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People walking are five times as likely to be killed by a driver traveling 30 mph as one going 20 mph.

Bikes may be allowed on Amtrak trains to Michigan next year

Starting in spring 2014, Amtrak trains bound for Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids may start allowing passengers to roll on four bikes per train. 

Derrick James shows off the proposed bike racks. 

While there are still some hurdles to overcome — namely funding — our fingers are crossed with the hope the project will come to fruition.

Currently, no bikes are allowed on these trains — either boxed or fully assembled.

Recently, Amtrak gave Active Trans an exclusive look at the new bike racks, which will be bolted to the floor in the snack car.

Derrick James, director of government affairs for Amtrak’s central region, said Amtrak has a commitment to intermodal connectivity. And he said the process for installing these racks was pushed along by a lobbying effort by the League of Michigan Bicyclists and pressure from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

James, who happens to be a former Active Trans Board of Directors vice-president, said that he helped push the process along, as well.

“This will improve intermodal connectivity,” said James. “It means more options for folks to combine their modes of travel.”

The proposed racks, which take the place of some seating in the snack car, will also be outfitted on trains going from Chicago to Quincy and Carbondale. These Illinois routes already allow passengers to roll on bikes and stow them in the handicapped seating area.

James explained that the year-long wait is necessary because all the trains on the individual routes must be retrofitted before the service can be launched.

When buying a ticket online, riders will indicate if they are bringing a bike on board.

The proposed racks are outfitted with straps and bungee cords; riders will be able to lock their bikes to the steel racks.

Eventually, James said, the hope is that 20 cars will be retrofitted with the new racks. The Chicago train to Grand Rapids is a two level train and will have the bikes in the first level baggage area instead of the snack car.

“Funding to convert 20 cars … needs to be secured,” said James. “Capital funding is tight especially after our budget took a sequestration hit.”

James said the proposed racks will serve as an interim solution until Amtrak dramatically expands the options for bringing bikes on Midwest train routes. In 2016, new trains will be introduced into the Midwest system that will allow four bikes on each train car. James said it’ll be a few years after the initial introduction before those cars become universal on local routes.

Take a ride and provide feedback
Amtrak is seeking a few people who ride bicycles to provide feedback on the proposed bike rack system aboard its trains.

Next Wednesday, May 15, Amtrak is inviting a few people with bikes aboard the 7:20 a.m. train that departs Chicago Union Station for New Buffalo, Niles and Dowagiac, Michigan to use the proposed racking system.

When you get off the train at one of those stops, you are welcome to return on the next train back to Chicago, arriving at 11:45 a.m. Or you can take a later train. Your tickets will be paid for.

Please contact Ted Villaire at Active Trans if you’re interested. You must have a reservation arranged through Active Trans to participate in this demonstration trip.