Help make Amtrak friendly for travelers with bicycles. Please sign the petition.
Dear Amtrak: Cyclists like us want to help you be successful — if you’d only let us!
For several years, the Virginia Bicycling Federation has been asking Amtrak to make it easier to take our bikes on their trains. We think its a win for Amtrak by increasing ridership, and a win for cyclists who would like to carry their bikes to destinations for touring, recreation, or making the final connection on their trips, excursions and vacations.
As things stand now, if a person wants to carry their bike on a train in Virginia, they must disassemble the bike and box it — a hassle at best, but a deal breaker for someone who isn’t handy with a wrench. For someone not mechanically inclined, they would need to take a trip to a bike shop to break their bike down and box it — which, of course, precludes riding your bike to the train station — and do the same at their destination. A deal breaker for all but the most dedicated.
You then must pay a special handling fee to Amtrak to transport the bike.
Multiply all this by two for the return trip home.
I think most would agree this is a hassle.
We’ve asked Amtrak to reconsider their policy and carry unboxed bikes — heaven forbid — but have been told they would need need new, high-tech baggage cars make this difficult situation work.
According to Jay McArthur, Amtrak’s Principal Officer for Policy and Development:
Roll-on/roll-off bicycle carriage is not possible at this time on our Crescent and Silver Service routes which run through Virginia to and from New Orleans and Florida. This service is provided on a small number of Amtrak services, primarily those where states have provided short-distance equipment that features low-level boarding and bicycle racks in cars that are accessible to passengers. The equipment on these trains does not feature low-level boarding nor is there space for bicycles without taking away space already used for coach seats or racks for other passengers’ carry-on bags. There is a baggage car, but the doors and floor of that car are three-to-four feet above platform level, the car is not accessible to passengers, and the car does not have bicycle racks
Fast forward to 1955.
(Go to 1:30 in the video for the innovative BTF bike storage solution.)
Adventure Cycling forwarded a link to an old British Rail Board video I had seen a while ago. Funny how British Rail solved this difficult problem 56 years ago. What did these geniuses do to solve such a dilemma as carrying unboxed bikes? As they tell us in their video, they put hooks in the baggage car:
“A properly equipped touring cycle can be quite a bit of expensive machinery… and the owner of such a machine is inclined to be fussy about how it is carried. So what do the railways do? They hang it on a rubber covered hook… Because after careful investigation the Cycle Touring Commission of the International Touring Alliance decided this was the way to carry cycles by train.
Why, we ask, doesn’t Amtrak take a lesson from our British brethren in the fifties and make it easy to carry bikes on trains? Perhaps they would find, as in the BTF film, that their trains would be filled with happy, Sunday morning cyclists, enjoying a cup of tea and weekend excursion on Amtrak!