Friday, February 24, 2012
Tracking Our Velocipedes
Bicycles are cool.
This isn’t just my opinion. It’s fact. They don’t use precious gas. They represent a great, non-intimidating form of exercise. You can ride them by yourself, with friends, family or even as part of a club. They’re cleaner, quieter and cheaper than cars. You don’t need a garage or parking space. You’re not closed off from sounds and smells when you’re riding them. You can take them with you wherever you go.
The nonprofit League of Michigan Bicyclists – which has promoted safe bicycling and advocated for a more bike-friendly state since 1981 – is leading an effort to convince Amtrak to allow bicycles on its passenger trains here. (Bikes and boxed luggage are currently prohibited on Michigan trains.) The Michigan Department of Transportation supports the idea, which is called “roll-on bicycle service,” and Amtrak has already implemented it elsewhere.
What’s cooler than that?
Anita took the kids and me to the Windy City last year on the Amtrak train. It was very cool to hop on in East Lansing and hop off in Chi-Town a mere three hours later. It would have been even cooler if we could have saved money by avoiding cabs in favor of pedal power.
Seems like “Pure Michigan” would be purer if people could travel with their bikes.
Amtrak – a U.S. government-owned corporation – employs more than 20,000 people and operates passenger service on more than 21,000 miles of track in 46 states and three Canadian provinces. Since its annual subsidies are always controversial, one would think officials would do everything they could to sell tickets and fill seats – including welcoming a new subset of the population, bike tourists, on board. (Although rises in gas prices lead to spikes in ridership, relying on volatility in the Middle East and the greed of oil companies is no way to run a business.)
Bicycle tourism is an important part of local, state and regional economies – read an interesting article on bike tourism in Grist here – and Michigan is home to a number of bike tours in or near communities served by Amtrak. Capitalizing on this opportunity seems like a no brainer to me.
this petition at change.org urging Amtrak to allow bicycles on Michigan passenger trains – especially if you live or work near Amtrak stations in Albion, Ann Arbor, Bangor, Battle Creek, Birmingham, Dearborn, Detroit, Dowagiac, Durand, East Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids, Holland, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lapeer, New Buffalo, Niles, Pontiac, Port Huron, Royal Oak and St. Joseph/Benton Harbor.
I’m not sure how effective on-line petitions are in bringing about change but they can’t hurt.
I hope to travel from East Lansing to Chicago by train soon – and I hope to bring my bike.
Sources: League of Michigan Bicyclists, change.org, Grist.