First person: Website intern learns the ups and downs of bicycles on BART in her first ride


First person: Website intern learns the ups and downs of bicycles on BART in her first ride

Xuan Lam
BART Intern Xuan Lam

By Xuan Lam
BART Website Intern

I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I thought it would be simple to take my new sleek road bike on BART for the first time, riding from my home station in Fremont to Berkeley. I was wrong.

Upon buying my ticket, I proceeded to walk toward the faregate. Calmly and coolly, I inserted my ticket as usual and attempted to shove my bike through the narrow, human-sized gate. I soon realized my predicament.

I tried pushing and pushing the bike through the gate to no avail. I was stuck and to make matters worse, the gate had closed on me. I could hear snickers from mean-spirited onlookers but didn’t dare to look up. I mumbled some expletives to myself when all of a sudden, a good Samaritan asked, “Need a little help?”

A BART bicyclist himself, the kind stranger pushed the gates apart until I was finally free. It turns out, bicyclists are supposed to use the large gates at the end of the row to get through. I smiled and thanked him for his sage advice. I should have read the BART bike rules first.

Face already heated from the initial embarrassment, I lifted my bike onto my shoulders and dashed up the stairs. “I can’t possibly mess this up,” I thought to myself.

I walked up the first flight of stairs when I suddenly noticed a clanking discomfort. I guess I hadn’t propped my bike properly on my shoulder, and the bottom half of my bike was forced to just drag on the stairs. It hurt my shoulder more than anything else.

When I finally reached the platform, I let out a sigh of relief. Surely, the worst was over now.

Since I was leaving from the Fremont station, the train was relatively empty. Feeling a dab of environmental-friendly arrogance, I sat down with my bike with a silly grin plastered on my face.

I soon realized what a pain it was to grapple and fight with my bike the entire trip. I realized what a pain I was to tired, working people just looking for a place to rest their aching feet in a jam-packed car at the end of the day.  

I watched the other bicyclists getting in and out of the BART cars; they had such an air of professional grace and ease, I couldn’t help but admire them. With their worn-in bikes that were almost as skinny as their jeans and their hip demeanor, they looked downright cool. They probably knew that many BART cars even have designated bike areas creating an open space, complete with decals in the shape of a bike that show you where to place your wheels.They made it look so easy, so simple. Why couldn’t I do that without huffing and puffing my way there?

Through the clanking and clashing, the "excuse me’s" and "sorry’s", the pushing and shoving, I discovered an invaluable lesson: Never underestimate the value of experience.

And in this situation, it was evident that I had none.

I also learned that there is no one single answer to the question of bikes on BART. It can be a good choice for individuals for a lot of reasons, from saving money by not using a car, to helping the environment, to staying healthy and fit.

There are hassles and there are restrictions, but I realized BART is only trying to accommodate the most possible riders and balance all the interests. (And folding bikes are always allowed.) You can read more on BART’s bike policies in the Bikes on BART section.

There are friendly and kind people among bicyclists and non-bicyclists – and rude people in both groups, too. If you want to get involved and have a voice in bike policy on BART, check out the BART bicycle task force.

I recently wrote about the opening of a new bike storage station at Downtown Berkeley BART – storing my bike at a valet station or in an electronic locker is an option I might consider next time!
 
Xuan Lam, BART Website Intern, will be a freshman at Smith College in the fall. You can contact her at xlam@bart.gov.