TRAFFIC FREE. HANDS FREE. STRESS FREE.

Home         Tickets         Train Status         Route and Schedules         Stations         Connections         Special Offers         On Board

SPOKE 'N WORD

Rider Tip: Taking Your Bike on the Train for the First Time

Date May 5, 2015

Now that Bike Month is here, you might be considering taking your bicycle on the train. After all, bikes and trains are a match made in heaven, right? You’re probably thinking, “Whoever said that obviously takes their bike on the train all the time.” It’s true that bikes and trains are a great combo,  but when you’re trying it for the very first time (or even the first few times!), it can be a little intimidating – we get it. Take it from a non-bike riding Capitol Corridor employee who tried it for the first time just a few weeks ago. It was a great experience, but like anything new, it’s a little hard at first and takes some time getting used to. Here are her tips for newbies who want to experience the fun of taking their two-wheeler on the train:

  • Prepare in advance: Prepare a day or two before to make sure your bike is ready to go – pump up the tires (because if you don’t ride very much, chances are they’re flat), find your helmet (it’s probably buried somewhere in your closet or garage), and make sure you have a bike lock, and preferably a U-lock . . . oh, and make sure you can find the key to the lock. If you’re driving to the station with your bike, load it onto or into your car the night before. Fumbling with a bike rack is the last thing you need to deal with as you’re rushing to get out the door!
  • Give yourself extra time: On the day of your bike/train trip, give yourself a few extra minutes so you can get the bike out of your car, walk it to the platform, and buy your ticket. So you don’t have to leave your bike on the platform or lug it into the station when you buy your ticket, it’s an even better idea to purchase your ticket online in advance.
  • Get into Position: While you’re waiting for the train, ask someone at the station (staff, other passengers with bikes) if they know where the “bike cars” will be when the train pulls into the station and try to stand in that area. Generally on Capitol Corridor trains, there are two bike cars indicated with bike decals; one is positioned directly opposite the locomotive, which could be at the front or back of the train depending on which direction the train is going, and the other is in the second position away from the locomotive. If in doubt, just follow the other people with bikes, stand in a central location, or ask the conductor when the train arrives.
  • Lock your bike in the storage rack: Ok, here’s the hardest part, but once you get a system down, it’s a piece of cake. When you board the train, the bike storage area will be right there on the lower level. It’s big and holds about a dozen bikes. Follow these steps:
    • Stand behind your bike, straddling the back tire, and pull the handlebars up to stand the bike vertically. Some bikes, like mountain bikes, are heavy, so don’t be afraid to ask for help with this part. Everyone on the Capitol Corridor is very friendly and willing to assist!
    • Guide the front wheel onto the hook on the wall. You may have to lift the bike up a few inches above the hook. For a more secure fastening, lower the black stabilization bar next to the front wheel and wrap the Velcro strap around the forks. If there is no Velcro strap on the stabilizing bar, a bungee cord will also work.
    • We strongly recommend that you also lock your bicycle through the stabilization bar by running your U-lock or cable lock through the front wheel of your bike and the . While it doesn’t happen often, bikes can be and have been stolen from the train, especially when the bicycle owner is sitting in the upper level.
  • Leave extra time for getting off: Even though you’re probably enjoying your train ride and would rather not think about getting off, you might want to get down to the bike storage area a little earlier than you normally would to make sure you get your bicycle unlocked and off the rack. Once you get the hang of the system, you’ll probably be able to do this pretty quickly, but the first couple of times could be tricky and you don’t want to miss your stop.

Capitol Corridor Celebrates Bike to Work Day at The Capitol Bikefest on May 8

Date May 14, 2014

 

Bikes, bikes, and more bikes at the annual Bikesfest in Sacramento on May 8, 2014.

Bikes, bikes, and more bikes!

Thursday, May 8, was Bike to Work Day, and Capitol Corridor hosted a booth at downtown Sacramento’s annual Bike to Work Day celebration, the Capitol Bikefest. It was a blustery-but-just-warm-enough spring day, and as a result, it seemed like turnout was even greater than last year.

Capitol Corridor came prepared for the crowds and succeeded in giving away every last piece of schwag that staff had transported to the event from Oakland via train and then cargo bike (of course!) People walked away with pens, train schedules, mini notepads, and those convenient coin purses that are ideal for bicyclists who need a place to stash a little money and their ID during a ride. The staff traveling back to Oakland thankfully had a light load for the return trip!

 

All of our materials were transported to Sacramento by train and bike!

All of our materials were transported to Sacramento by train and cargo bike.

 

We had lots of giveaways to share with visitors to the Capitol Corridor table!

We had lots of giveaways to share with visitors to the Capitol Corridor table!

