Caltrain to accommodate triple digit rise in bicyclists

[dropcap letter=”C”]yclists have demanded bike space on Caltrain. And Caltrain has finally listened.

Caltrain Executive Director Michael Scanlon announced at an early January board of directors meeting that Caltrain was committed to adding an extra bike car to all Bombardier trains.

Caltrain has two types of train sets: older Gallery trains which can hold up to 80 bikes, and newer Bombardier trains which can only accommodate 48 bikes. During peak travel hours, biking commuters must be careful about what train to take because of the practice of bumping bicyclists. That’s when a particular train’s bike car has reached its capacity and biking commuters are told they have to wait for the next train. If a bicyclist rides a Bombardier train, it is more likely they will get bumped.

“By adding a third bike car to Bombardier trains, the number of bikes that can board any train will be more consistent, no matter what kind of equipment is used,” Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

Area bicyclists have been hoping for additional space since early September, when Caltrain announced it would purchase 16 new rail cars. But until Scanlon’s recent announcement, Caltrain riders remained unsure about how the new space would be allocated.

Data from Caltrain shows that since 2010 through 2014, there has been a 121 percent increase in the number of biking commuters, indicating that more than one in ten of all Caltrain riders are now bringing their bikes on board.

Caltrain should plan for this number to increase, said Shirley Johnson, head of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Bikes ONboard program.

“Caltrain is risk-averse, they don’t like to make change,” Johnson said. “But, this is the future and this is what people need. If they’re going to ride the train, they need to get to and from the station.”

Johnson’s “Bikes ONboard” program recently released a new form for keeping track of bumping data. With this data, the program hopes to develop data visualizations tools to help those with bikes better plan their commutes.

“Bumps are still happening frequently,” Johnson said. “We hope the new reporting system will encourage more people to report bumps to make the data more accurate, because many bumps go unreported.”

CORRECTION – Editor’s Note (3/19/2015): In this story originally published March 19, 2015, Peninsula Press incorrectly cited Caltrain’s time range of data and the percentage increase in the number of biking commuters. This is a corrected story that accurately cites Caltrain’s data.


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