Cyclists face squeeze on new trains - Dompost

Cyclists could be forced to rethink their travel plans as Wellington's new trains cut the amount of space available for bikes in peak times.

Greater Wellington regional council is reviewing the rules for bikes on trains, with a policy due to go out for public consultation in the coming weeks.

Among the changes being considered is a ban on bikes in peak times – a move labelled short-sighted by cycling advocates.

The policy review was prompted by the Matangi trains being introduced to Wellington – the first of which arrived last month – as part of a $500 million overhaul of the rail network.

The Matangi carriages require five seats to be flipped up for each bike, prompting the proposed peak-time ban.

Off-peak, three bikes per two carriages would be allowed, up from the present two.

The restriction would apply to trains coming into Wellington between 7am and 9am, and those leaving Wellington between 4pm and 6pm.

Council public transport general manager Wayne Hastie said the need for seating at peak times was behind the proposed ban.

"We know there's a high premium on being able to sit and we have to be able to manage that."

Many cities put limits on bikes at peak times, he said.

Cycle Aware Wellington spokesman Patrick Morgan said the policy was letting cyclists down.

The increased number of bikes allowed off-peak was good news, as was the decision to allow folding bikes at all times.

But limiting peak-time access to trains affected those who used the service most, he said.

"We realise there's limited space on trains, and we're happy to share the space, but we think there's some pragmatic solutions."

The old trains with space for bikes would still be in use, so schedules could allow for at least one an hour on each line, or it could be at the discretion of train staff depending on passenger levels, he said.

"Rather than solving these problems, the proposed policy is restricting us."

Cyclist Bernard Miville, 46, said he would be forced to drive if he could not get his bike on trains in peak times.

During the week he cycles to the Silverstream station, catches the train, and then cycles to his job at Niwa in Greta Point.

One option would be to store a bike at Wellington station, but there were so few bike lockers that was not an option, and no lockers were available at Silverstream. There are 12 lockers at Wellington.

Better storage facilities at all stations was a simple solution, Mr Miville said.

Greater Wellington transport and access committee chairman Peter Glensor said all those options would be considered in the consultation process, but the solution had to work for both cyclists and regular passengers.

Rotating between the new and old trains was a possibility, but could become difficult logistically, and it was important to have one rule for all trains so everyone knew where they stood, he said.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the priority had to be improvement of the commuter service – and carrying cycles could be sorted out later. "Then the capacity won't be such an issue and we can relook at the issue."

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