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Stamford Cycling Proponent Supports More Bike Racks On Metro-North Trains

A bicycle on a rack on a Metro-North car.
A bicycle on a rack on a Metro-North car. Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Transportation

STAMFORD, Conn. -- A bicycle advocate welcomes a move to install bike racks on new Metro-North cars.

"This just helps to promote the culture change that we are in the midst of," said Jerry Silber, founder of People Friendly Stamford, a group that encourages more bicycling and walking in the city. 

On Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at a press conference unveiling a new app for Metro-North commuters to use to buy tickets also spoke about the 190 bike racks that have been installed on the newer M8 train cars.

Silber said installing the bike racks enables more people to ride their bikes to train stations and take their bikes with them to their destinations. He also said it helps to increase the use of bikes.

"Over time, more and more people will be riding bicycles because it is more and more convenient," he said.

However, a commuter advocate who has in the past poured cold water on the idea of bikes on trains said the announcement will do little with the bigger issue of increased ridership causing crowded conditions on Metro-North trains.

Even with the announcement, Jim Cameron said that bicyclists are still prohibited from bringing their bicycles on trains during rush hour.

“The governor can't have it both ways, saying there are more racks but you can't use it on rush hours," Cameron said. "The issue is that we were pennywise and pound foolish in not ordering more M8 cars in 2005. If this ridership continues to grow, we are looking at more standing room only."

Even with lower gas prices, ridership on Metro-North has increased, Cameron noted. In 2011 Metro-North's New Haven Line carried 38.3 million. Last year, ridership increased to 40.3 million, according to numbers announced earlier this year.

Cameron said increasing bike racks and bicyclists' use of trains has been a longtime effort by bike supporters.

"This has been an ongoing issue," Cameron said. "The bike lobby is very organized and very vocal and has fought very hard to get access to the trains."

He also questioned the need for people to take their bicycles with them if they are traveling to Manhattan.

"Citi Bikes are ubiquitous in New York City; do you really need to bring your bike to New York City?"

For Silber, it is a resounding yes. As a former commuter, he recognizes that bicycles cannot be taken onboard during peak hours. But he said that for many people, riding to a station and then taking their bike with them to use in the city is a convenience.

The cost of installing the racks was $209,000. Connecticut's share was $135,000 and the State of New York paid the balance under the 65 percent vs. 35 percent financial agreement between the states.

The New Haven Line is owned by the State of Connecticut and is operated by Metro-North Railroad under contract with the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

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