One of the best things about events like Bikefest is that it’s an opportunity to step away from the office and talk to passengers, many of whom use the service every day. It’s always nice to hear from our riders, and at Bikefest we enjoyed answering questions and receiving valuable input.

As in past years, bicyclists who had been logging their miles into the May is Bike Month website, received a congratulatory t-shirt and were entered into a raffle to win one of several great prizes, including new bicycles, transit passes from Sacramento Regional Transit, and the best of all, four tickets to an Oakland A’s game and four round-trip train tickets to get there on Capitol Corridor! Gee, wonder who contributed that prize? Congratulations to the winner of that fine prize, Maria Baggett of Rancho Cordova, pictured below.

Maria Baggett of Rancho Cordova won 4 A's tickets and 4 round-trip tickets for travel to the game on Capitol Corridor.

Maria Baggett of Rancho Cordova won 4 A’s tickets and 4 round-trip tickets for travel to the game on Capitol Corridor.

And yours truly finally won something – a monthly pass for Sacramento RT – but I turned it in for someone else to win since I work in downtown Oakland and therefore don’t have reason to use Sacramento RT on a regular basis. I actually ride my folding bicycle to the Sacramento Valley or Davis station and then hop on the Capitol Corridor to Jack London Square.

Jim on bike with Cappy

Here I am on my cargo bike, which held all of the materials we needed for Bikefest. Who needs a car when you’ve got Capitol Corridor and your bicycle?

If you’re in the Sacramento area next year for this annual event, it’s well worth attending and also signing up in advance with the May is Bike Month website for a chance to win something nice. Visiting the various vendor tables, you can learn about bicycling opportunities in the area and get helpful tips on bicycle safety and maintenance. Capitol Corridor will almost always be there, so you can stop by our booth to say hello, pick up a schedule, and get some free goodies!

– Jim Allison, Capitol Corridor

 

Gear Up for Bike Month in May

Date April 29, 2014

 

Bikes at Davis station

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist, or just thinking about giving this healthy, zero-emission commute option a try, you’ll want to get yourself and your two-wheeler ready for Bike Month – May 1 through May 31, 2014.

During Bike Month, which grew out of the very popular Bike to Work Day, there are activities planned throughout Northern California where you can get tips on using a bicycle to get around, join organized rides, find deals on new bikes and equipment, or learn the basics about riding safely and maintaining a bicycle.

Thursday, May 8, is the 20th anniversary of Bike to Work Day . . . so there’s even more reason to celebrate! Following are  links to some of the major Bike to Work Day and Bike Month activities:

Sacramento Area: http://www.mayisbikemonth.com

San Francisco Bay Area: http://www.youcanbikethere.com  

–          San Francisco Bike Coalition: https://www.sfbike.org/bike-to-work-day

–          East Bay Bike Coalition: https://www.ebbc.org/btwd

Silicon Valley: http://bikesiliconvalley.org/btwd  

TAKING YOUR BIKE ON CAPITOL CORRIDOR

Bicyclists and their bikes are welcome aboard all Capitol Corridor trains. Remember, May will likely see an increase in bicycles on board, so be sure to pay particular attention to our helpful tips and guidelines for storing your bicycle on the train.

You may also notice that some Capitol Corridor trains will have more bike storage to accommodate the greater demand. Capitol Corridor has taken first steps towards rolling out its Bicycle Access Plan, with the goal of nearly doubling the bike storage capacity of each train. Eventually, the plan is for all trains to consistently have this extra storage. In the meantime, we’ll be doing our best to increase storage on the busiest trains whenever possible. We look forward to seeing you on board!

Mind the Gap – October 9, 2013

Date October 9, 2013

Mind the gap – as in, the gap in this blog being updated. There were a number of changes and “busy”-ness at the Capitol Corridor JPA that made either myself excessively booked to the point that I could not get around to the bike blog and there were some folks who moved on from CCJPA and those were my folks who used to publish this blog. Then summer hit with riding and being personally busy, moving from one house to another in Sacramento. My commute basically remains the same but I shorten it by about 2.5 miles – and I am okay with that.

What has been going on? On a personal note – bike-wise – I completed my fastest double century – the Mt. Tam Double along with the many climbs it had – and then I took a riding break to allow the weekends be used for a variety of moving duties but most recently just finished my fifth Levi’s Gran Fondo (and the weather was beyond perfectly stunning). Both those efforts have left me zapped and I guess it is the off season but the fall riding weather does beckon (but I still have many moving-in duties to pursue so not really so much riding – make a sad face). On the work side (which blurs sometimes with life overall) here is what is going on:

Visit to Capitol Bikeshare in Washington D.C.

