Sunday, October 2, 2011

Travelling on Amtrak with a Folding Bike - My Bike Friday Tickit to Ride

I am heading to the Walk 21 Conference in Vancouver BC to give a presentation on the work we're doing in Portland to encourage pedestrians. I wasn't sure I wanted to take my bike because I was worried about the hassle of having the bike and dealing with it on the train. In fact, I woke my wife up while waffling on whether I wanted to bike to the train station. It turns out it is very easy to stick it in the luggage rack three seats from where I am.

Yet, the woman that checked me in this morning threatened that I might have a problem when I transfer from train to bus in Seattle. I asked her what was I supposed to do in the case they didn't have space for it on the train and she calmly said, it would have to be on the next available train to BC. That next train arrives at 10:50 PM! How would that work? Clearly, this is one of the barriers to cycling. People (front counter people, myself included) expect it will be difficult to accomodate extra luggage on board. In some cases, it is simply an issue because you're dealing with folks that aren't always inclined to help, because they can't appreciate the challenge. I imagine people with disabilities have a similar challenge (although I say that appreciating that travelling with a bicycle is a choice).

Regardless of your situation, it takes a sort of confidence to persevere and with any luck on this trip, it will be worth the extra cost (if any).

UPDATE at 1:05 PM... During the transfer in Seattle to a bus, the driver of the bus indicated that I need to have a bag for the bike or else he can't take it. I had to tell him I didn't have a bag, the website did not indicate that it was necessary, and the gate agent in Portland (the second one that I talked to) told me it would be fine under the bus. Here's the specific language from the Amtrak website:
Folding bicycles may be brought aboard certain passenger cars as carry-on baggage. Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable. Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and small wheels. Regular bikes of any size, with or without wheels, are not considered folding bikes, and may not be stored as folding bikes aboard trains.
You must fold up your folding bicycle before boarding the train. You may store the bike only in luggage storage areas at the end of the car (or, in Superliners, on the lower level). You may not store bikes in overhead racks.
The driver made me sign a waiver. I wrote on the back of the ticket stub that he took: "Liability Waiver" and signed by name. When I handed that to him, he gave it back to me and asked me to put a date on it. Apparently, this makes it official that if anything happens to the bike he is absolved of all wrong doing. Not that it should be a problem.

In other news, traffic on Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle is pretty bad at 1:12 PM when a football game is at the Seahawks stadium. Too bad I am not on the train.
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