Normally I avoid blogging about transit or TransLink. I haven’t set foot on a bus or a SkyTrain since 2010—I couldn’t even tell you what the fare costs and you know what they say about not having something nice to say. But the so-called new policy allowing electric and folding bikes on Metro Vancouver transit is definitely something worth blogging and shouting about.
Lowering a barrier to cyclists using transit
According to a May 28 post on TransLink’s Buzzer blog, electric bicycles are now permitted on SkyTrain, the West Coast Express, and the SeaBus and folding bicycles are now allowed on buses, when folded (and preferably in carry bags).
This is great news for metro Vancouver cyclists but leave it to TransLink to make a bit of mess of what should be a straightforward announcement.
It’s clear enough regarding electric bicycles: they’re now covered by the same rules that apply to bringing ordinary bicycles onto transit. But I’m left with a few questions regarding taking folding bicycles on transit.
First off, why can’t a person bring a properly folded-up folding bicycle onto any SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express? The announcement explicitly refers only to buses.
Secondly, this May 28 policy announcement clearly coincided with Bike to Work Week (May 25 to 31)—why did TransLink effectively only whisper it? I only learned about it by reading the fine print at the bottom of a bike store ad.
And thirdly, is this even a new policy like TransLink says it is?
What’s this folderol about it being a new policy?
A study prepared for TransLink five years ago appears to state, not as a future objective but as a fact, that in 2010 folding bicycles were allowed on all transit vehicles.
Page 18 of the Cycling Support Services Study—Strategic Plan, April 30,2010, states:
“Folding bicycles are allowed on all transit vehicles at all times. They are an effective way to encourage the integration of transit and cycling without the expense of supplying and operating secure parking.”
And again on page 88:
“Folding bikes are allowed on transit vehicles at any time without restricting the number of bikes on a transit vehicle.”
In an online bike forum thread entitled Does your local bus allow folders on? a resident of Burnaby, B.C., commented in 2012 that TransLink had told them in writing that folding bicycles were allowed on buses so long as they were in a bag. The commenter added that they had also taken their folding bike onto a bus, without it being in bag with no problem.
The one Coast Mountain bus driver I spoke to today told me that he was unaware of any policy regarding folding bicycles—whatsoever. He would allow them on his bus the same way that he allowed baby carriages, four-wheeled mobility strollers, or two-wheeled shopping caddies.
In the event that he thought a particular folding bike had too many projecting pokey bits, he told me that he would ask the rider to leave it up at the front of the bus, where it would be safely out of the way of passengers and he could keep an eye on it.
As for new policies, the bus driver explained that these were regularly posted on a wall at “the bus depot”, where drivers could read them, when they went there, which they didn’t always do.
The 2010 TransLink Cycling Support Services Study did include a recommendation (marked “low priority”) calling for promotional programs to increase the use of folding bicycles on transit.
Was TransLink’s May 28 announcement that folding bikes are now allowed on buses just such a promotion?
All buses must go! No reasonable fare refused!
Like a rug dealer who holds an endless “closing out” sale, or a restaurant that falsely announces it’s “under new management”, just to encourage a bump in business, did TransLink just pretend that allowing folding bicycles on buses was a new thing in order to promote a long-standing policy and have something fresh to throw out during the just-passed Bike to Work Week 2015?
Maybe it did. TransLink has certainly tried to fool customers with that “under new management” trick. But either way, the policy sounds like a really good thing, especially if it means that you can bring a folding bicycle onto all transit vehicles all the time.
TransLink should more clearly state the rules around this “new” folding bikes-on-transit-policy and then seriously promote the hell out of it.