The Bike Policy

Ed Easton
There's good ol' Ed Easton.

After that first week of service on the Red Line, when trains were stuffed to the gills with people and bikes, the operations and safety professionals here at Capital Metro set a limit on the number of bikes to four per car (eight total per train). Not too long after the limit was set did the caveat get added “when the trains are full.”  (I was probably a bit zealous in posting the news about the limit to the blog. That same day Doug Allen was meeting the press at Downtown Station to talk about how the first week of service had gone, and I was sure that the bike limit would be discussed. I wanted the bicyclists to hear about the limit from us rather than watching it on TV or reading it in the paper.)

At any rate, lots of bikes riding on a train that has plenty of room available  is not a problem. Only when the trains are standing room only does it become necessary to limit the bikes to four per car.

We haven’t had to turn away anyone with a bicycle, although lots of bikes are boarding.  MetroRail is averaging about 86 bikes per day, and that number will certainly go up as ridership on the line develops.

Capital Metro is assembling a “MetroBikes” stakeholder group, to be led by Ed Easton and John-Michael Cortez, to develop a thorough bicycle management plan. As many of the comments indicated in response to my blog post in March, it’s not very customer-oriented to institute a limit but not also provide better amenities like secure bike parking. So, the goal of this group will be to set priorities, budget and timeline for upgrades to improve bicycle access to both MetroBus and MetroRail. We’ll keep you posted as to how this group shapes up. As always, let us know what you think.

14 thoughts on “The Bike Policy

  1. Erik

    Real-world scenario: Last train north/south and both cars are full with no more bicycle capacity.

    How exactly will ‘secure bike parking’ address the above problem? Will train operators wait the required time (possibly more than 2-3 minutes) for affected cyclists to lock up? These are the sort of things that should’ve been considered from day 1.

  2. Misty

    Speaking of bikes, May is National Bike Month. Tomorrow the City of Austin is hosting a bike month kick-off event at City Hall Plaza at 11:30. Capital Metro will be there handing out information about biking with transit and offering bus bike rack demonstrations. Ed and John Michael will be there, too.

  3. chrysrobyn

    Speaking of bikes… Is there a central person in charge of bike lane policy? Someone in power should try to bike down Metric from Cedar Bend to Bittern Hollow during rush hour traffic. Once every week or two, there’s a cyclist who (legally) takes a whole lane when no bike lane exists. Invariably, he’s doing 20 mph under traffic speed. While I understand it’s legal, it’s not safe for anyone. The amount of brake mashing and reckless lane changing that happens as a result is very dangerous. If the sidewalk were widened to the width it is on the bridge, and signs that say “BIKE LANE – USE SIDEWALK” (like I saw when I was growing up in Phoenix), cyclists could have a legal AND SAFE place to ride. Right now, they have to pick one of those two options. “Legal” and “Safe” shouldn’t be mutually exclusive options.

    As an aside, if a motorist was doing 20 mph under traffic speed for no legitimate reason, he’d be arrested for driving dangerously.

  4. Scott Wood

    I see two lanes in each direction on that stretch of Metric — if the cars can’t manage to change lanes safely and maintain safe following distances, how is that the bicyclist’s fault?

    Everything I’ve seen about bicycle safety says that riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous. If for whatever reason that happens to not be true at a particular location, then by all means put up signs to guide people, but it’s not a general solution. It’s not particularly nice to people trying to walk on the sidewalk, either.

    Bicycles have a quite legitimate reason to travel at the speed which they do, and I think you overstate the consequences of driving slowly. Maybe once in a while someone will get a ticket if they (or the cop) are being really obnoxious, or if there’s a specific legal minimum speed, but arrest?

  5. Chris

    I agree that bikes need to be planned for, but there is no reasonable way to say, “YOU AND YOUR BIKE WILL ALWAYS BE AFFORDED SPACE ON THE TRAIN, EVERY TIME, AND WITHOUT EXCEPTION”. They can’t even say that about people.

    I think the plan and capacity that is currently in place is pretty good. Secure lockers would be an excellent addition.

    “Real-world scenario: Last train north/south and both cars are full with no more bicycle capacity.”

    This is already a possibility with buses, every day.

    1. Erik

      “This is already a possibility with buses, every day.”

      Exactly, but during commute hours. There’s never a ‘last bus’ situation like with the existing train schedule.

