BART Removes Rush-Hour Bike Ban for Full Five Month Trial

SAN FRANCISCO—On Thursday night, BART Board of Directors voted to hold a five-month trial, allowing bicycles on trains during all hours of the day, and removing a key obstacle to regional travel by bike. The five month lift of the “bike blackout” will run July 1-December 1.

“Today’s BART decision is a momentous occasion. For years people on both sides of the Bay have had to contort their lives simply because they needed to take a bike on BART but couldn’t during commute times. We commend BART for taking the smart steps toward opening up regional travel by bike,” says Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which has worked alongside BART and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition for years to increase access for bicycles on BART.

“This common sense policy change will be a huge benefit for commuters. The rules, which vary by BART line and time, will now be more easily understood by everyone,” says Renee Rivera, Executive Director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, which has been working with the SF Bicycle Coalition to remove the bike blackout.

Thursday’s BART vote comes after two successful pilots: Fridays in August and a weeklong March pilot. After the most recent pilot in March, a survey of BART riders showed 77% in support of eliminating the bike blackout period.

Bikes on BART pilot in March

A commuter waits to board a BART train on their commute to work in the East Bay. (Click to download hi-res image)

Ending the bike blackout will dramatically lessen many peoples’ commute times, allowing them to spend more time with their families. Hundreds of people on both sides of the Bay sent in letters of support for lifting the ban, and spoke up at the Thursday night Board of Directors meeting.

“Currently, my total round trip travel time adds up to over 3 hours for a round trip that is only 13 miles each way! Sadly, that leaves me no time for my elderly mother. Instead of getting to her house late and suffering a very late return to SF, I resort to driving a car. Worse yet, many times I have to forego making the trip at all due to costs in time, money and discomfort,” said Bonnie Williamson, who commutes between San Francisco and Oakland.

“Lifting the ban would give me much greater options in travel hours and allow me to see my wife and son in the morning before rushing off to work or ending up having to drive, and it is a horrible commute by car even on the best of days. I love mornings I can take BART,” Bret Stastny, who commutes between San Francisco to San Ramon.

Women on BART

For many women, removing the bike blackout means a safer commute. (Click to download hi-res image)

“Because of the rush hour bike blackouts, I eventually broke down and bought a car to safely get to and from BART as a woman,” says Mira Luna, who commutes between San Francisco and Oakland. “This was after I was robbed walking home from BART at night after work. I am trying to transition back to a bike and BART lifestyle and lifting the blackouts will help immensely in getting women safely to and from the stations, as walking can be very dangerous at night in many parts of Oakland and some parts of San Francisco.”

“If the rush-hour limits were lifted from BART, I’d feel much safer biking to class at night, and it’d save me so much time going to and from the station. The trains have never felt overly crowded when I BART down the Peninsula at that hour, and I’m sure we will all play our part to make sure both riders and bikers feel safe and respected on BART,” said Tiffany Ng, who commutes from San Francisco to San Bruno.

BART is following the lead of other major cities in removing restrictions to integrating bikes and public transit. New York City, which has nearly 5 million transit trips per day, allows bikes on board its subway lines at all times.

When BART opened in 1972, bicycles were not permitted at all. A few years later, the rules were relaxed – but still required riders to carry a permit. In 1997, thanks to the advocacy of the San Francisco and East Bay Bicycle Coalitions, BART Board of Directors voted to end the permits. Removing the long-time rush-hour bike ban is the final restriction to bicycle access.

On Thursday, the BART Board of Directors voted to end the Rush-Hour prohibition for a five-month trial, but bicycles will still be prohibited in crowded cars, escalators and on the first three cars of the train. Bicycle parking will be available at many BART Stations for those riders who do not need their bicycle at the other end of the trip, and BART is continuing to modify cars to create more space for people with bicycles, strollers, and luggage – and improve access for people in wheelchairs.

About the San Francisco and East Bay Bicycle Coalitions’ Regional Transit Work

The San Francisco and East Bay Bicycle Coalitions have a long history of working for and achieving better bike access on regional transit. In the 1990’s, the nonprofits helped eliminate the BART bike permit that required you to buy a pass to bring your bike on board. To learn about the EBBC’s BART and transit accomplishments, visit ebbc.org/accomplishments. To learn more about the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s work opening up bikes on transit, vist sfbike.org/bart.

SF Bicycle Coailtion and East Bay Bicycle Coalition
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