Bike Racks on Trains

I know there’s at least one or two guys who read this site occasionally who are into bikes. So I have a question- rather, a technical design scenario. Let’s say you were looking at some sort of bicycle storage provision for rail cars. What sorts of design elements should be incorporated into the storage solution to make it user friendly, safe, convenient, etc?

As a reference, the rail cars in question would be a commuter rail type of car. Riders typically embark at one of a handful of stations and disembark after a 30 to 60 minute ride. There’s not a lot of on-off like you get with subways. It’s meant for transit from suburbs to the city, generally. Also, there’s a fair bit of recreational use on the weekends, possibly riders transporting bikes to and from the city for tourism.

The bike storage unit must be inside the rail car. Due to tunnels and adjacent tracks, outside storage is not possible.  SInce the storage will be inside, it will necessarily take up some space that could be use for seated passengers.  The goal is to minimize seating loss.

Will be interested to hear your input on this. Feel free to include sketches, etc as well.

10 Responses to “Bike Racks on Trains”

  1. BrianN says:

    How about a groove in the tracks for bike wheels and a rope for the rider to hold onto.

  2. matt says:

    How tall are the traincars? Is there enough room to hang a bike from the ceiling without clocking people in the head?

  3. Pitt says:

    Brian: The (only) problem with that idea is that the bicycles would then technically be classified as “railcars” and fall under FRA jurisdiction. I don’t know if bicycles would meet FRA requirements.

    Matt: The cars in question are double-decker railcars. Overhead space is kinda limited, except in the vestibules at the ends of the cars. Unfortunately, that’s where all of your on/ off foot traffic is flowing through.

    At my office downtown we have bike racks in the basement that allow cyclists to store their bikes hanging up by the front wheel. A neat idea, presuming people who ride are in good enough shape to hoist their bike up to hang it.

    Another issue: the bikes have to be secure enough to not become projectiles in a collision.

  4. matt says:

    I think the best solution in terms of minimizing space used would be to integrate something that works like a bicycle roof rack on a car, perhaps integrated into the floor between seats. The rider would roll the bicycle into a depression and pull up a clamp for the downtube, and maybe another one for a front or rear wheel to keep in steady.

    Kind of like this:

    Put something like that between the seats for the first half-dozen rows or so?

  5. Pitt says:

    I like that, it could be adapted to fit on a commuter rail car. The only thing is it takes up so much real estate. I’d really love some sort of vertical solution…maybe a spring-loaded or other mechanical device to flip the bike 90 degrees after securing it? We have a fab shop at our disposal, I can get anything made if they can bend it, cut it, and weld it. 😉

  6. Pitt says:

    Another idea I just thought of- set up the seats so the backs are facing each other, cafe- car style. Then have bike storage between the seat backs for one bike. The seats would help constrain the bike. Minimal space impact, minimal cost. Maybe have 4 setups like this per car, 4 bikes per car. At least as a pilot. Maybe eventually do an entire lower level like that on one car per train- call it the “Spandex Car” or something. 😉 This would have the added benefit of segregating out all the smug dual-mode bike-train commuters from the park n’ ride shmoes.

  7. matt says:

    The variable to be careful about then is the width of the bike handlebars – something like a road bike is going to be a lot narrower than the flat bars on a mountain bike or a commuter. You’d have to either allow enough room for the maximum width, or have pop-off headrests or some other way to open up more room if necessary.

  8. Pitt says:

    Yeah, I thought of that…how much different can the widths of handlebars be? I know a road bike might have those curly under bars that seem about 12 inches wide,while a mountain or cruiser seems like it would be about twice that. Any exact-er measurements?

    The project seems to be gaining support…I’ll keep you posted with progress and our final design.

  9. BrianN says:

    Maybe putting the bike upside-down would help. You could have some rollers on the floor under the seat so the bike slides in and out.

  10. Patrick says:

    Matt, Listed below are links to a couple of good examples from the Metro North rail line, although I don’t know of any for bi-level cars, but the design that is being used for the M8 rail cars should work in the vestibule of a double-decker.

    Can you refer me to the specific FRA regs about projectiles?

    http://www.lohud.com/article/20140127/NEWS/301270053/Some-New-Haven-line-trains-get-bike-racks

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M8_(railcar)

    http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Metro-North-trains-to-get-bike-racks-2172957.php

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/01/07/metro-north-makes-its-m-7-train-cars-more-bike-friendly/

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