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New Year, New BART Rules for Bay Area Cyclists

Passengers waiting on platform for BART bay area rapid transit train at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Starting this year, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) gets a little friendlier toward commuters with bicycles across the San Francisco Bay Area. 

“BART is going all in on bikes,” the agency wrote announcing that beginning this year bicycles will be allowed in all non-crowded train cars except the first car – bicycles were previously banned on the first three cars of a train – and on most of the escalators throughout the BART system, which will help make it easier for people to bring their bikes on board the train.

Directors who approved the measure say the new rules are a win for the city and its cycling commuters.

“Carrying bikes up and down stairwells can be difficult and not all bikes fit in our elevators,” BART Director Rebecca Saltzman said in a statement after the board approved the measure in September. “Updating our rules will make BART easier to use for cyclists and families bringing bikes on the train. Bikes play an important role in getting people out of their cars and on public transit and these updated rules encourage environmentally friendly multimodal travel options.”  

What else should cyclists know about BART policies for cyclists?

This marks the first time BART has updated its policies on bicycles; they were last changed 10 years ago when the agency ended a ban on bikes on trains during heavy commute hours. Over this period of time, the cycling industry has evolved tremendously, especially with e-bikes and cargo bikes soaring in popularity. These bikes often don’t fit as well into elevators, making the rule change a particularly helpful one to people who may have longer cycling commutes outside of the train and those with families.

These are the new BART bicycle rules in place as of Jan. 1, 2024:

  • Bikes are allowed on all trains except in the first car or any crowded car.
  • Folded bikes are allowed in all cars at all times.
  • Regardless of any other rule, bikes are never allowed on crowded cars.
  • Passengers must hold or secure their bikes while on the trains.
  • Bikes are allowed on elevators, stairs, and escalators.
  • Passengers are never allowed to ride bikes inside stations, including but not limited to
    station platforms and concourses. This prohibition does not include parking lots,
    roadways, or outdoor paths intended for bicycle use.
  • Bicyclists must yield priority seating to seniors and people with disabilities, yield to other passengers, and not block aisles or doors.
  • In case of an evacuation, bikes must be left on the train and must not block aisles or
  • Passengers under 14 years old with bikes must be accompanied by an adult.
    Gas-powered vehicles are never permitted in stations or on trains.
  • If left unattended on BART property, bikes must be locked at racks or inside lockers.
    Bikes parked against poles, fences or railings will be removed.

There are a few exceptions to the new rules. 

Bikes will remain banned from BART’s 10 narrow escalators located at the 19th Street Oakland, Antioch, and Oakland Airport Connector stations. To check a BART elevator dimension, visit this guide

Making the most of transit

Public transportation is a part of life for many of the Bay Area’s cyclists, but there can be a learning curve when it comes to getting a hang of using regional systems to get around. 

Caltrain, for example, has a car designated to cyclists. BART says this isn’t something they’ve considered because stop times are significantly shorter (20-30 seconds compared to Caltrain’s 1-2 minutes). Additionally, BART’s practice of disassembling cars means that those bike-only cars wouldn’t be in a fixed, predictable position. 

BART commuters can now expect to ride on any car, except the first. Agency safety experts say this is to allow the conductor a clear path through the first car if there is an emergency. Cyclists should also expect to board cars that are less busy to accommodate all passengers safely. 

“Cars near the rear of the train tend to be less crowded so positioning oneself there increases your chances of finding an uncrowded car,” the agency says. “The cars toward the center and near where escalators and stairs empty onto the platform tend to be more crowded.”

If you’re a cyclist who is ready to incorporate transit into your commute, make sure to make a plan before you’re on the road. This will help you navigate getting to a transit stop much easier than figuring it out on the fly. Research whether you’re arriving to a station that allows cyclists to ride escalators with their bikes and what the cycling infrastructure looks like around the stop, as these areas can be busy and sometimes dangerous for cyclists. 

Getting around the Bay Area without a car continues to get easier with rules that are tailored toward the thousands of cyclists who traverse the region each day, thanks to updated rules like these.