A European Parliament directive mandating better provision for bikes on trains has been watered down in its implementation – to the point where it’s almost useless.
In January 2007, the European Parliament decreed, "in future all trains should provide a specially designated area of the train for baby carriages, bicycles and sports equipment."
However, the law as passed recently contains numerous loopholes including allowing train operators the cop out of bikes not being ‘easy to handle’ and of rolling stock design ‘not permitting’ bike carriage.
In other words there’s still plenty of scope for rail companies to refuse to take bikes and little incentive for anything on the ground to change.
As a result of other articles in the same directive – which should in time become law in the UK – member states may exempt railway companies from carrying bicycles on domestic trains for up to 15 years and on urban, suburban and regional trains for an indefinite period of time.
Unhappy with these get-out clauses the European Cyclists' Federation and European Cycling Trade Association have withdrawn their support, commenting in a joint statement, "We find the reluctance of the member states and of the Commission to seriously develop bike transport by train regrettable and all the more peculiar in the light of the ongoing debate on sustainability."
Campaign groups up pressure
This now puts extra onus on campaign groups to lobby their national rail companies for better provision for bikes on trains.
Speaking to BikeRadar, Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy manager for the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) outlined the current major campaign areas and just how much success the CTC was having.
“CTC have been involved with station travel plans, part of a government white paper going through Parliament at the minute,”says Geffen, “and there are positive signs that this could lead to extra provision for cyclists at train stations on a more systematic basis.”
Geffen was much less positive about two other areas of CTC negotiation with the government about bikes on trains.
“The consultation body on bikes on trains, established at our request, met without inviting us (it did include the Association of Train Operating Companies and the government) and this is extremely puzzling to say the least,” says Geffen.
As well as that startling snub, Geffen says the CTC is concerned about bike provision on the London Crossrail project. As well as the lack of provision for bikes on trains themselves on the planned service, CTC is worried about the lack of “large-scale cycle parking at major interchanges such as Farringdon, where we anticipate there will be a huge demand.”