I had to be out for meetings with Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). I was fortunate to spend time at my best friend’s house who lives with his family in Washington D.C. and that house is located close to the Potomac/Canal bike trail so I used my Brompton bike (took it on the plane ride over) to get around when going to/from meetings in DC.

And one of the meetings I scheduled after I had some hours off was to meet with Eric Gilliland, Director, Capital Bikeshare, who works for Alta Bicycle Share, Inc. Their site is tucked away in a corner of Washington D.C. near Nationals Stadium. At this site they do all their bicycle and dock repair and management of the system, including monitoring and dispatching. Eric was a gracious, laid-back, but calmly energetic host and what I got from that exchange was that I was probably talking to one of the two or three most knowledgeable English-speaking bikeshare operators in the world. You might think that being in business for three years supporting the Washington D.C. area system would not qualify you as an expert simply on the years alone but when you look at these modern bikeshare systems (aka the ones that use modern technology – not the first generation Dutch systems where many regular bikes ended up in canals), three years makes you an expert. In fact, the dedicated staff who support the DC system are regularly picked off and sent to be the new Director where Alta Bicycle Share wins a new system contract. The pilot operator for the San Francisco bikeshare pilot which just recently launched is run by Alta Bicycle Share and the Director is a “graduate” of the DC system. So among other things, the DC system is a finishing school for this new sort of transit system and that is how Eric views the operation – he is a transit operator. I questioned him about the various ways he works with the communities that participate in the DC system seeking to gain insight in how to replicate institutional and inter-personal success in the Sacramento and Bay Area. More than anything, he indicated it was all about the collaborative atmosphere between Alta and the cities that are part of the system. The cities all work well together as well, but he also acknowledged that the success of the system makes getting along easier. Again and again, he was essentially stating that the spirit of cooperation and goals that are larger than just that of the jurisdiction seem to carry the process forward.

Working in the Bay Area and Sacramento I would have to say that cooperation might be harder to achieve than anything for expanding bicycle sharing cohesively and comprehensively along the Capitol Corridor route. I don’t have enough digits on my toes and hands to account for the number of cities and transit operators who might be engaged on a mega-regional bikeshare system and can they all interact according to the Golden Rule that seems to work in Washington D.C.? As I write this, Washington D.C. is shut down for other reasons, but as we all know that does not change the mobility needs of locals and tourists. As I made my way around Washington D.C. on my folding bicycle, it was encouraging to see all the different types of users (commuters, tourists) of the bikeshare system and also to see how Union Station with the many Amtrak and Metro users was being well matched with the Capitol Bikeshare system.

Shared Use Mobility Summit

On October 10 and 11, 2013 the Capitol Corridor JPA is sponsoring–and I am attending–the Shared Use and Mobility Summit (www.sharedusesummit.org), which was largely launched via UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center with the driving force being Dr. Susan Shaheen. Dr. Shaheen is a world-renowned expert in the various sharing of mobility options and I came to know her in seeking out advice and expertise in examining bicycle sharing for the Sacramento and Bay Area. We are excited to be a sponsor of the program and I look forward to exploring how to best approach, mostly from an institutional aspect, sharing first/last mile mobility as it directly relates to access to/from the Capitol Corridor service. It is remarkable how fast shared mobility options are being integrated into people’s lives. There are numerous stories about how “millennials” are opting more often for other modes of travel than the private automobile or when they do need a car, they share. All of these aspects make learning how to align Capitol Corridor service with shared use mobility options a key part of our access strategies moving forward.

BIKING AND THE U.K.

Date June 19, 2013

Intercity Bicycle Route

 I have to say I got used to riding on the left side of the road but never quite got the hang of all those roundabouts. I had 250 miles to perfect the art of riding on the left side of the road in an organized ride from Manchester to London in 24 hours. The ride was organized into six segments and at each rest stop they would venture out and flag the next part of the course with markers. The shortest distance between stops (33 miles) turned out to be the most difficult because it was done at night and the longest section (48 miles) was probably my favorite due to the fact that it had some fun punchy climbs and the sense that you were really getting near London – where all roads lead. I was the only non-UK person doing the ride so I managed to make friends with a person I met at Euston Station, who like me, was heading up to Manchester on the train (Virgin Pendalino) to do this ride. We were compatible riding partners too and finished together in London at 7:50 AM. I will always regret not dismounting my bicycle and taking an early morning picture as we rode along the Union Jack lined boulevard leading to Buckingham Palace. I can’t help but be a proud creator of the Strava capture picture of the route. I had a lot of fun creating it!

 strava

Bicycles and Trains in the UK

The entire reason I went to the UK in the first place was that I was speaking at an annual wireless on trains conference (and another speaking engagement at the Global Wi-Fi Congress) and so I threw in some meetings with both Brompton Dock and several people involved in bicycle related issues at Transport for London (TfL) on the days ahead of the conferences but after the Manchester-London ride.

