By Amanda Beeler
TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Date of Publication: May 10, 1999
Source: Chicago Tribune
Briefcase-toting commuters waiting on elevated train platforms with their morning coffee could be replaced on weekends this summer by bicycle-carting riders munching on energy bars if the Chicago Transit Authority agrees with bike enthusiasts.
The CTA will decide in the next few weeks whether to operate a summer pilot project allowing riders to bring bicycles onto city train lines on weekends, said CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney.
On Saturday, bicyclists rode the rails for the first time as 12 volunteers from the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation participated in a test with the CTA to look for potential problems with bringing bikes on the "L" at typical stations throughout the system, including subway stops, elevated platforms and street-level entrances.
Three teams of two bike riders wheeled bikes onto train cars in the morning and afternoon. They practiced carrying bikes up and down train station stairs, moving bicycles through entrance gates and maneuvering bikes on platforms and aboard trains on the Blue, Brown and Red lines while representatives from the CTA's safety and operations department took copious notes.
"We were testing it under real conditions," Gaffney said. "We're trying to make a decision as soon as possible so if we decide to go ahead, we can do it this summer."
She said the CTA would be reviewing results of the test and possible procedures for the program over the next few weeks.
The federation has been requesting bicycle access to CTA trains for more than five years, but until six months ago, the group had been told it would be impossible to accommodate bicycles on the transit system, said Executive Director Randy Neufeld. "I think there's just a new attitude about trying to make transit more customer-friendly," he said, adding that he was optimistic after Saturday's test that the CTA program might be implemented.
"Basically when you're looking for alternatives to traffic congestion, the more options you give people, the more they can put together a lifestyle that doesn't use a car," he said.
Transit systems in most major metropolitan cities such as Boston, New York, San Francisco and Washington allow bikes on trains.
In the San Francisco area, almost 2,000 commuters a day bring bikes onto cars in the Caltrain system equipped with bicycle racks. The train line is similar to Chicago's Metra system, which allows riders to carry small foldable bicycles on the train, but they must be covered.
Neufeld said he is unsure how many people would actually bring bikes onto the CTA trains if they were allowed to, but predicted that weekend travelers might see one or two bikes per train. "It does have a tremendous amount of potential in terms of weekend destinations," he said.