Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the verge of victory for restored bicycle access on NJ TRANSIT trains

... again with a bike?
If you been reading the papers lately you may have caught these two stories (Star-Ledger, Bergen Record) about the NJ TRANSIT board considering restoring complete station access for bicyclists on NJ TRANSIT trains.  We at WalkBikeJersey are very proud of this pending victory as we broke the story in late August of 2011, first testified before the NJ TRANSIT Board in September about the issue and started the petition that asked Commissioner Simpson to reverse this policy.

However we couldn't have done it without you!  Over 300 cyclists from all over New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and even beyond signed our petition which made Commissioner Simpson take notice.

Thank You!

Overall we are very happy with the results of the Bicycle Policy Subcommittee meeting and the recommendations they came up.  But the recommendations include one provision that is of concern. We suggest that NJ TRANSIT table the idea of a new bike permit and take time to explore other options. The restoration of bike permits (abolished by NJ TRANSIT in 2000) could hamper bike access for infrequent users of the rail system, such as tourists and casual riders. Imagine for example a cyclist who suffers a mechanical problem and attempts to get back home via the train and is denied boarding because they did not have a permit. We support the spirit of the permit's intention to enlighten cyclists on the rules for bike access. But this could be accomplished more easily by posting the rules at stations and onboard the trains themselves.

We at WBJ would like to thank Jerry Foster of the West Windsor Bike Ped Alliance and Charles Brown of the Voorhees Transportation Center who were both very familiar with our concerns and attended the Bicycle Policy Subcommittee meeting.  We were very happy to hear that they attended.  Also we like to thank Neile Weissman of the New York Cycle Club (NYCC) for making the Bicycle Policy Subcommittee meeting and testifying before the NJ TRANSIT Board back in February.  The role of the NYCC can not be underestimated.  Not only did they revive or petition after it ran out of New Jersey steam by adding dozens of new signatories but they showed the importance of NJ TRANSIT and cycling to New Jersey tourism.

Most of all we would like to thank Commission Simpson and the NJ TRANSIT Board for keeping an open mind on this issue.  We at WBJ look forward to continuing to help NJ TRANSIT and NJDOT to make bicycle access and cycling in New Jersey the best in the nation.  The potential is there!

Below is the list of recommendations by the NJ TRANSIT Bicycle Policy Subcommittee.  If you will notice they go beyond simple restoration of bicycle access.  It's a great start!
  1. The Subcommittee understands the rationale for continuing the current bicycle boarding prohibition on peak-period trains.
  2. Bicycles and Segways should be treated separately in the policy due the much heavier weight of the Segway.
  3. The boarding and detraining of bicycles should be permissible at all stations, including low-level platform stations at off-peak times.
  4. Conductors should be given discretion to allow bicycles to be moved through train cars based on individual situations and conditions.
  5. Improve signage and use larger stickers on train doors and in the areas reserved for bicycles on trains.
  6. Work with TMAs to better inform cyclists about bicycle boarding rules and procedures.
  7. Issue lifetime Bicycle boarding passes that list NJT boarding rules and provide opportunity to better communicate with cyclists who use trains. (A small processing fee may be assessed.) 
  8. Increase use of bicycle storage on multi-level trains to practical capacity available rather than limiting to two bicycles, as is the current policy.
  9. Bicycle hooks for vertical storage should be included in future train equipment procurements when possible and without reducing train seating capacity. 

Finally, please come down to Newark on Monday, June 11th at 9am to the NJ TRANSIT Headquarters to show your support for these recommendations (save #7) and the thank the Commissioner and the NJ TRANSIT Board.  We'll keep you updated!

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