 Monday I met with Brompton Dock representatives. We discussed the various stages in moving ahead, including procurement and then the role of both CCJPA and the winning vendor for the service. Interestingly, we mutually discovered that in their UK situations (usually at train stations) Brompton Dock was not integrated into the marketing materials of the station or on the train due to the fact that those spaces all are made available for external ad revenue and not something related to a train associated amenity. Obviously the Brompton Dock representatives were happy to learn that a more integrated promotional message would be possible in our train service situation. The good news is that very soon I can start the administrative process to acquire both electronic lockers and also the concept of “folding cycle hire” which in US-English usage terms will be folding bicycle rental.

Also that day we took some time to see the Ealing Brompton Dock in place (50% of the bikes were being used). Some pictures from that are below. The first is a closer picture of the dock situated in a covered bicycle parking area set up in Ealing (a semi-attached suburb of London) and the next is one showing the covered bicycle parking area in the context of the Ealing Tube Station where you can just make out the Tube signage. The bicycles are a great amenity for freely traveling around doing the first/last mile thing for crowded transit systems and I hope that something like this will meet the needs of travelers in select locations for the Capitol Corridor.

bicycle lockers covered_bike_parking

On the Tuesday I met with representatives from TfL. Over lunch I met with Hannah White to discuss the larger TfL response to bicycle planning. Like many places that are undergoing a bicycle revolution (in this case strongly supported by Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor), there are innovative strategies and real funding behind transforming London even further towards a bicycle friendly urban giant. Over the years visiting the UK for this conference, I have noticed the not so subtle transformation. The most fascinating portion of our discussion from my perspective was where and how detailed, how directed, TfL was with all matters related to bicycling. Ms. White had just moved to a position that would focus on bicycle and truck safety in London. From my usual vantage point, that is a very directed area and says so much about the level of resources being directed at bicycling solutions overall for London.

 Later that afternoon I met with Elena Rhys who works in TfL’s operations administration of the “Cycle Hire” program; in other words London’s Bikeshare System (the Barclay’s Bicycles). I was able to grill her extensively about how they run their system, how they grow their system, what issues are encountered day to day, and then I was trying to apply it to the situations we find in the Bay Area and Sacramento. The perspective was very helpful and I will have to bring back my findings into the discussions we are having with various regional partners along the Capitol Corridor route for bicycle sharing.

All in all, a great professional opportunity for both those days related to bicycling and its integration with Capitol Corridor service. Unlike last year, the shock and surprise about the extent of “biking things” in general in London had worn off and I had some time to practically understand that London is just, well, different. Truly, it still remains at an entirely different scale than much of anything we might find in the United States (New York City excepted, and maybe Chicago) but the lessons are observations of how to organize to get the business of supporting bicycling done was fantastic.

Lastly a shout out to my long-distance riding event partner and UK host, Jim Baker. He was a great host in the Dover-Canterbury farm part of the world for my stay. We also work closely on wireless internet on trains but sharing the passion for bicycling is a great mutual recreational pursuit. Beyond that long Manchester-London ride (he was signed up but an opportunity to do a 50 mile with his son intervened), we were able to take two rides of the countryside. It was a great trip and the foundation of his hospitality truly helped make the days full and eventful. Tally ho until, perhaps, next year UK.

 

THE LAST BIT OF BIKE MONTH – BUT WHY STOP?

Date May 29, 2013

THE LAST BIT OF BIKE MONTH – BUT WHY STOP?

It has been a whole lot of bicycle for yours truly this month. Bike events, social gatherings around bicycles, and long bicycle rides have all featured highly in my activities.  One of my big accomplishments was completing the Davis Double Century (in fact I’m still a bit sore!). The weather was perfect – great temperature range with little bonuses throughout the day like heading back down the Capay Valley with a tailwind. It made me feel like I was on mile 40 instead of mile 160. Two weeks before the Davis DC, I rode back from San Francisco to Sacramento (to see the route see http://centralcaliforniacycling.com/SF2Sac_Map.html) on my Brompton in preparation for the longest ride I have ever attempted (this June 8-9 I’ll be riding from Manchester to London).  I thought I might take the Brompton on that journey for the convenience of packing for an overseas flight but, while the Brompton was actually really comfortable for that distance, it was a bit slow on those 16” wheels and Schwalbe Marathon tires.  After that ride, I decided to opt for the road bike – the same one I rode on the Davis DC. I think I will need the overall faster speed of the road bike to keep up with the ride event since it has to be completed within 24 hours.

