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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It is Inexcusable to Take a Bike on an Escalator

I don't care about how much hate mail I'm going to get for this one today, I'm going to make it very clear...

There is no excuse or "good reason" why you should take a bicycle on any escalator, including ones at BART stations. While I'm at it, I'm going to also include baby strollers too.

You can blab all you want saying that BART is not bike friendly or the BART police and station agents are acting like assholes. Every time I ride a BART escalator and notice a bicyclist holding their bike in front of me, I either have to wait until that moron clears or I keep my distance in case the jackass screws up and it flies down the stairwell. It's just like not wearing a bike helmet and using front and rear lights, you are setting yourself up for a vacation at the morgue or the trauma center at SF General.

It's already common sense wheelchair users should never use an escalator for any particular reason. At BART stations, there's always an elevator or some ADA accessible way to get from the parking garage, the entry gates, and train platform.

So if common sense logic works correctly, if you have any type of big wheels, you should not be using the escalators in the first place. Would you be on roller skates or a Segway and ride an escalator?

Sure, it makes it look easy to get up and down that big set of stairs by simply holding your bike on a moving escalator, but let's see what bad scenarios might happen:
  1. As a courtesy, transit station escalators have a basic rule, standees on the right side, and those wanting to pass stay on the left. Bicycles block the entire width of the escalator and makes passing impossible or dangerous.
  2. If the bicycle gets wedged in between the width of the escalator (front tire gets wedged on one side while the back tire is on the other), that blocks the entire path of the moving escalator and there could be a large collision of passengers until, hopefully, a passenger on the bottom of the escalator can hit the emergency stop button in time.
  3. Normally, elderly people would ride the escalator if they can safely enter and exit, but using it means they don't have to exert as much energy than using the stairs. If the elderly person is standing behind the bike passenger, if the bike rider loses control of the bicycle and falls down the escalator stairs, well, the elderly person is likely going to be seriously hurt. But it doesn't have to be an elderly person, it could be any person of any age.
In my opinion, there is no "safe" reason why a bike or any large object should be riding an escalator. Those who do it set themselves up for a civil lawsuit and may be subject to a citation; or if someone gets killed or injured, possible criminal charges (e.g. negligence). People must be responsible for the safe operation of their bicycles, baby strollers, wheelchairs, everything else in between. If I drove a car irresponsibly and hit a person, I'd be blogging in prison.

What are the best ways to get from one level to the other with a bike or other wheeled object? Use an elevator or stairs.

Update 12/28: Some typos pointed out by others; they have been corrected. Kudos to them.


murphstahoe said...

I finally made Akit's blog!

I can't believe you were on BART the same time as me and got my picture!

Anonymous said...

Akit says: "If I drove a car irresponsibly and hit a person, I'd be blogging in prison."

While I'm not touching this escalator debate with a ten-foot-escalator-approved-pole...I think we'll both agree there is plenty of historical precedence to show the above statement as hyperbole if not just incorrect.
Try searching the phrase "driver was not cited" in SFGate and see what you get.

That said: I enjoy the blog and you were most helpful with my switch from fastpass to Clipper.

Have a prosperous 2011!

Anonymous said...

Elevators are frequently out of service at BART stations. If it's out on one platform and not the other you're supposed to take the train to the next station, turn around and come back to arrive at the opposite platform. This takes a lot of time. Stairs are dangerous too (have you ever tried carrying a bike down stairs with bike bags after shopping. yikes!).

I think i'll take the escaltor...

mr. dashe said...


as a self-righteous urban cyclist i couldn't agree with you more. just as i'm bitchy and mean when it comes to others treating cyclists poorly i'm even more so when i see inconsiderate behaviour from my fellow cyclists.

nicely done.

KWillets said...

That's not a BART escalator. It's an MTA escalator.

Brandon said...

More often in the stroller camp than the bike one, but I suggest you try using just the elevators for a week where escalators are preferred. They're usually inconveniently located, often broken, often too small or just plain overloaded and slow. I think you'll find a lot to complain about.

Malls, public transit, airports, department stores...

Alex Plumb said...

I agree that bikes don't belong on escalators, but niether do people who must pass everyone else on the short trip up or down. What's more dangerous to an elderly person with balance issues carrying a bag of groceries on an escalator, a person in front of them standing still holding a bike or a person trying to pass them on a moving staircase not really wide enough for two grown people? If you need the exercise, take the stairs. My fragile 78 year old Grandma Kim says: "Chill on the electric slide, kids". BTW I take my bike on Bart often and always use the stairs.

Tony said...

Well, rules are rules. People break them, and the agents don't care. As many of you know the rule, "Bicyclists must use elevator or stairs, not escalators..."


According to CA Vehicle Code Sec. 21113, "A transit development board may adopt ordinances, rules, or regulations to restrict, or specify the conditions for, the use of bicycles..."


I've even seen bikes (non-folding bikes!) riding BART during commuter hours (For instance: Powell St., going towards Richmond, 5:30PM)

I've even seen cyclists on PM-commute SF-bound trains getting off at Civic Center, not Embarcadero, which they were supposed to get off. You have a bike anyway, isn't it too hard to get off early and bike to your destination?

The destination signs have emphasized "NO BIKES," but they don't seem to care.

I wonder how many cyclists ever get ticketed because of this...

So I agree with Akit, cyclists on public transit shouldn't be privileged. They need to think of others.

@makfan said...

Seems to me the start of airport service has really changed things on BART. I never take a bike on board, but I do go to SFO regularly (and OAK occasionally). If it is OK for people to bring two or three huge suitcases per person on any train, why are bikes banned during commute hours?

Unknown said...

Old thread... but I found it while trying to understand the silly escalator rule.

Using the escalator vs. the stairs reduces the chance of dropping the bike/causing an injury, not increases. Have you tried to walk up the stairs in SF in the evening (with or without a bike)? It's a wall of humans rushing to catch their train, while looking at their phones. Carrying a bike *up* the stairs, against that current, is dangerous. Even moreso if one exits at Embarcadero as we are supposed to do - that's a loooong staircase.

I do use the stairs, because: rules. But when stopping every few steps to avoid a collision... and I see the empty escalator next to me, it feels absurd to obey this particular rule.

That said: it's important to carry the bike vs. wheel it onto the escalator. I've seen people try the latter, and it can result in problems. But carrying a bike up the escalator is no different than carrying an oversized parcel or a heavy backpack or suitcase, etc. Which people do, all the time.