[ UPDATE 7/13: I was informed by the bike coordinator at Sound Transit that they have updated the Bringing Your Bike web page to include appropriate wording for folding bikes. Great! Now if we can just get people to visit their local bike shop and give folders a try. If you are curious but don't know where to go, I can recommend Electric Bikes Northwest. While their name is a bit confusing (Electric Vehicles NW? Electric Bikes Northwest? Folders?) they do carry a full selection of folding bikes (as well as electric). They are well worth a trip to Ballard. And while you're there, check out The Dutch Bike Co Seattle, just a short walk away. I don't think they have many bikes that work well on buses or trains, but not all biking is about commuting, is it? ]
I’d like to suggest an addition to Sound Transit’s Bringing Your Bike web page: The appropriate use of folding bikes on Sound Transit’s vehicles.
On a recent trip I took on Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail, I was struck by how the seat pictured below seemed custom designed to house a Brompton folding bike, plus it’s rider. At only 23″ x 22″ x 11″, the Brompton would fit neatly under this seat, as well as many others on the train, dramatically increasing the number of people who could take their bike with them on the train.
I owned a Brompton for years and loved it. They are popular in London since they mesh well with their vast commuter rail network. That said, they aren’t for everybody as the ride can be a bit squirrely and they are virtually useless on some of our hills. There are other folders, such as a Dahon with 20″ wheels, that handle hills almost as well as a “normal” bike. Unfortunately, these larger folders probably wouldn’t fit under this seat and would need to be placed in the tie-down area. Still, a neatly folded bike would probably be Ok for a standing rider. There are also large areas along the Sounder line that have easy trails and very flat rides that would be perfect for one of these great folders.
As for buses, I’m often surprised by folding bike owners who see a full bike rack on my bus and flash me the typical “Guess I need to wait for the next bus” look. “Fold that thing up and get on”, I confidently say, having done so many times with my former bike. They can be a bit cumbersome, especially on really crowded buses, but they usually fit. This will be especially true on Rapid Ride coaches with their more open floor plan and loading at 3 doors. (But hold onto your bike so it doesn’t fall over and hit somebody!)
Surprisingly few folders fit that definition, but I know the Brompton does. So if you’re thinking you’d like to combine a bike with your transit commute, take a tape measure to a bike shop that carries folding bikes and see what works for you. As expensive as some high quality folders can be, I guarantee you they’ll be less costly than gas and maintenance on your car for a single year’s commute. Once you get to work, it’s pretty easy to slip a Brompton under your desk as I did or you can just lock it up on the street. It’s pretty easy to find a spot for one of these.