Commuting with a bicycle (and a train)

27Apr11

I commute to work by bike. Sometimes this commute is aided by the train and sometimes not. I must admit that I am still building my fitness back up after hibernating this winter… so at present I am cycling all the way home twice a week (23 miles one way) and other wise I am taking the train which cuts my cycling down to a more manageable  3.3 miles (one way). I do of course go both ways with bike in tow which means I often take the bike on the train.  I tell you this as I had a slightly different experience this week and it left me thinking about what the solution could be. I am generally lucky with my route and there are no more than two bikes that seem to take the same route at the same time. However, last (Easter) monday there was alot more bikes that needed to take the train…

Actually as I arrived at the station after finishing work (no Easter Monday for me), I arrived on the platform to see about 20 boys with bmxs waiting on the train. Then as the time for departure closed in… another girl on a bike appeared. Now I know this route and know where the door opens, so placed myself near the spot… but the bmx boys soon caught on and when the train arrived we all tried to get on only to find there were already two other bikes on the train. I knew before the train arrived it was going to be a problem and clearly it was, as the station guys made sure none of us got on the train. Disaster I thought as I spoke to some of the boys and they were all set on staying and trying to get on the next train, and the one after that if need be! Then I spoke to the girl (who was a doctor heading to work) and then the two of us spoke to the station guys to see what they would advise doing, considering it seemed exactly the same thing was going to happen in an hour…

This was when their tone changed and they ended up being very helpful. Considering that the other girl had to get to work at a hospital and I had an evening course to get to (not quite as important in the scheme of life, but important to me) they offered that we could store our bikes in a secure place in the station and paid for a taxi for the two of us in order to get us to our appointments on time! Amazing. I was genuinely astounded. The two station guys were genuinely sorry and incredibly helpful, although it clearly was not their fault and it just happened to be a bad set of circumstances leading to this particularly busy train (or many trains).

Now in fact Scotrail do seem to be increasing their support of cycling generally – I have just discovered their cycle rescue service which sounds great and they do have different policies depending on your location.  I also read this week that Scotrail will be providing 100 new bike rack spaces at their train stations and I really think this is great news.

However, it did make me question if it solves the problem completely… As if the current aim of many organisations is to increase travelling by bike and often that means swapping a car for a bike, then it could mean that you have to swap and integrate other forms of public transport to complete your journey.  It’s unlikely that everyone lives or works right next to the train station – so there will be a need to commute each side . Therefore, I can only think that in fact what will be needed long term is more spaces for bikes on the actual trains. (or more options to book bikes onto trains regularly – not easily possible at present if you have a monthly travel card). This is easier said than done and I realise that it would be considerably more expensive to complete and cut seat spaces etc. But if only whoever out there that may be designing trains or ticket systems in the future is interested in encouraging more people (long term) to travel by bike, we can only hope they will think of designing more clever or space saving ways of storing biclycles on trains and therefore allowing for more bikes on the trains.

Well thats a few thoughts for tonight and below is a wee snapshot of the lovely views I get when I cycle all the way home… which is equally appealing if only the weather would stay like this.

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