Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bikes On MUNI: Myths Debunked

    The SFMTA is considering a pilot program where non-folding bicycles would be allowed on all MUNI Metro trains during off-peak hours. There has been misleading information put out there by certain people/groups about why this plan would work. I would like to debunk a few myths perpetuated by the bicycle elitists here in San Francisco.

Myth #1:  via SFBikeCoalition - "Only 2 of 20 US cities with light rail service currently do not allow bikes on any routes, including San Francisco's Muni."  photo courtesy of Flickr
    Phoenix's LRV's are designed with open floor-plans to accommodate bicycles, MUNI's are NOT!
  • The only reason we're one of two light-rail systems in the country to not provide bicycle access aboard light-rail trains is because these systems were designed before a time when 3-car trains seemed necessary.  If the MUNI Metro system had been designed more recently all the stations would accommodate 3-car trains.
  • and, from a Streetsblog article about folding bikes being allowed on MUNI, "Front racks installed on Muni buses have allowed them to carry bicycles for a number of years, but the Breda light-rail vehicles currently used by Muni are poorly designed for the task.
Myth #2: "BART, Caltrain, and most urban transit systems allow bikes at all times"

BART, or DC's Metro, are designed for bike use, MUNI LRV's are much less spacious.
  • Folded or full-size bikes aside, comparing the capacity of a light-rail system, with that of a regional rail system or urban subway system (each running 6-10-car trains, compared to 2-3-car trains on light rail systems) is purely disingenuous and downright misleading.
Myth #3:  "The MUNI trains can handle bikes easily during off-peak hours" 

  • MTA spokesperson Paul Rose, who actually favors a study to see if these practices would be feasible, admitted in an SF Chronicle article, "[T]he idea is being studied but could prove problematic, given that the trains are often crowded before and after the morning and evening commutes.
    In closing, even those who wish that bikes on MUNI could be feasible, reluctantly admit that this is just not an option.  As an avid commuter bicyclist in San Francisco I would love to throw my bike on the J-Church from Balboa and hop off at Dolores Park and continue my commute from there, but this is just not a practical approach when you consider the Breda trains' limitations.
    Instead of fighting for a lost cause (which would involve replacing every LRV with trains designed with open floor-plans) let's encourage MUNI to study 3-car trains during peak periods. We could also lobby them to consider operating streetcars during rush-hour periods on the N-Judah and M-Ocean View lines, which we be dedicated solely for bicyclists and their bikes.
    There are alternate solutions to this problem other than taking an 'all-or-nothing' approach or abusing factual data to solidify your own political ideologies.  Take away the bike, and now you're just a Jehovas Witness with butt callouses.

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