 25 percent of respondents reported that trains were too crowded for bikes and passengers, with 23 percent reporting they were too crowded in 2014. Respondents reporting there was enough room aboard trains increased from 22 percent to 29 percent.

BART Director Joel Keller said following today’s presentation:

“We are creating a harmony between bike riders and non-bike riders and the more experience people have the better it will become.”

But with BART ridership continuing to rise, BART officials are still looking at ways to alleviate crowding, including encouraging riders to leave their bikes at the stations instead of bringing them on board.

The survey found that about 20 percent of bicyclists who board with their bikes might leave their bikes at the station if it weren’t for fears of theft. In an effort to allay those fears, BART is in the process of adding 280 new eLocker stations throughout the system, including 84 spaces at West Oakland, and is adding new bike stations at several stations.

BART last month opened a new bike station storefront at the 19th Street station in Oakland featuring 130 free valet bike parking spaces. The eLocker system requires riders to pay using a special card, which can be an impediment to using the system.

Some BART directors wondered today whether the system could be linked to Clipper cards, but such integration likely couldn’t come before 2019 when the next generation Clipper cards are due.

The board also discussed other methods of improving bike storage at BART stations to combat the rampant problem of bicycle theft, including better positioning of existing racks, lockers that can be used in indoor stations, and better education in proper use of bicycle locks.

BART Director Rebecca Saltzman said:

“The vast majority of bikes being stolen are because they’re using bad locks.”

But she said many people are properly using heavy-duty bike locks but are still having their bikes stolen. BART officials anticipate having a prototype bike locker for use inside stations in the next six months. The directors also discussed ways to improve smooth movement within and outside the station, limiting run-ins between bicyclists and pedestrians.

Alan Smith, chairman of BART’s Accessibility Task Force, said he had recently been hit by a bicyclist at the Concord station and encouraged the directors to expand BART’s ban on riding bicycles outside of the station to all pedestrian areas:

“We’ve all dodged bicyclists racing up to the fare gates.”

The directors also discussed adding more stair channels for bikes like the ones in the Mission Street stations, better direction of traffic around the station and how to better enforce the rule prohibiting bikes from the first three cars during commute hours.

But despite the continued challenges, BART Director Robert Raburn said the survey showed great progress:

“There has been an improvement in the perception of the bikes on board policy.”