jgurney wrote:I suspect it might help towards such a policy if we cyclists were clearer about quite what we wanted.
Yes, this is a good point. I can't speak for everyone, but I'll set out below what I would like to see. I've divided this up according to the type of rail route: commuter routes, fast inter-city services, and lightly-traffic rural routes. In a previous post jgurney set out some different types of cycle-rail journey. Hopefully what I am describing below will fit in to that.Commuter routes
I would like to see a small number of dedicated cycle spaces, which must be paid for, and may be booked in advance. In addition, I would like to see large areas around the doors with either tip-up seats or no seats. These are for standing passengers during peak times, but during off-peak times cycles can be carried there for free, without reservation.
My thinking is:
- Space is at a premium at peak times. It is reasonable to ask people to pay to take a bike at these times.
- Open areas near the doors make standing more pleasant, and will also reduce dwell time at the station when the train is really busy.
- Carrying a non-folding bike on the train for commuting purposes is not a mass solution. For peak-time commuting, it is much better if people can either use a folder, or there is secure cycle storage at the destination, and people keep a second bike there.
- Leisure cycling will tend to occur at different times of the day/week to commuting.
- Since the stops are fairly close together, and thus people may not be taking their bike a long way, it is preferable for bikes to be in the passenger accommodation. They can be just propped up or held onto by their owner, rather than hanging from a hook. Fast inter-city services
The key here is consistency I think. I am not too bothered whether the bikes are in passenger accommodation or the guard's van, or whether bikes are hung from a hook or not, so long as it is consistent. There also need to be a lot more bike spaces than at present. These should be a mixture of reservable and non-reservable. I think it is reasonable to pay for carrying a bike on this kind of service, proportionate to the cost of the ticket. The booking system should automatically ensure that if you reserve a seat and a bike space at the same time, they are located near to each other in the train. Lightly-used rural routes
There should be plenty of cycle spaces on routes like this, because it may be several hours until the next train comes. Since these routes are lightly-used, space is unlikely to be at a premium. This is where mostly leisure cycling is likely to be happening, especially touring. A mixture of reservable and non-reservable spaces would probably be best. Taking a bike should be free on this kind of service. This kind of route tends to be loss-making (I think), and I think that cycle-tourism could provide a significant boost to passenger numbers.
In general, it is of course important that the cycle spaces are actually big enough to accommodate a large adult bicycle!
Consistency between different Train Operating Companies is also important.
Whether it is better to have a state-run railway or not is an interesting question. However, even under the current arrangement, I am sure there are ways that things could be changed. For example, DfT could specify how cycles are to be carried in their franchise contracts. Or, there could be a voluntary accreditation scheme, where certain standards are specified, and if a TOC chooses to meet these standards, they are allowed to call themselves a "Cycle-friendly train company", and receive some kind of bonus, or are allowed to charge for carrying bikes. Or there could be bronze, silver and gold levels.