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Should BART drop ban on bicyclists using escalators?

By dcuff
Friday, May 13th, 2011 at 8:45 am in BART.

Two BART board members used Bike to Work Day Thursday as the opportunity to  call for the rapid transit system to drop its ban on bicyclists using escalators to reach train station platforms. Robert Raburn and Tom Radulovich rejected BART’s contention that the restriction is necessary for safety and crowding reasons.

Radulovich suggested the opposite may be the case for safety: forcing cyclists to carry their bikes up stairs creates a risk that the two-wheelers will be dropped and hit other passengers.

Raburn, the former East Bay Bicycle Coalition executive director, made the proposal Thursday during a portion of the meeting reserved for board members’ comments on items not on the agenda. That means the subject cannot be discussed in detail or voted upon.

“We’ve come a long way,” Raburn said, holding up an old green-colored bike permit that was required until 1998 for bicyclists to take their two-wheelers on BART.

Radulovich said cyclists can avoid crowding problems if they wait for the rush of escalator traffic to clear out after passengers unload from a train all at once.

Not everyone was as bullish about easing bike restrictions.

Antonette Bryant, president of the union for BART station agents and train operators, said bicyclists behaved better and followed the rules more regularly when the old bike permit system was in place.

“I loved the permit,” she said. “Everyone who had the permit followed the rules.” She recalled seeing collisions between cyclists and others at crowded stations.

Byrant recalled a time years ago when a cyclist bumped into and left grease on a silk suit worn by a female passenger.  “I was horrified for her and she was beyond horrified,” Bryant said. “Maybe, you can do something about that.” 

Dave Campbell, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition’s program manager, said he  is glad to hear BART is thinking of dropping a bad rule. 

Campbell said BART did its own study on the safety issue years ago and concluded that escalators and stairs were equally safe for cyclists to use in BART stations. Despite that, the escalator ban has stayed in place for cyclists, he noted.

BART officials say they want to encourage people to bike to BART stations because it can increase train ridership without adding expensive parking lots, and it reduces pollution and traffic congestion.

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