Why No Bikes on BART Escalators?

Every time I ride BART, I’ve always noticed the sign at the bottom of the escalator that forcefully commands, “No Bikes on Escalator,” and have wondered why that is the case.  A periodic loudspeaker announcement clarifies that it’s for our own safety and that of our fellow BART riders, but this has always seemed like a cop-out to me.

I really can’t tell what’s so dangerous about holding a bike on an escalator while it’s moving upwards.  Surely, you don’t need to monopolize the whole escalator like the person above is doing; there is plenty of space to fit both you and your bicycle while also keeping an avenue open on the left side for others who want to pass.  Moreover, doesn’t it seem even more dangerous for a smallish individual to attempt to lug his or her bicycle up that daunting BART staircase?

Some quick research reveals that while some people are completely against the idea, certain situations sometimes make it a necessity.  So, how do YOU feel about bikes on escalators?  Can anyone provide a cogent reason for why this is a forbidden practice?

[Photo by tinka516]

54 Responses to “Why No Bikes on BART Escalators?”

  1. Gypsy says:

    They like to zoom off on their bike. I like to zoom up the escalator. But I don’t like hopping over bike tires, or being hit in the face by bike tires. No thanks, not enough room. Leave the escalator to foot traffic.

    People with luggage are bad enough.

    I always carry my bike up the stairs. In the Mission, we even have a nifty bike rolling space on the side of the stairs, decorated with gears. If that isn’t positive encouragement enough, I don’t know what is.

    Also, there’s usually the elevator.

  2. SlideSF says:

    Not everyone who operates a bicycle is capable of doing so safely. If the tires come in contact with the side walls of the escalator they could jam, carrying the bicycle out of the hands of the operator and possibly colliding with other escalator passengers. It’s an unlikely scenario, but possible, and hence a liability from an insurance POV.

  3. Derrick Huhn says:

    Bikes are probably not allowed for the same reason you should always be holding on to the side belts while riding the escalator. There are times when BART stations lose electricity and the escalators come to a grinding halt. The no-bike rule is probably a safety precaution so no one is hurt by bikes or people tumbling down the stairs.

    There are warnings about the electricity cutoffs in the Glen Park station, iirc.

  4. pn says:

    it’s all legal ass covering. in most countries of the world, you take anything you can fit on escalators, because it’s just part of getting around. we’ve become a nation of worry warts. too much time worrying about “what might happen” instead of just getting stuff done.

    bottom line is that if you take your bike up the elevator, what the gonna do, make you take it back down?

    • Tad Benton says:

      The cops will ticket you for it, if they happen to be there. I’ve only done it twice, once during some stairway repair at Civic Center, and once while sprinting for a train at 19th (the escalator was closer than the staircase). A cop was at the bottom and he chewed me out and threatened me with a ticket. I apologized and said that I was only doing it because I was late for the train, but that yeah, I knew the rules, sorry, sorry.

      • Mickey says:

        And I’ll bet you were late for the train because the BART cop took the time to chew you out. Happen like that to me :>

      • C money says:

        I almost got a ticket last night for taking my bike up the escalator. I’m a petite female. Last night I had a full bladder and I know a going up the stairs in the cold holding a bike would cause me to lose my load. The officers detained me, and then i was let go.

        but I was wondering- isnt the Bart privately owned and isn’t it out of their jurisdiction to ticket onI private property? I question this as a city or state law? I asked the cop but cops dont know usually know. Does anyone know?

  5. Erik says:

    I bet someone lost control of their bike on the escalator once and it went bouncing back down through a crowd of people.

    • Jonah says:

      But no one ever lost control of their bike on the stairs right? Sure, the escalator is narrower than the stairs in most stations, but if someone lost control of their bike, I’d rather it land on a moving staircase that conveys the bike up and away from me, rather than bouncing all the way down to the platform as it would on the stairs. And you’re just as likely to get a tire in the face on the stairs if you’re not paying attention to who’s in front of you (though cyclists should wait for the crush of people alighting trains to get on the escalator before throwing a bike over their shoulder – that’s just being polite). Frankly, I think rolling the bike on and holding the brakes is by far the safest way to move a bike from platform to grade – no lifting, no carrying, and you can stand behind the handlebars as the author states so folks in a hurry can get by on your left. I do it all the time.

    • Jonah says:

      Copenhagen has great bike chutes to help you up the stairs, but they’re not as steep (or devoid of landings) as the mission staircases… Seems like all the staircases in the BART system should have these.

  6. DocPop says:

    Aside from the liability issues listed above, I see it as just a matter of being considerate of other folks on the escalator. Not all bike riders block the escalator when carrying their bikes up, but it seems that far too many do.

