Discussion:
Thinking outside the box -bicycles on trains
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Gretchen Schauss
2006-06-25 15:14:42 UTC
Permalink
To have trains carry bicycles would be a great encouragement and
incentive to new bicycle tourers. By making easy access to those less
experienced in putting and taking bikes apart, an easy mode of
transportation for bikes would encourage people to experiment with
touring.

When I think of ways to carry bikes, I think of the way cars carry bikes
or the way buses carry bikes. No boxes. Would it be difficult for
Amtrak to carry bikes on the outside of trains? What about devoting a
section of the bagage cart where bikes could hang from the ceiling or
maybe racks on the walls to hang bike one over the other. I don't know
enough about trains and baggage cars to know whether they are filled to
the brim or not.

I realize that boxes are not a bad alternative, but my bike wouldn't fit
into the Amtrak box until I took the handle bars off. Turning them
sideways wasn't enough. Also, I understand bikes get damaged in boxes
unless some of the packs are put in the box thus stopping the bike from
moving excessively in the box and causing damage. I like traveling by
train. It's very relaxing and it's often much easier to leave a train
station(smaller towns more options) on a bike then to leave an airport.

I also would like to point out that the most helpful people I have ever
run into in a government run or sponsored organization have been the
AMTRAK employees. The ones I have dealt with have been outstanding in
helping me get the bike on the train and off the train and into the box.
One even helped me put the handle bars back on the bike. Too bad
everyone you deal with can't be as friendly.
Gretchen Schauss
gschauss-***@public.gmane.org

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David A de Gruyl
2006-06-25 15:34:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gretchen Schauss
When I think of ways to carry bikes, I think of the way cars carry
bikes or the way buses carry bikes. No boxes. Would it be difficult
for Amtrak to carry bikes on the outside of trains?
This is impossible. There are only inches allowed between trains in the
current standard for track spacings. Above the train is out because of
catenary (electrical wires), and in front or behind would noticably
impact aerodynamics and power consumption. You would also only get a
couple of bikes out of this.

The best place is inside of each car, or a special car for bikes.
Post by Gretchen Schauss
What about devoting a section of the bagage cart where bikes could hang
from the ceiling or maybe racks on the walls to hang bike one over the
other. I don't know enough about trains and baggage cars to know
whether they are filled to the brim or not.
There are several bike cars in service, but most train lines do not use
these. My understanding is that the bike cars have hooks for the bikes,
and some passenger seating. This is for roll on service.

The more important impact of Amtrak changes in recent years is the
reduction in baggage service altogether. Many stations with baggage
service have only a couple of trains per day with a baggage car, and
most stations do not have any baggage service at all.

Many commuter railroads allow bikes on off peak trains (may require a
pass: Metro North requires a pass, NJ Transit does not). In fact, you
can get from Poughkeepsie, NY to Newark, DE by commuter rails and a mile
ride. As an example. You might be able to go further.

