Bicycle maintenance on the train

I missed this post from Copenhagenize over the holidays, but it’s a pretty cool idea: Put air pumps for bicycle tires on trains.

On Caltrain (bikes on board since 1992!), the bike riders will sometimes hold impromptou repair clinics on board the bike car. Friendly commuters with tools on the train have saved my hide a couple of times. It’s a 20 minute train ride from San Jose to Palo Alto, and I’ve occasionally used the time for minor repairs, though there was the time a conductor grumpily croaked, “This is a TRAIN, not a bike shop” as I patched a tube. Bleeding some brake air into the bike space would be super neat, I think, though I’m certain the engineering and FRA paperwork would be an interesting nightmare for somebody.

The City Fix offers Copenhagen’s train accomodations as proof of that city’s bike friendliness. I’ve always thought of bikes on transit as an American innovation, but that’s because in the United States, many transit agencies accommodate bicycles because of our famously unfriendly transit services. San Francisco’s transit are frequent and relatively well-connected, but commuters traveling to their tech jobs have a much more challenging transit network in Silicon Valley. Caltrain dumps them off near downtown cores in Palo Alto, Mountain View or Sunnyvale, but the big office parks are located five miles from the train stations. Only a very few big Silicon Valley tech firms (Facebook, Amazon A9, Microsoft’s mobile division, the tiny startups clustered through downtown Palo Alto) are within walking distance of Caltrain.

Allowing bikes on board trains and buses effectively and easily extends to the range, flexibility and usability of American transit. Somebody might be willing to walk a half mile to a bus stop, but biking increases a transit agency’s coverage by an order of magnitude. Bikes are a force multiplier for bus and rail service.


  1. And the grumpy conductor thinks everyone should just sit down and stare into space? Heck, I’d pick a different part to overhaul it each time if I had 20 minutes on a train with nothing else to do.

  2. Oh, I had a about zillion responses immediately in mind for him: It’s a train, not a restaurant or bar (for the eaters and drinkers on board). It’s a train, not a library (for the book readers). It’s a train, not an office (for those reading email). It’s a train, not a classroom (for those doing schoolwork). It’s a train, not an internet cafe (for those surfing the web)… You get the idea.

  3. I wish our local trains were even half as accommodating. MARC (MD’s regional commuter trains) only permits folders. VRE (VA’s analog) permits folders, and full size on off-peak trains. And Amtrak . . . eh, I’ll believe their better-service-coming-soon when I see it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.