Snakes on a plane are an obvious problem, but the same can’t be said for bikes on a train.
Yet that’s how they’ve been viewed by Amtrak, which has been under growing pressure by bicycle advocates — and, now, business officials and lawmakers from New York — to do more to accommodate them. That wouldn’t be hard.
In a press conference at the Rensselaer train station Monday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and two state senators, Betty Little of Queensbury and Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, made the case for a bike-friendly Amtrak. And it’s a compelling one, both for Amtrak and the areas it serves.
Currently the only way to transport a bike on most Amtrak trains is to box it, which requires some disassembly, and store it as baggage for a fee. That’s a major pain and a major incentive to drive, especially for those not mechanically inclined.
What cyclists, whose numbers are steadily growing, want is the ability to walk on with their machine and have a place to secure it, either in racks on the floor or on straps or hooks from above. That small and, for Amtrak, relatively inexpensive step would encourage day-trippers and bicycle tourists alike to use the train to get to their destination. Cyclists tend to have a lot of disposable income and will go far to find a good place (i.e. scenic, with goods roads and low traffic) to pedal.
And there’s an abundance of such places in upstate New York, including the Capital Region and Adirondacks. If Amtrak doesn’t run right through them, they are within easy reach for someone on a bike.
Amtrak is now finally building some more cars capable of handling bikes. As representatives of this region, Schumer et al. are touting the economic benefits and lobbying for them here. But they belong in every major corridor.