    What I want to know is why aren’t bikes allowed on the front car of BART? On Saturday the lone BART car with the priority bicycle spaces was in the first car of the train. What’s the logic behind that rule?

    • Mike says:

      The logic is supposedly to ensure that the driver (or, train operator in the case of BART) has no difficulty / blockage issues if he/she needs to enter the train body for any reason – we all know luggage can cause the same issue, but I think they decided to cut their losses this way…

  7. cassadie says:

    I usually take my bike on the escalator. ESPECIALLY @ the embarcadero station in the morning. at the entrance I walk into there are two options: an up stairwell and a down escalator. Trying to take a bike down the stairs with pushy shovey a-holes clogging it trying to get up into the FiDi is way more dangerous than taking my bike down a totally clear escalator. It’s like being a salmon swimming upstream and far more dangerous to use my bike as a battering ram with these people. Especially if I’m wearing clip-in road shoes (read: SLIPPERY).

    I get it. some people DONT know how to operate their bikes on escalators, and some people DO, safely and respectfully. I think this is a rule that could be reassessed.

  8. hoboking says:

    I suspect it’s part of BART’s ‘anti-bike prejudice’. Since bikes have such a hard time fitting onto BART anyway, why not make using them to BART commute more troublesome (as if the no bikes during commute hours wasn’t bad enough)by requiring cyclists to lug their annoying vehicles up the stairs. If you are commuting on BART it is an obvious fact that one should simply drive to the station and park in the overflowing lots. It’s all part of a plot, a sinister anti-bicycle pro-car plot. Now go riot!

    Or it could be that some escalators are pretty darn cramped and a person with a bike riding up them makes them more so. Also signage simply discourages it, they don’t have a cop stationed at the escalator.

    I’m going with sinister plot though.

    • cassadie says:

      i also agree that its prolly part of a sinister plot. very very much so. just like why there is no bike lane on the Bay Bridge….

      • hoboking says:

        Or Bike lanes on the freeway! Or Bike lanes on Mission! Or Bike lanes in space!

        I am so frothed up now! I think I need to go to a Board of Supes meeting dressed as a zombie and complain in some kind of angry inarticulate manner. I will also blame the lack of bike friendliness in this city on coffee carts and big box stores in the Mission.

  9. colin says:

    Arguing that you should be able to take your bike on the escalator is like arguing that cars should be allowed to drive in bike lanes when traffic is too crowded.

    Take the stairs or the elevator – that’s what they are there for.

    • james says:

      This. Don’t be lazy. Carry your bike up the stairs. I always thought of it as a good method for toning my weak arms.

    • That’s a terrible analogy. Not allowing bikes on escalators is more like not allowing bikers to ride major streets and forcing them to ride side streets with stop signs at every intersection. That said, I often do carry my bike up the stairs but there are many for who it’s a major hassle if not impossible (due to weak upper body strength and/or heavy bikes). Telling all of them that they should just use the elevator isn’t a solution unless they speed up the elevators, install more of them, and stop people from pissing in them. And don’t get me started on the useless bike ramp at the Mission BART station. If you want to encourage bike riding you should make it easier and remove impediments rather than create them.

    • John says:

      It’s more like when pedestrians step from a crowded sidewalk and walk in the bike lane.

  10. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

    I am definitely against bikes on Escalators, and I really wish that BART was more stringent about enforcing the rule, as I see people carrying their bikes on escalators all the time.. Wheels and pedals banging into people walking up (or down) the escalator, etc.

  11. waldo says:

    There’s a very real reason for this rule. Your bike could get wedged between the two side-walls of the escalator. I’m not saying that’s terribly likely, but it certainly could happen if someone brushing past you bumped into you and your bike just right.

    If your bike (or any other bulky object — baby strollers are not allowed either) got wedged sideways, people behind you would smash into your now-immoble bike. And keep piling up against it until someone at the far end of the escalator hit the emergency stop button. It’s hard not to imagine someone getting seriously injured in this scenario.

    I have never had any problem with that logic, so I always carry my bike on the stairs. As should the rest of you.

    Back in the OG bikes-on-bart days (transbay shuttle, anyone?) it seemed like most of the bart agents and cops actually understood the explanation behind the escalator rule. They don’t any longer, so I can understand how it seems like an arbitrary anti-bike rule. But it isn’t.

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      Thanks for the explanation, Waldo, that actually makes a good deal of sense.

