Your Ticket To Ride: Folding Bikes by Vince Vitale

Imagine snapping your fingers and suddenly being able to bring your bicycle on all Muni buses, all BART trains any time, and even airplanes without being charged an extra fee. With enough advocacy we should eventually see bike access everywhere, but if you can't wait until that joyous day, you may want to consider a folding bike. Folders, as they're called, may be your best bet for easy, intermodal transit in the Bay Area.

Folding bikes have hinge joints which allow them to be folded quickly to the size of a large package. When folded, those with 16" or 20" wheels are allowed on any Muni bus, at the discretion of the driver. When travelling with the folder, it helps to put it in a soft bag when boarding the bus to avoid hassles with drivers who may not know about the folding bike exception to the usual no-bikes rule. (NOTE: Full-size folding bikes with 26" wheels may be considered too large to be accepted on the bus.)

The folded bike is welcome on BART at any time in any car. This was especially handy for Steve Crawford during the recent BART strike. "The buses were packed," he says. "But I could get on any bus going over the Bay Bridge with my folding bike."

Greg LaSonde brings his folder on Caltrain every day to commute to work from his home in the Mission District. "If I have a business meeting in Palo Alto or Sunnyvale, I can take the bike to the meeting as well," he says. "I fold it up, and it sits right there in the office.

"I work with professional advisors, state planning attorneys, CPAs, and insurance people, and it's a great talking point with them," LaSonde says. "They think it's great a guy in a suit, commuting. Who could be against something like that?"

Folding bikes work well intermodally with cars too. Chris Eacock, who lives in Fresno and occasionally comes to San Francisco for the folding bike rides, says, "Every morning my wife and I get up, put the kids and the folder in the car, deliver the kids to school, then I take off on my bike and she drives the car to work. The folder eliminates the need for two cars."

Folding bikes are also a favorite with people who live on boats. "Lots of people who live in boats own folding bikes," says Kevin MacPhee, who lives on the Irish Rose at Pier 39. "You have transportation waiting for you anywhere there's a dock, and they take up little space, even on a small boat."

Some people use folding bikes more out of necessity than convenience. After a major accident in 1985, Geoffrey Herreman, a craftsman who commutes to San Francisco from Berkeley, says he had the option of using a folding bike or a cumbersome electric wheelchair. "There's certainly a lot more mobility with a folding bike." says Herreman. "I couldn't climb hills, and I certainly couldn't ride up to Tilden Park on a bike, but where it was flat or where I could get on public transportation, it was dandy."