Bike Plus Train Revisited: Here’s How It Works For Me

A post came across my feed last weekend from Bicycle Dutch, a blog that looks at vehicular cycling in the Netherlands.  It dealt with combining bicycles + trains to extend the distance you can go without a car.  Apparently this is a very common practice in the Netherlands. 

One thing that stuck with me from the article was the author’s assertion that the Dutch people figured this out by themselves. It wasn’t part of a centrally administered scheme to get people out of their cars.  The Dutch, being pragmatic, recognized that it was a better way and embraced it all on their own.   Cool.

I like to think that I’m pragmatic, too.  Part of the reason we came to Utah was to do the same thing and we are.  It has actually been pretty easy, and so I thought it would be fun to share with you how it works for me.

Home to Downtown SLC

According to Google Maps, it’s 35.6 miles from my front door to downtown Salt Lake City.  Driving it takes about 45 minutes.  The FrontRunner (commuter rail) takes just under an hour.  I also have to get to the station, but that only adds ten minutes.  As a result, it takes approximately 30 minutes longer to get downtown via train plus bike than it does in my car, but while I’m on the train I can work and be productive so taking the train actually buys me 15 minutes of extra time each way.  FrontRunner trains have wifi, so I typically use that time to answer emails, schedule appointments and other similar activities.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.23.15 AM

Bringing my bicycle on the train is easy.  FrontRunner platforms are designed to be flush with the train so that I don’t even have to lift my bike to bring it on board..  Yes, this was planned and it’s brilliant.  The typical train has five cars and I can bring my bicycle onto four of them. I simply look for the bike symbols on the platform and board through one of those doors.  When I reach SLC, I roll my bike off the train and ride to my destination.

Ogden's Intermodal Center has direct bike trail connectivity with the city at large.

Ogden’s Intermodal Center has direct bike trail connectivity with the city at large.

The backbone of the system is the river parkway, which has underpasses at most major road crossings.  This makes it easy to ride to the train.

The backbone of the system is the river parkway, which has underpasses at most major road crossings. This makes it easy to ride to the train.

Bike parking on the train car.  It gets used.

Bike parking on the train. It gets used.

True roll on service.  No lifting required!

True roll on service. No lifting required!

UTA trains start running well before the sun comes up and continue past midnight, making rail + bike practical regardless of your schedule.

UTA trains start running well before the sun comes up and continue past midnight, making rail + bike practical regardless of your schedule.

If for some reason I don’t want to bring my bike with me, UTA offers a number of parking options at the FrontRunner station including secure and weather resistant  bike lockers.

Home to SLC International Airport

It’s 42 miles to SLC International Airport from my front door.  The trip starts much the same, except that I change to TRAX light rail at the North Temple Bridge FrontRunner station in Salt Lake City.  I’ve done this many times and never have to wait more than a few minutes for the connection.  When I reach the airport, I roll my bike off the train and directly into a weather protected, video-monitored bicycle parking “shed.”  When I return, I reverse the process.

Bike parking at SLC.

Bike parking at SLC.

The shed to the right of the railroad track is the bike parking facility.  It is mere steps from the terminal.

The shed to the right of the railroad track is the bike parking facility. It is mere steps from the terminal.

Extending My Range Even Further

At one time I thought I might like a folding bike so that when I got to the airport I could simply check it to my destination. I even went so far as to test ride a Brompton, but at the end of the day I didn’t much care for the way the bike handled.  I also like to travel light.

Trains to the plane combined with bikeshare at the destination makes car free travel a reality.

Trains to the plane combined with bikeshare like Chicago’s Divvy  makes car free travel a reality.

The obvious solution is bikeshare.  Most major (and many not so major) cities now have bikeshare programs.  I can fly to Denver or Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Chicago or whole host of other cities and take the train from their airport to a downtown hotel. From there, I can use bikeshare to get where I need to go.  Bikeshare bikes can be a bit clunky compared to your finely tuned machine, but I’ve used them before and they’re certainly better than the average taxicab or rental car.  To me, nothing beats being on a bicycle.

So Here We Are

Ogden is in Utah, not Holland, but it is relatively easy to move around here without a car if that’s what you want to do.  It’s getting easier, too.  We will soon have bikeshare right here in Ogden (Provo, too).  It will be possible to buy a single day pass and use bikeshare all up and down the Wasatch Front, which will make this area more attractive to people in other markets who want to use bicycles while on business.

It’s sometimes easy to look at Holland and be envious, but I think the challenge is to recognize that things are getting better very quickly right here at home.  What can we do to speed things along?  You already know.  Get on your bike.  Ride.  Bring a first timer along.  That’s all it takes.

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