      • John R. says:

        Asking people to carry their bikes up two flights of stairs makes sense if you are able to do so. However, restricting everyone who can’t carry their bikes up stairs to the cranky, slow, odorous elevators is not viable if we are to increase the number of people using bicycles as transportation. That’s the idea, right? Small people, seniors, shoppers.. all kinds of people using their bicycles to go where they want to go and do what they need to do?

        To me it’s another symptom of BART’s less than vigorous commitment to the bike-ability of their system, like the lack of bike space on cars, the black-out hours, the snail’s pace improvements in secure bike parking, etc. It seems that most of what BART is doing these days, when it comes to bicycles, is amplifying their restrictions.

      • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

        When/if the elevators are out of order, then you may have a point. Otherwise? Suck it up and ride in the box.

    • John says:

      Wouldn’t the rule also apply to travelers with large suitcases, then? They are the biggest problem of all. Worse than bikes and strollers combined. A guy in front of me today had a suit case on wheels. It was so wide, it got jammed in the BART fare gate on the way out.

    • paul d says:

      duh people. how is this not obvious?

    • Jeff says:

      I never really liked this rule until I got stuck behind a guy at 16th and mission whose bike did get wedged. It was pretty freaky (and thankfully no one got hurt) but he had a hard time getting bike bike unwedged and we had to keep walking backwards while he tried.

      If there were a lot more people on the escalator it could have been a big problem.

  12. Allan Hough says:

    Chris nails it on the Mission Mission Facebook Wall:

    “because most people are retarded and can’t do it without dying?”

    Tres cogent indeed!

  13. i ride bikes says:

    It always seems like the elevators aren’t working at many stations or smell like urine. If BART actually had reasonable rules in regards to bikes, it would be nice. However, I’d say they are anti-bike from what other people have mentioned.

    If I take my bike on the escalator, I usually wait until everyone from my train has gotten on as to not annoy people. It’s a judgement call and sometime people make the wrong decision. :/

  14. Chris says:

    If you can manage to not block the left half of the escalator or hit people in the head when you sling it over your shoulder, then more power to you. That said, if you want to selfishly block and inconvenience dozens of other people so you can avoid thirty seconds of minor physical labor, then you fail at life.

  15. spike says:

    Why not dedicate a car or two to bike riders? Center car for bikes, take out some seats for the added bike volume.
    I think the current rule of no bikes on escalators is completely backwards. I’ve seen too many people, trying to shove their bikes up the rail at 16th/Mission, losing control. Think of the ramifications of someone losing control of their bike while trying to walk it up the stairs.
    Perhaps if BART, instead of labeling escalators with signs saying ‘NO BIKES’, tagged them with signs ‘stand right / walk/pass left’ we would have a safer, slightly more effective transit system.

  16. John says:

    The problem with a 100% stairs policy is the that stairs are all two-way. That means there are people coming down, sometimes on BOTH sides while I try to carry my bike up. There is no order. That is dangerous.

    My opinion is that escalators could be used if 1) you pick your bike up completely, 2) keep your bike somewhat over the right rail, 3) keep walking up the stairs at the flow of traffic, 4) remain conscious of people wanting to pass on your left.

    By staying with the speed of traffic, and staying in the right DIRECTION of traffic, bikes are actually safer on escalators than on stairs. Just don’t block both lanes – that’s ignorant.

    **If the elevators didn’t smell so pissy and require you to do the fare-gate shuffle with bike-in-tow, we might actually use the elevators more often.

  17. Kevin says:

    Seems like what escalators were designed for – carrying people and their heavy items up huge ascents and descents, like bikes!

  18. Al says:

    The ‘rails’ on the staircases I haven’t found to be much use. I haven’t used the one on BART but there’s one on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, on the stairway to the underpass. Pushing a bike up the rail is HARD– almost as hard as carrying it, but with worse leverage. It felt heavier than it does when I put it on my shoulder.

    I travel on BART fairly often and usually use the escalator. I lift the bike to shoulder level, and hold it on my right, so I don’t think I take up any more room than your average standee. People pass me on the left. I can appreciate that there are issues, but I think I’m skilled enough to do it without inconveniencing anyone.

  19. brian says:

    This is the most retarded Mission Mission post ever.

    Use the fucking elevator.


  20. Chris says:

    Look at the picture on this posting. That’s essentially why they shouldn’t be on escalators. The cyclist seems really nice and is surely not being intentionally malicious in her escalator usage. But she is blocking the entire passage and appears to be blissfully unaware of this fact. I agree that BART should generally be more bike friendly (more parking, dedicated cars, etc.), but the escalator thing would totally be a pain in the ass for the rest of the escalator riders.

  21. kate says:

    Easy to be cranky typing someone’s an idiot online but not easy talking face to face. If a person is in your way you can try saying “PLEASE move your bike. THANKS!”

