The US transit world has slowly been waking up to the idea that the bicycle is the best solution to the last-mile problem—that is, the problem of how you get your patrons from the transit stop to where they’re going, if you don’t want to lay railroad tracks every half mile across the city.
It turns out that bikes and rail transit create a perfect synergy, with trains vastly extending a cyclist’s range, and bicycles connecting transit users to destinations—be they home, work, shopping, or pleasure—well beyond the reach of the average unassisted pedestrian.
Of course we mean beyond the range most people are willing walk; of course it is really quite easy even for relatively unfit persons to walk several miles in a day. But it is far, far easier to glide along on a bicycle: cycling uses one-third the calories per mile that walking does, yet takes you along four times as fast, while creating no greenhouse gases. And bikes are easy to park and cheap to obtain.
Of course countries such as Holland and Japan had this figured out long ago. Here in the US it has taken longer. Indeed, many transit systems have not allowed bikes on trains until recently, and the Bay Area’s BART still doesn’t let you board with non-folding bikes at certain stations at certain times of day, depending on which way the train is going. (Yes, it’s that complicated and ridiculous!)
In the early days of Metro’s trains here in La La Land, you had to buy a six-dollar yearly permit to bring your bike on a train, and then you couldn’t do it at rush hour.
This made Metro less useful, for in a sprawling city such as ours, many places people need to go are far from a train station or bus stop. If Tokyo realizes it needs bikes to supplement its extensive transit system, then we need it much more here.
Well, eventually, Metro figured it out….
First, they allowed bikes on the Red and Purple line subway trains at any time.
Then they allowed them on the light rail trains of the Blue, Green, and Gold lines (and now the Expo line, of course).
Then they really went a step ahead: noting that there were oftentimes six or more bikes on each train car, they realized that, duh, cyclists are a big part of their customer base!
So they took out some seats to make room for more bikes—as well as wheelchairs, strollers, large luggage, and bulky packages.
This makes the trains attractive and useful to far more people…and as a result, far more people are using them.
And so more people are using bikes as well, thanks to Metro.