Living in the era of airline fees, I was concerned about whether the airline (Virgin Atlantic) would charge and arm and a leg for my bicycle to be transported across the pond.  Much to my surprise, Virgin Atlantic is pretty darn supporting of people supplementing their travels with a bicycle (check out their page on the subject: http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/us/en/travel-information/baggage/sports-equipment.html). They even complete their section on their policy with “Happy Riding!” This seems like a good goal for those services that want to be inclusive traveling with a bicycle. As you may know from our past history, Capitol Corridor hasn’t always been quite that bike friendly, but we are trying! I know our team is motivated to improve access for all of our riders, including bicyclists, since we would like to be able to wish our bicycle-toting passengers “Happy Riding!” as part of their train/bike journey aboard the Capitol Corridor. 

BIKESHARING AND THE BALKANS

The Bay Area, famous for 27 transit systems (by some accounts) has been called the Balkans of transit systems. In almost no other location around the United States or probably in the world, are there so many transit systems operating independently of each other. So what does this have to do with bikesharing? Well, for starters it makes a comprehensive and cohesive bike share program pretty hard to implement.  But there is a pilot program poised to be launch in Peninsula communities of San Francisco, Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose- you can check it out here.  Bikesharing is a concept that is heating up in Bay Area communities all along our route; Sacramento and Davis are in the middle of a bikeshare feasibility study which CCJPA helped fund. Right now there is great opportunity to try to unify a Bay Area or even a Northern California bikeshare system, so that people of Northern California can achieve the mobility and last mile benefit bikesharing may offer- especially combined with transit systems like BART, Caltrain, or Capitol Corridor.

IT IS SPRING SO MAY MUST BE BIKE MONTH

Date April 25, 2013

IT IS SPRING SO MAY MUST BE BIKE MONTH

It always happens and it is happening more and more when May comes around that people just heed the good word and get on their bicycles as opposed to other travel modes they might usually experience. May, indeed, is Bike Month. Yours truly will be supporting several events that the CCJPA will be involved in around our service area; one for certain is the May 9 Capital Region Bike Fest in Sacramento on the West steps of the Capital. Other events led by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition will feature Capitol Corridor discounts and giveaways.  In the spirit of May is Bike Month, here’s how we’re planning on transporting our event items from the train station in Sacramento to theCapital Region Bike Fest event:

Carrying our event materials in style!

Carrying our event materials in style!

 

 

 

 

 

 

DUDE – WHERE’S MY BIKE CAR?

Even before a month like May is upon us, there are simply a whole bunch of bicycles making their way on to the Capitol Corridor trains. If you have not noticed, there are some retrofitted cab cars out there that hold quite a few more bicycles than they used to before. These retrofits join with our already outfitted cab cars to generally (as in most of the time, but not always…more on that in a bit) provide the bicycle storage capacity you out there need on the train. Each car in the fleet, except the food service cars and the occasional Superliner car have the existing bicycle racks but only hold three official bicycles. So, in general, the answer to where will you find bicycle parking can be best accommodated in the cab car (that would opposite from the locomotive end of the train and in normal operations mode, the car on the most northern part of the train). But that doesn’t always hold…

Sometimes there are some of the non-retrofitted cab cars out there (the seven slot variety) which are yet to go in for their upgrade and then, suddenly, there are fewer bicycle slots out there. And on a really bad day, there are no other options and maybe a four-car trainset. Those are not fun days for anyone but, sometimes due to stuff that goes on out there in the world, the Amtrak team, try as they might, have to put out a sub-standard trainset just to fill a slot. BELIEVE ME – we hear about it and at times I am a witness to those unfortunate situations. And then we make sure that we try to get that transet swapped out or fixed in some manner as soon as we can. But sometimes there is a bright spot and that would be the 8200 series of cars which are often times placed right behind the locomotive…those are also bicycle friendly cars. So, if you see one of those, head that way too. But maybe in an early morning or at the end of a long day that is all too much to remember and that is why the CCJPA and Caltrans (who owns the cars) will be putting large “stickers” on the bicycle cars so that when you see the train, you can get your bicycle in position to board. You are getting the scoop on these stickers but it will still be some time before they will show up because, frankly, we are busy lot here at CCJPA and Caltrans, and there are numerous steps to go through but they should show up sometime this summer.

