Add Some Rail to Your Commute

bike rack on train
UTA bike holder on TRAX. Photo: Cycling Utah

By Kevin Day

When it comes to full-time bike commuting, I’m by no means an expert. It takes a pretty solid commitment to fully abandon the comforts and freedom of using a car to get to work each day. From my house in Kaysville to the office in Salt Lake City, it’s about an hour and fifteen minute bike ride. Some days it’s more. Some days a little less, depending on how late I leave my driveway. Then there are those days when dealing with traffic, stoplights, stop signs, weather or just being a little tired, I turn to another healthy option called Public Transportation.

Since opening day of the UTA Frontrunner, I’ve been a big fan of utilizing the train to get me to and from SLC. If I time it right, I can leave my house and pedal to the Farmington station in about ten to fifteen minutes. Hop on the train and effortlessly ride into Salt Lake. From the downtown Intermodal Hub, it’s just an easy fifteen minutes through the city and I’m at work. One very cool aspect is that nearly 100% of my riding commute is done on bike paths or in a designated bike lane. And it’s really quite enjoyable taking the train, especially over the past few months since UTA has made some great strides to accommodate cyclists.

UTA has started adding dedicated bike space on certain FrontRunner rail cars. Before there were only two official bike slots per car, but now there’s nearly an entire floor dedicated to bikes. The bike-friendly train car is almost always the one closest to the locomotive.

The nice thing about our transit system is that nearly every vehicle in their system is bicycle friendly. With the exception of Ski Bus, you can take your bike on TRAX, the Express bus and any other system-wide bus.

For TRAX, cyclists are encouraged to load their bike at the end doors of each car. TRAX cars can only support two bikes at a time, but there are generally at least three cars to choose from on each train. On the Express bus or any other system-wide bus, there are easy-to-use bike racks located on the front bumper of the bus. Most of us are probably familiar with these types of racks already. It seems as though most consumer hitch racks are nearly the same style. To load your bike on any of these racks, simply lower the rack and place your bike in the first available slot. Raise the lock bar and secure it over your wheel. Then hop on the bus. These racks also only accommodate two bikes, so if they’re already taken, you’ll have to wait for the next bus. Not a big deal considering many of the buses in the downtown area come every fifteen minutes.

UTA has designated bike racks at each station, as well as bike lockers that are available at most FrontRunner and TRAX stations. In order to use the bike lockers, you’ll need to register on the UTA website: rideuta.com. And if you’re in need of some bicycle repair, bike storage, rentals or even a quick shower before you hit the office, you can visit the Bicycle Transit Center, located inside the Intermodal Hub building. You can also find them online at BicycleTransitCenter.com.

So if you decide to take your bike on transit, here are a few things to remember. Be courteous around others. Oftentimes I’ll wait to exit the train very last. That way I don’t have to worry about holding people up as I remove my bike from the rack and make my way to the exit. Avoid riding on the platform or crossing the tracks. Although it may be quicker and more convenient to pedal up to the train, it’s not safe. And the likelihood of running into someone else boarding or exiting the train is pretty high. Avoid boarding the train with a dirty bike. Navigating through the crowds with a muddy or greasy bike may end up painting an unwanted sprocket mark on an expensive suit or even worse, your own leg. We’ve all seen that before. And finally, keep track of your bike. According to a recent story on KSL, in the past 30 days, UTA has recovered 28 bikes.

Enjoy your commute.

From our June 2011 issue.

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