Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bicycles on the train

Almost all trains in the Netherlands have a "bicycle car."

It is the only place were you are officially allowed to bring on a full sized bicycle (for 6 euros). Of course there are exceptions, but this is the rule.

Most of these bicycle cars have at least 4 flip up seats under a "Voorang" bicycle priority sign.

This is where the bicycles are to be placed; out of the way of people moving through the train.

On the train home from Enkhuizen
Properly placed bicycle in the bicycle car.
However, bicycle priority on the trains is often unclear or ignored by other riders.
Many will sit in the fold down seats even when bicycles are present and must be asked to move. 
I have my own rules for asking them. 

If it is a handicapped person (even though there is a whole handicapped car or two on the train), I place the blame with whomever designed the handicapped car to make it undesirable for handicapped people. This happens a lot. I do not ask them to move.

If it is a person with a suitcase trying to get to or from Schiphol airport, I will ask them to move because my bicycle will impede traffic on and off the train while their suitcase can be more easily tucked away than my bicycle. Also, tourists are easily intimidated and move very quickly with no backtalk. Sorry. I take advantage of these things.

If it is a parent with a giant stroller,  (they can get on any car, not just the bicycle car) I will try to ignore them because kids are hard enough as it is... but I am silently judging them. However, most parents tend to be accommodating without being asked so my silent judgement isn't often too harsh.

All other old or young non-handicapped people can move. Come on. Seriously, there's only one place I can put my bicycle but hundreds of places where you can sit. Unless it's crowded. Then it can be pointless to say anything.

Here's a crowded bicycle car- sitters occupying the bicycle priority area. Two bicycles are in the center of the car entrance, impeding traffic. It is hard to get on and off the train, but not much to be done. Reshuffling everybody would be just as stressful and I'm sure the sitters would refuse to move without a compensatory seat elsewhere.

In most other circumstances, I will say something and people usually move. I've only had a few problems.

One time, a lady was taking up two seats even though there was another set of three non-bicycle priority seats across the car. After first refusing, she could no longer ignore me when other people started commenting (and I stood rocking back and forth holding my bicycle and trying not to fall over). But she was so bitterly offended that she complained about me for the rest of the ride. She even telephoned her friends to complain about me. I could hear it all because she had only moved three feet. It was kind of funny.

Any other stories? 


  1. I once got on a half-empty Sprinter at 6:30 AM, so I had no trouble securing the correct spot for my big stadfiets (and its big panniers)... until a woman got on and asked me to move my bike so she could sit in a folding seat. I'm not sure where she expected me to move it; there's barely enough space on the old-style Sprinters to get a bike through the door.

    1. Did you move?? Crazy lady.
      (I'm assuming you got on the train on a weekend, or in the month of July or August, because at all other times full sized bicycles are not allowed on the trains between 6:30 and 9:00am.)

  2. It happened to me last month between Cambridge and Peterborough (the Stansted Express!) All I managed to do was wimp out and discretely take a picture using my mobile phone. That's us Brits for you! I can see now I should follow your approach and have a policy - what happens if they are sleeping though?