      So, what would the secure lockers provide in a last-train situation? My point is, that’s not a fair representation of a realistic solution to said problem. It’s clearly a solution for a different situation altogether: leaving bicycles off the train. For many, this would be ideal, and has shown to work in other cities. Of course, there are others who would be mobility-restricted once they reach their destination. This is where improvements to bus scheduling and routing can solve the remaining puzzle.

  6. Actually, Eric, improvements to bus scheduling and routing can’t do anything useful here – what the demand for bike space on the buses shows is that almost nobody EXCEPT for cyclists is funding this service useful, DESPITE the complement of shuttle-buses ready to take people to their offices on the work end of their trip. More buses doesn’t solve that problem; better-routed buses doesn’t solve that problem; and these DMU trains are never going to be able to run down Lamar and Guadalupe and Congress the way light rail would have in 2000.

    1. Erik

      What I meant re: the puzzle was a a truer connection/flow to existing routes near stations.

      As for the shuttles, the majority of passengers from my experience appear to be boarding the train at MLK and utilizing the circular bus to UT campus. The downtown circular isn’t being used, much like how the ‘Dillo fared poorly/failed, and that’s a real shame. Clearly the ‘value’ proposition for many that work/live downtown isn’t compelling enough.

      Light rail down the middle of Congress is part of the 2020 Downtown Plan, no?

      1. The key is that even a perfect connection to a bus is still a connection to a bus – and people in Leander already had a really good one-seat express bus ride straight to UT, the Capitol, and downtown parts closer to their offices – so it should not have surprised anybody that most people would avoid those shuttles like the plague. (Those who didn’t mind buses, in other words, were already taking buses much better than the train+bus combination).

  7. Erik

    Addendum: Michael, from your personal weblog posts, it’s clear that you’re of the belief that true success with rail lies in the destruction of ‘shuttles’ and ‘bus connectors’ etc. I’m not pleased with it either, but until they’re able to build-out a proper urban system, it’s all we have. And making it operate more efficiently certainly can’t hurt, right? Honestly, I’d rather have that 100+ million back at this point to start over.

  8. Eric,

    1. Doug Allen basically admitted nobody’s riding the shuttles; which matches what I saw yesterday morning (2 people got off the 8:25 AM arrival at MLK; one with a bike).

    2. Light rail down the middle of Congress isn’t part of the 2020 downtown plan – there’s no such beast; there’s a 2020 Capital Metro service plan which moves most of the good bus routes off Congress; but the only light rail plan even being talked about right now is the city’s urban rail plan – which is being hurt dramatically by Capital Metro’s fun finance fiasco.

    The city’s plan isn’t anything like the 2000 LRT line; it would come in from East Riverside and run completely in the street. It’s far better than the Red Line will ever be, but nowhere near as good as what Capital Metro has ruined (2000 LRT plan projected 30-40 thousand boardings/day back in 2000 based on conditions at the time; even more favorable now – I could believe even more given developments like the Triangle).

    1. Erica

      M1EK, what I’ve never understood in your arguments is why the Red Line precludes having light rail downtown? What was the alignment of the 2000 LR plan that can not be accommodated any longer?

      1. Erica, the 2000 LRT route was able to justify taking a lane on Guadalupe in front of UT because it picked up both urban residential passengers north of there AND the same suburban park-and-ride areas the Red Line does (because it would have used the Red Line ROW from Lamar/Airport up to Leander).

        Without that extra suburban ridership, there is zero chance the lane can be taken, which means the train won’t run (I don’t think anybody’s dumb enough to propose running a train in shared traffic on the Drag).

        2000 LRT alignment, in case anybody else doesn’t know, was basically using the same space as the Red Line from Leander down to Lamar/Airport, then running down Lamar, Guadalupe, and Congress (downtown alignment was still under discussion when it was forced prematurely to the polls by Krusee; might have been Colorado or even Guadalupe/Lavaca through downtown but my bet was on Congress).

        The city’s current light rail proposal is not directly precluded by the Red Line; but it’s being indirectly hurt (the planning money is part of the 1/4 cent money that now isn’t getting delivered; and the PR is a problem). The city’s current light rail proposal is also a very poor substitute for the 2000 light rail line – as it doesn’t follow the path to success most other cities have used (run fast in the suburbs from park-and-rides; run medium in urban residential; run slow to hit employment centers) – really only Houston has succeeded lately with a 100% in-street model, and their density in the Medical Center exceeds ours in downtown by an order of magnitude.

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