Monday, February 24, 2014

Amtrak and Bicycles

I've recently come across a lot of discussions about multimodal bicycle travel via train, Amtrak mostly. I of course have had my own problems trying to use Amtrak on a more recent bike tour, but that's a story for another time.

One of the discussions that first came across my radar was a post by  Off The Beaten Path, A Winter Adventure . Most of the discussion about bikes and trains took place in the comments section. The gist of it was how limited or in some cases completely nonexistant bike access is on Amtrak.

AmTrak Train
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A post at describes an encounter on Amtrak's Texas Eagle, experienced by writer Ely Blue and publisher / filmmaker Joel Beil. For a full account click on the link. A brief summary of the story goes like this: They were traveling overnight on a sleeper car with their Brompton folding bicycles brought on board as carryon baggage. In the middle of the night they were awakened and berated for doing just that. After a heated discussion it was agreed that the attendant would put the Bromptons in the baggage car.

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For the record folding bikes are allowed as carryon baggage. It appears that it is not uncommon for Amtrak employees to be unaware of their policies regarding bikes. Blue states this inconsistancy as the reason they purchased the folding bikes. Most of Amtrak's trains don't allow bicycles accept for a limited number of trains on certain lines, which require the bike to be boxed and checked as baggage. posted a follow up;
Amtrak states that folding bicycles are always allowed onboard. They will be lauching a new program that hopefully willl allow all employees to keep up with the latest policies regarding bicycles. If this occurs the multimodal bike tourist won't be left at the mercy of each Amtrak employee they encounter.

Adventure Cyling Association is advocating for better service for bicyclist by joining Amtrak's new task force with other bike adovocacy groups. The focus is to expand bicycle service on Amtrak lines. For more info check out these links:

In the state of Connecticut there aren't any Amtrak trains that allow bikes to be checked as baggage or even to be shipped via train. The Shoreline East commuter train does allow bikes to be rolled on! Here is a copy of their policy: Bicycles are permitted on board SLE trains operating between New Haven and New London (including all intermediate stations) only. All bicycles must be stored in a safe and secure manner to allow emergency egress by passengers. The cyclist should remain in close proximity to the bicycle, and must obey instructions of the train crew.

I read this as bikes must be somehow secured at the end of the cars where there is more space and the bicyclist must sit in a near by seat because they don't want to be responsible for your bike. The Part about obeying train crew instructions  seems ambiguous to me and possible code for being denied access.

Since this post is getting long I'll sign off for now. Stay tuned for more to follow.

1 comment:

  1. I am very fortunate that in Seattle I can take the train to Portland and for an extra $5 (2013 prices anyways) my bike gets to ride in the baggage car on a bike hook not in a box, there are a limited number of bike slots so you have to be able to reserve to get you bike on, and you have to strip off any bike bags, but it has been very useful.