The inter-city rail system in America is slowly but surely being ripped
up an replaced by bike paths. Usually they are shut down for quite some
time when this happens, but the implication is that rail is not
important here. THis is a phenomenon that would never happen in europe,
where rail is expanding at the moment.
--
David de Gruyl <david-vARLAz+CiNcth55jYR/y9kB+***@public.gmane.org> New Brunswick, NJ
"I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five.
Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the
artifice of a derailleur? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a
fixed gear!" - Henri Desgrange, L'Equipe article of 1902
Jim Foreman
2006-06-25 16:35:54 UTC
Permalink
----- Original Message -----
From: "David A de Gruyl" <david-vARLAz+CiNcth55jYR/y9kB+***@public.gmane.org>
To: <touring-***@public.gmane.org>
Sent: Sunday, June 25, 2006 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: Thinking outside the box -bicycles on trains
Post by Gretchen Schauss
When I think of ways to carry bikes, I think of the way cars carry bikes
or the way buses carry bikes. No boxes. Would it be difficult for Amtrak
to carry bikes on the outside of trains? <<<<<
I certainly wouldn't want my bike carried on the outside of a train, or
even a bus for very many miles...
The best place is inside of each car, or a special car for bikes.<<<<
Not necessarily a special car for bikes but just using available space
in the existing cars would be the smart thing for them to do. The AMTRAK
trains I've been on have more than enough overhead space for the number of
passengers plus racks near the door which never seem to be used.
Post by Gretchen Schauss
What about devoting a section of the bagage cart where bikes could hang
from the ceiling or maybe racks on the walls to hang bike one over the
other. I don't know enough about trains and baggage cars to know whether
they are filled to the brim or not.
There are several bike cars in service, but most train lines do not use
these. My understanding is that the bike cars have hooks for the bikes,
and some passenger seating. This is for roll on service. <<<<<
One of the things we pushed for on the AMTRAK like that runs between
Oklahoma City and Fort Worth was roll on bike service. Just inside the door
in the middle of the double decker passenger car are two hooks on either
side where you hang your bike. The conductor will give you a hand to lift it
up and hang it by the front wheel. There is also a large vacant area next to
the door for six or eight electric mobility carts and wheelchairs. There are
hooks and straps for securing the electric carts so they can't move while
the train is in motion. They usually put tandems in that area along with any
bikes that won't fit the hanging racks.
Finally, the train has what looks like an engine at each end but one of
them is nothing but a control cab and open space where the engine would be
if it had one. They call this car a "Slug". It has side doors at platform
level and it's easy to roll a bike into the car and secure it to the side
(bring your own ropes or straps) of simply lay it on the sand bags they have
on the floor for weight to keep the light car from bouncing.
The more important impact of Amtrak changes in recent years is the
reduction in baggage service altogether. Many stations with baggage
service have only a couple of trains per day with a baggage car, and most
stations do not have any baggage service at all.<<<<<
Actually, the term you should use is "checked" baggage service. They
seem to think that the only way they can have checked baggage service is to
have people at the station to check your baggage for you. Since the trains
with a baggage car have someone on that car, what would be wrong with
letting the passenger check their luggage or claim it directly in the car.
I've seen people standing in the door of the baggage car while the train is
in the station but no way can you get them to accept or give you anything.
The inter-city rail system in America is slowly but surely being ripped up
an replaced by bike paths. Usually they are shut down for quite some time
when this happens, but the implication is that rail is not important here.
THis is a phenomenon that would never happen in europe, where rail is
expanding at the moment.<<<<
That's because most state Departments of Transportation think DOT stands
for Department of Trucks.
Jim Foreman
jimfore-***@public.gmane.org
http://www.JimForeman.com
Don Piven
2006-06-26 17:08:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jim Foreman
That's because most state Departments of Transportation think DOT
stands for Department of Trucks.
*wry grin* Except for here in Illinois, where it's Department of Tollways.
Charles Hansen
2006-06-25 17:00:42 UTC
Permalink
Gretchen -
Would it be difficult for Amtrak to carry bikes on the outside of trains?
Forget that - for many reasons, safety first among them.
What about devoting a
section of the bagage cart where bikes could hang from the ceiling or
maybe racks on the walls to hang bike one over the other.

How much have you actually taken Amtrak? I believe the minority of trains
have baggage cars, certainly here in the northeast. They are likely more
prevalent on the long-distance routes in the midwest and west. The issues
are the expense of maintaining and hauling an extra car that doesn't
generate revenue, plus also needing to have a baggage area and agent in
those stations that allow checked baggage - again limited even on those
routes with a baggage car.
I realize that boxes are not a bad alternative, but my bike wouldn't fit
into the Amtrak box until I took the handle bars off. Turning them
sideways wasn't enough. Also, I understand bikes get damaged in boxes
unless some of the packs are put in the box thus stopping the bike from
moving excessively in the box and causing damage.

Are you very tall? Otherwise, most bikes should fit in the Amtrak box with
the pedals off and the bars turned and twisted. There shouldn't be any
damage to a boxed bike on a train - airplanes, yes.
I like traveling by
train. It's very relaxing and it's often much easier to leave a train
station(smaller towns more options) on a bike then to leave an airport.

I like trains also, but it's becoming increasing difficult to travel on them
with bikes - unless you have a Bike Friday and suitcase trailer. I have the
former, but am not interested in touring with a trailer.

Charles
Peter Saint James
2006-06-28 21:31:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gretchen Schauss
I also would like to point out that the most helpful people I have ever
run into in a government run or sponsored organization have been the
AMTRAK employees. The ones I have dealt with have been outstanding in
helping me get the bike on the train and off the train and into the box.
One even helped me put the handle bars back on the bike. Too bad
everyone you deal with can't be as friendly.
My experience matches Gretchen's. It would seem that the best way
to make Amtrak a viable and successful service is to have the baggage
handlers, conductors, and other employees that actually make the
trains run manage it.


Peter

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