One of the other questions you may now be asking is “When are you ALWAYS going to have a bicycle car in the trainset?” I will be blunt and tell you that I was hoping for June but we now know that probably won’t happen until later in the year mainly due to other retrofits that these cars have to go through (Positive Train Control – or PTC – retrofits are delaying that schedule). So until we get to this point we will be juggling cars to try and provide as complete a trainset as possible…and that is why we are not yet at the point of requiring stricter storage requirements for your bicycles on the train. That does not mean that a conductor might not have to take action to deny some people and their bicycles if the conductor determines conditions are unsafe while we are going through this transition. Hopefully we can avoid those situations but we just don’t have the equipment at our disposal to provide you the best-of-conditions at this time. So, those of you who can obtain folding bicycles, please do so – you will make room for others – and those of you who take your bicycles, please work with each other and the conductor to keep your bicycles outside of the aisles and stay with them if necessary so you can monitor the conditions your stored bicycle is creating.

THE BIKE FRIDAY TIKIT IS LIKE SWAPPING LEGO PIECES

Date March 27, 2013

The Bike Friday “Tikit” (a Speeding Tikit) that I am using courtesy of the folks at Bike Friday (bikefriday.com) is a fun folding bike and practical too. I like to ride my bicycle home after work from Davis back to Sacramento (where I live) as much as I can to (hopefully) get into and stay in shape for long recreational bicycle rides.

The way the Bike Friday is set up, it essentially replaced my prior full sized Bianchi. The Tikit has a rack that holds my panniers (clothes in one, laptop in the other) and it has drop bars and a geometry style that feels like it mimics a road bicycle. Of course, the major, and most practical,difference is that it rolls on sixteen-inch wheels and stuffs into the luggage rack on the train (thus preserving a spot for a full sized bicycle, which came in handy on a Monday on the way to work on train 523). I never did put my clip pedals on this bike, but have enjoyed using tennis shoes to crank out the miles between Davis and Sacramento (along with the miles to and from the stations).

So the question I will try to answer is, “Does the Bike Friday Tikit replace a full-sized road bicycle in my situation?” Functionally, there is no question that it does. With the pedal switch being the only non-action I took to essentially make it have the same elements as my commute road bicycle, the Tikit carries me and my gear over the same roads at a speed probably just a bit less than the full sized equivalent, but along with that, this bike actually gives me a slightly better workout since it is marginally less efficient (those small wheels you need for a folding bicycle – oh well, you can’t escape physics) and I train to maintain a heart rate anyhow. So, if you get technical, which some people like to do with decisions like this, this folding bike is not an exact replacement but, with it I lost just a little bit only to gain in an entirely new area; that area being the folding which the Tikit does very well and very quickly.

I am grateful that Bike Friday lent me this bicycle to test out. My run with it ends March 30th. Using it  taught me that if one’s lifestyle is like building with Legos, one can easily swap out one crucial piece and easily replace that piece with the Bike Friday Tikit.

There are a good many folding bicycle customizations, other than the Tikit, that Bike Friday makes in Oregon, which means Bike Friday probably covers a majority of the specialized needs of the bicycling public. Being sensitive to my public role here–not to endorse or favor one folder over another–I have ridden a Dahon (they have many models), a couple of Tern’s, a few Bike Friday’s, and a Brompton. These and other manufacturers are enjoying a strong growth period as people, mostly people using a bicycle in an urban transportation setting, are seeing the benefits of bringing a bicycle with them that folds into a small manageable package. The crucial thing is to do your own research. You can get opinions from the internet or, ask someone with a folding bicycle. You will learn about the pluses and minus of each bicycle, thus you can evaluate this type of bike based on your needs. Since you may ride a bicycle today with your train commute, or are thinking about it, I am sure there is at least one replacement Lego piece out there ready to support your lifestyle and even add that one new dimension.

CAPITOL CORRIDOR TAKES YOU TO THE GOOD STUFF

Vineyard2

Being able to use the Tikit combined with this next bit unquestionably allowed be to complete the only other double century I have ever done other than the Davis Double Century. This weekend I completed the excessively beautiful Solvang Spring Double Century (they have a fall version too). The green California hills, and a temperature that really started off cold, but, for the bulk of the day was ideal, made for the best double century experience I have ever had personally. So what does that have to do with Capitol Corridor? Well, if you are going to do these double centuries, you have to train for them. Riding home the Tikit from Davis to Sacramento is one way I used to put in some miles but when you need to really get in time in, you tend to want new or a variety of experiences other than trudging along the Yolo Causeway. Living in Sacramento, the American River bicycle trail is great and perhaps one of the best amenities to Sacramento. So are the hills beyond the trail into El Dorado County and Placer County but that is not all that is accessible to me. I thought I would highlight how I used the Capitol Corridor and my full sized Fuji road bicycle to make the most out of what a relatively mild winter gave us.

