The Bike and Train System

Unlocking the future of metropolitan areas is directly tied to mobility issues that cannot be solved by self-driving cars or ride sharing schemes alone.  A key to the mobility dilemma that complex metropolitan areas face is integrated mobility, specifically targeting the bike and train system.  In this system, bikes bridge the first and last mile problems for those who live outside of dense urban areas or transit oriented developments, giving them alternative mobility options to the car.  This integrated mobility approach that focuses on the potential that the bike and train system offers will be the new frontier in land use and transportation planning that can be employed by planners across complex urban areas and metropolitan regions to meet mobility demands.  The bike and train system is vital to mobility in the Netherlands where over 50% of people arrive at stations by bike and the demand of this bike and train system is the fastest growing “mode."  Beyond the Netherlands, this system is widely used in Japan.
 

 A couple "dinking" on an OV fiets bike share bicycle.  These bike share bicycles are located at train stations to allow those who arrive by train to get to their destination.

A couple "dinking" on an OV fiets bike share bicycle.  These bike share bicycles are located at train stations to allow those who arrive by train to get to their destination.

The bike and train system, as used in the Netherlands, provides a real, working example of integrated, sustainable mobility that moves beyond transport oriented development to much more complicated systems of mobility that are characterized by greater flexibility within fixed transit systems and provide real competitive alternatives to single occupancy vehicles.  A major key to the success of the Dutch bike and train system is tied to the dense train infrastructure in the Netherlands and well as the OV fiets bike share system where you can seamlessly transition from train to bike with the tap of your OV chip transport card. 

 Seamlessly returning the OV fiets bike at Amsterdam central station which also works using the universal transport card before catching a train ride home.

Seamlessly returning the OV fiets bike at Amsterdam central station which also works using the universal transport card before catching a train ride home.

What can be gathered from other country contexts is that the bike and train combination provides flexibility to inflexible systems and it also serves to meet issues of inequality in complex metropolitan areas.  Those living in dense urban environments can often access their destination by bike or public transportation.  Those living outside of dense urban cores are often confronted with very limited mobility options and as a result are often pushed into single occupancy vehicles.  Further developing the bike and train system will open up healthier and more sustainable mobility options.

 Bikes and Trains in Amsterdam

Bikes and Trains in Amsterdam

When thinking about transferring lessons from places such as Amsterdam or Tokyo  to North American contexts, three domains need to be examined and addressed: the spatial infrastructure, the land use and transport systems in the area, and the institutional forces behind their workings.  In my Masters thesis research I looked at the relationship between what is traditionally conceptualized as catchment areas around train station and how the bike can reconfigure that conceptualization. 

BTOD is the new TOD: A case for sustainable transport in North America

 

  Percent of Population that lives within a bikeable distance of BART stations

Percent of Population that lives within a bikeable distance of BART stations

  

Looking at the BART system in the Bay Area, as can be seen in the graph, certain percentages of the population of the four counties that BART services live within different catchment areas of BART stations.  9.4% of the population falls within a half-mile (accepted walking distance), 55.12% fall within 2 miles (demonstrated biking distance to BART stations in the Bay Area), 67.8% falls within 3 miles (acceptable biking distance), and 79.5% falls within 5 miles (potential biking distance) of all BART stations.  Looking at these numbers, it becomes clear that there is a great discrepancy between the percent of the population that lives within acceptable walking distances of stations and extended distances, which can be bridged by the spatial reach of the bicycle.  This points to the fact that the spatial reach of the bicycle greatly expands the percentage of a population that can reasonably access transit by non-motorized modes and therefore more attention and effort should be made to understanding and accommodating bike access trips to train stations. 

After performing my research, I suggest that new developments within bikable distances to stations should be higher density, mixed-use with a traditional neighborhood design.  Additionally, developers should make a contribution with each project to upgrade bicycle parking and infrastructure in the area supporting bike access to train station trips.