WMATA just ended its ban on bicycles during rush hour. That's great news!
Starting Monday, you can take your bicycle onto a Metro train anytime, the agency announced on January 2. Before, bikes were banned during rush hour period out of concern that trains would be too crowded during those times.
“We received requests from Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and others in the bicycle community asking us to take a fresh look at our policy,” said Metro Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader in the WMATA press release. “We believe this change supports ridership growth by Metro and a commuting option for those who want to have a bike with them.”
The blanket ban prevented people from traveling with their bicycle during that period even if cars weren't very crowded. That could pose a problem to a cyclist who lives in Arlington or DC and works in Reston, for example. In Reston the most popular Capital Bikeshare trip is between the Metro station and the shops and offices at Reston Town Center.
This regulation goes back to the 80s
According to The Washcycle, WMATA didn't allow bikes on board at all until the early 1980. At that point the agency started a pilot where cyclists had to pay a fee and go through a 30-minute training in order to travel on the train with their bikes. The agency did away with the permits in 1998, and relaxed the rule to its current iteration in 2001.
This time, instead of a complicated pilot, WMATA is simply letting things happen. WMATA says it reserves the right to restrict bicycles on trains during very high-ridership days (like Inauguration Day), and the agency may adjust the policy if the new one creates issues.
Some new rules may come about, perhaps akin to San Francisco's BART policy which prohibits bikes from the first three cars on any train during rush hour. In the meantime, this policy change will likely facilitate trips for some people who want to bike or use transit more.
What if it doesn't work?
There's been some pushback online about the change; some riders are worried about maneuvering through a crowded train. However, WMATA promises to monitor the change and make adjustments as needed. Besides, other riders already take up a lot of room with luggage, baby strollers, or even backpacks.
The rules of polite society generally keep people courteous. The same forces that keep people on the right side of the escalator or moving a backpack out of a way should work for someone who happens to have a bicycle as well.
We could all stand to be a little more gracious to one another. Let's keep that in mind no matter how we're traveling.