On Public Transport…. and bikes.

As you know, I’ve never been without a vehicle since I passed my driving test. But this year I’m having a go at using a fixed gear bike, and public transport as my only way of getting around. This includes leisure, day job, and gigging.

At first it was my intention to never leave the house without a bike. Come rain or shine, I would cycle short journeys, and take my bike on the train for longer journeys… You see trains are actually quite fast, and quite cheap if you book in advance, but they inevitably take you only between an average of 1-5miles from where you’re actually going. Buses at either end take forever, (and in my case, make me feel sick. What’s the point of paying to feel sick?) so the easy solution is to take a bike and cycle at either end.

Now then Rail Companies – your claim that you CAN take bikes on trains is a little bit flakey isn’t it? Ok, I’ve had some journeys that have been very successful, where you can book a bike space in advance, and they even let the train manager know that you’re coming so they don’t let the train pull away while you’re in the bike carriage.

We’ll ignore the fact that the Train Company tells you to ring the Ticket Agent to book a bike space, whilst the Ticket Agent insists that it’s the Train Company you want, and get straight to the point: Why oh why are there so many routes where for 1 part of the journey you can’t actually book a bike space?! So this means that it’s possible that you can only get half way there?! After that you might not be able to get on the next train with a bike. I asked at the ticket office and they told me this:

“With the trains where you can’t reserve a space, they tend to be a bit more lenient and are more likely to let you on. But if you don’t get on, you’ll have to get the next train and buy a full price ticket for it because the ticket you’ve got is for the train you’d have just missed”.

What?!

I locked my bike at the train station and didn’t try to take it after all, despite having booked a space for half the journey.

Umlaut, locked at station, after only being able to book a space for half the journey. Mind you, I have to say I’ve been impressed with most train stations bike locking facilities. Plentiful and secure.

When I asked on the train and the manager said “No, if you’d have brought your bike today you wouldn’t have been allowed on because we’re full. They claim you can travel with a bike, but my advice is, don’t do it unless you absolutely have to, because we have to refuse people quite often and it could easily ruin your day.”

Apparently, folding bikes are fine… but I’ve already spent all my money on a normal bike. In honesty, I don’t want to complain too much. Part of my motivation for writing this weblog is just to give out some info, so I do hope this post has been useful to anyone wanting to use the train-bike combination for the first time.

If I can’t take my bike on some routes, then that’s ok, if only they would just say “no we don’t do it”. Rail Companies, why do you CLAIM that you DO take bikes. Clearly your system for taking bikes is so unreliable that it doesn’t actually work!

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