I started taking the train on the weekends to get a little variety in my rides a couple of years ago. One of my favorite places to ride is out of the Suisun City Station. I head north working my way up Wooden Valley Road and from there I have all sorts of choices. I can ride back to Sacramento, or I can make any number of loops back to the Suisun Station with the Capitol Corridor being my ticket to variety. Wooden Valley is one of my favorite places to ride and with the green hills (which may turn yellow soon since we are a bit short of precipitation), the vineyards and tall hills surrounding them, I feel like I am riding in a postcard dream.

I have made several of these loops using the various wine region valleys (Napa figures heavily) and the sum total of them meant I got in great miles, challenging climbs, but most of all experienced the beauty that Northern California has to offer, all made possible via a brief jaunt with the Capitol Corridor.  Want to learn more about bringing your bike onboard for a longer ride?  Send a note to our customer service folks, who are always happy to help.

Vineyard1St. Helena

ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION – ACTIVE PLANNERS

Date February 20, 2013

ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION – ACTIVE PLANNERS
BART Director Robert Rayburn recently forwarded me a link to a study about how becoming an active transportation participant is both good for you (by increasing your health) and good for others (reducing your carbon emissions). The aim of the article is to show what various future scenarios might look like under a variety of policy actions (or inactions). For those of you who are interested, here is the link to the article synopsis: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2012.300939
We can tell from our own (CCJPA) mode of access survey that there are about 20 percent more of you out there who would bicycle if something about bicycling was “better” than the current dominant travel mode (“better” meaning things like safer and/or more convenient). I think one of the points of the article is that making things “better” is both a personal, but in this context, but also a public policy choice, and that is where the “collective we” can make decisions about our future through our elected policy makers.
I remember Eugene Skoropowski, the former CCJPA Managing Director, would frequently say that without transportation options, people’s travel choices were largely condemned to the automobile. He was usually speaking in support of passenger train travel, but it is no stretch to extend that mindset to getting to and from the Capitol Corridor train. Public policy supporting a wider variety of travel mode options can begin to address the needs of those 20 percent who would be open to riding a bicycle to and/or from the train. And of course, those who do ride a bicycle to and/or from the train today, which is somewhere between 10 to 20 percent, would benefit from more facilities on the street and at the stations to help improve the bicycling conditions.
The good news is that public policy makers on the CCJPA Board will have the chance to address this issue in regards to the Capitol Corridor and make a difference with the adoption of the Capitol Corridor Bicycle Access Plan. I am writing this blog post the day before the vote and don’t expect too many surprises or, for that matter, a vote to delay the adoption of the Plan. More importantly, I want you to know that in implementing this Plan, our elected policy leaders will be choosing a positive future scenario for Capitol Corridor passengers.

VALENTINES DAY ON A BIKE FRIDAY?
We all need love and on February 14, 2013, I think my Bike Friday loaner bicycle fell in love as evidenced by the picture below:

Two Bike Fridays

That is right folks – two Bike Friday Tikit bicycles sitting side by side like peas in a pod – they just look so content stuffed away outside of the aisles, in the luggage compartment. The blue one belongs to a Capitol Corridor customer and the green/black one is the one I am getting to use. Definitely an exciting first day (or is that first date?) as I was finally able to take the Bike Friday Speeding Tikit for a spin courtesy of the folks at Bike Friday (bikefriday.com) who have lent me this folder for a couple of months. Here is how the Tikit looks in my office.
IMG_0527

The Tikit arrived a few days before and I spent some of my time at home putting it together from the box and suitcase in which it was shipped. It folds down very quickly and on this version (it has a special extend-rack), I am able to use my full sized panniers, the ones that carry my laptop and clothes. The handlebars make it a bit bigger in folded space than, for instance, the other customer’s blue Tikit, but those do come in handy with my exercise ride home from Davis to Sacramento. In fact, the ride home was just a tad slower because I stopped to take a few photos of the lender Tikit on the way.

IMG_0534IMG_0537

As you can see, a small wheeled folding bicycle with panniers on it. Ta – da! I wish I had a picture of my full sized bicycle with the same set up on it to show you (even a similar color scheme). They both play the same role except the Bike Friday Tikit folds up and away. I will review this bicycle more as I will be riding it almost exclusively in the coming months, but I from my vantage point now, I see a folding bicycle fitting the very same niche as my full sized bicycle. Check, check, check. I am ready to keep rolling.

HAPPY FOLDING NEW YEAR

Date February 4, 2013

HAPPY FOLDING NEW YEAR

A new year is upon us and yours truly will mark this as the year of the folding bicycle, among other things. In my last entry I talked about the success of the Oakland event with Bay Area Bicycles and the bicycle representatives of Tern and Brompton.  We also hosted an event in Sacramento later that week and things went pretty well given the rainy day weather on December 5th forced us to host the event inside the station building.  Similar to the Oakland event, we worked with homegrown local Sacramento bicycle store talent Steve Rex Cycles and Edible Pedal and hosted brand representatives from Brompton and Bike Friday to showcase their various folding bicycles.  It also happened to be my birthday, but if you have to work on your birthday and you enjoy bicycles like I do, then it doesn’t feel too much like working.  Plus, there were several Bike Friday bicycles present and I tried some “gearing” systems I have never tried before, most notably the Nuvinci transmission system and a belt drive system instead of a chain.