  22. It’s just this simple. People are people. By stating the rules, Bart serves the duty to provide a safe place. People who use their bikes or any wheeled traffic for that matter, assume the risk of doing so in spite of the warnings and therefore are liable for any damage or injuries they cause as a result of their negligence on conveyances which are considered “common carriers”. Such rules come, regretfully, from people injured on such conveyances.

  23. Take a look at the picture!!!
    Her front tire is rubbing against the stationary part of the escalator. If it grabs the tire just like the famous children’s shoes the bike will be jerked out of her hands!

    It’s sad that she can not see this. I hope no one gets hurt.

    • Jym Dyer says:

      @Robert – She’s just posing, and as with the other photos in her flickr stream, she’s standing on the chain side of the bike to show off its colorful frame. In real, non-posed, situations I’ve mostly seen bicyclists holding their bikes with the chain side towards the right wall, leaving room for others to pass on the left.

      In any event, unlike the children’s Crocs with holes that perfectly fit into escalator tines, bicycle wheels are much too big to get grabbed like that.

      =v= BART’s policy does not apply to street-level escalators at the combo Muni/BART stops on Market Street, and somehow bicyclists have been using those for decades without disastrous consequences.

  24. Katherine Roberts says:

    Wow, what a tempest in a teapot. I put my bike on the escalator because I have a very bad back injury I got from inadvertently blocking a speeding car one time in the middle of a high-speed police chase. That made me hate cars all right, but I am nowhere near strong enough to carry my bike up and down stairs. So I take it on the escalator instead. So far I have only decapitated one person, but she was old anyway, and probably didn’t have that much longer to live. I also caused two, or maybe three at MOST, amputations. And I put ONE person’s eye out. Aside from this, nothing. So unless I was REALLY doing something seriously dangerous, I don’t think anyone has a thing to complain about.

  25. Eyad says:

    If you’re not an asshole you can ride on the escalator with your bike and still leave enough room for other people to pass by. But since most people are assholes this rule is a good one.

  26. Theodore Sternberg says:

    The scenario where a bike gets wedged between the escalator and the stainless steel wall it moves past seems a lot less likely than clothing getting stuck there. I doubt either is a real danger but if BART thinks it is then they should immediately ban anyone with loose clothing from the escalators!

    As for losing control over your bicycle, that seems a lot more likely walking it down stairs, than holding it while you’re getting lifted, yourself mostly motionless, by an escalator.

    This controversy isn’t about engineering or safety though. It’s about culture. A lot of non-bicyclists hate bicyclists — for their youth, for their health, often for their presumed politics and education, and yes, because some bicyclists are jerks.

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      Your analogy only makes sense if you are used to seeing people wearing clothing made of rigid metal tubing.

      I would also like to go on record as supporting the banning of rigid metal tubing clothes on BART escalators.

  27. Anthony F. says:

    Big deal. Let the riders ride and the haters hate.

  28. Mary says:

    I’m disabled enough that I wouldn’t be able to carry a bike up the stairs, but not too disabled to ride (usually). I take the bike up the elevator when I can, but the couple of times I’ve gotten off at a station where the elevator was out of service, I’ve taken it up the escalator.

    I’d mind the elevators less if they didn’t smell like pee about half the time, and if they weren’t so inconveniently placed. (Sometimes it feels like the downtown stations might as well share elevators, as I walk about halfway to Montgomery from Powell to use one.)

  29. rick says:

    I witnessed a crowded escalator malfunction in Washington DC subway. Believe me, if there had been bikes on that thing when it gave way and slid backwards hurling everyone on it downward, I am sure there would have been many more serious injuries. So, quit whining about it and just pay attention to the safety precautions and stop acting like you’re the only person in the world.

  30. Steve N says:

    If you look at the photo, the front wheel is jammed up against the step in front. As the steps level out at the top landing the tyre can become entrapped between the two steps. On US specification escalators this will trip the step upthrust safety switches and stop the escalator.

    Inconvenient at best and potenitally dangerous if passengers lose their balance when the escalator unexpectantly stops (if you fall on an escalator, you can go all the way to the bottom and there have been fatalities due to falls).

    It can also cause mechanical damage to the steps which untimately can cause them to crash into the combs at the landing with catastrophic consequences. Broken steps = mincing machine!

  31. Abbie R.Hale says:

    They just want to avoid any accidents in the escalator,because having a bicycle in the escalator has a chance that it will jam. Speaking of escalator try to check this bicycle escalator http://www.exploretalent.com/articles/ride-norways-first-bike-escalator/ . What do you think?