Thank you to those of you that took the time to fill out Capitol Corridor’s online survey about train access in December.  We gave away some great prizes and I’m happy to report that the Brompton folding bicycle went to an 18-year old UC Davis student who didn’t have a bicycle, the monthly and 10-ride passes were won by regular monthly riders, and the 2-person round-trip was won by an occasional traveler so we hope went to have some very happy travelers onboard this month. 

Happy Brompton Winner and me

Happy Brompton Winner and me

 If you weren’t the lucky winner of the Brompton folding bicycle, it’s time to go visit a local bicycle shop who will be happy to help you find the right folding bicycle for you.  If you’d like to support the local bicycle shops that participated in our events, you can visit their websites here: Bay Area Bikes, Rex Cycles and Edible Pedal.

 All that survey data about your mode of access to/from stations, whether you use a car, use a bicycle, or walk, is GREAT STUFF for geeky planners like me.  We asked all sorts of questions that were tailor-made to your responses based on your mode of access to our stations and trains.  I suspect we have had a high response rate from those of you that ride a bicycle since our response rate about usual mode of access for bicycles was above 20% – super high!  The goal of this survey was to obtain an impression about what types of at-station bicycle solutions would work best for our passengers’ preferences and lifestyles. There were 957 survey responses and a whopping 41% of you responded that you ride a bicycle to/from the train station and about 14% of you said you’d ‘maybe’ ride a bicycle to/from the train station. That is a lot of existing and potential bicycle riding!

A part of the survey asked you to rate your preference of two at-station alternatives, and the general answer was “YES” for everything.  Based on your replies, it seems likely that we will work on implementing both a developed system of e-lockers across nearly all the stations and some sort of bicycle-sharing system such as the Brompton Dock (or an equivalent) at our most deserving stations.  Both of these options will be presented to a group of my local bicycle planning and advocacy peers who are deeply involved in bicycle facility planning, funding, development, etc., to give us some final feedback.  All this data will form the final version of Capitol Corridor’s upcoming Bicycle Access Plan that we solicited public comments on through January 15, 2013.

The “Plan”, as I am calling it, will include an enforcement element to help keep our trains safe and accessible for all passengers.  This means no bicycles stored in aisle-ways and making sure all bicycles stored outside the designated rack spaces AND out of the aisle-ways are secured to the train (with a bungee cord, for example). You may remember that we tried this before and it didn’t go very well- so why are we trying it again?  The long and short of it is that we did not have any cars available that were retrofitted with additional bicycle storage during our first attempt at enforcement.  We have been working hard with Caltrans to retrofit all of those cab cars with the ‘”four on the floor” bicycle racks.

Starting in the Spring of 2013, we will consistently have a car type (maybe one of these retrofitted cab cars, or possibly another type of bicycle-friendly car) on each train-set where we can store a big overflow of bicycles out of the way of passengers.  I will certainly be posting more information on this as we move forward, but we’re determined not to go on with business as usual, but to instead move forward with business that is better – and that means safely storing bicycles brought onboard the train.

I AM A NEW FOLDING BIKE USER

Since I’ve been advocating folding bicycles as a solution to on-train bicycle storage issues, I thought it only right that I take my own advice.  This past month I purchased my own folding bicycle – a Brompton M6R.  So far I’ve been able to store it on the overhead bin and between the triangle of space created by the table seats and it’s nice to know that I’m freeing up a space in the bicycle racks for my fellow bike-riding passengers.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this bicycle from me in the future, but for the moment I’m working on breaking in the Brooks saddle and getting lots of practice at folding and unfolding on a regular basis.

I guess my enthusiasm must be contagious as Bike Friday asked me to test out one of the models they showcased at the Sacramento event and give them my feedback.  The bicycle I will be testing out is a Bike Friday Tikit, specifically the Speeding Tikit, with the drop handlebars. This particular model is set-up much like the Bianchi road-commuter bicycle that I have been using to ride from Davis to Sacramento in an attempt to fit in some exercise on my way home from work. I am certainly looking forward to the opportunity to try out this model out as it seems to be similar, feature-wise, to my full-sized bike.  You can now count me as an official owner and user of a folding bicycle, and if you see me on the train, feel free to ask about my stow-away, two-wheeled companions.