My favorite convergence of two nineteenth century technologies is that of bicycles and trains because they work well together. In fact, they complement each other much more than the two quintessential twentieth-century transportation technologies: airplanes and automobiles. Don’t believe me? Think about how onerous it is to pick up or drop off someone at the airport, let alone park a car there.
One of the great things about bicycling in the New York City area is that there are trains that can assist with planning your long bike rides. Having a train enables you to do a long ride that isn’t a loop. Thanks to the tireless work of bicycling advocates throughout the region, it is possible to ride for a whole day and catch a train—and an attendant nap—to whisk you back home.
Although we still have a long way to go compared to the west coast, where you can reserve a space and roll your bike onto many Amtrak trains, the New York City–area does have some excellent infrastructure to carry a bike on a train.
Except, perhaps, for holiday weekends…such as this coming Independence Day weekend.
The patchwork of separate railroads have implemented an array of restrictions:
- New York City Subway allows bikes all day, every day, although you should always avoid weekday rush hours. Don’t be that guy.
- Metro North will not let you bring a bike aboard any train departing Grand Central Terminal on Friday, July 3, between noon and 8:30 PM. The rest of the weekend seems to be open, including Independence Day and Sunday, July 5.
- NJ Transit does not allow bikes on its trains on Independence Day. It is not entirely clear whether this policy also applies to July 3, but I wouldn’t plan any long rides in the Garden State.
- SEPTA welcomes bicycles on Independence Day and Sunday, July 5, although there are some weekday restrictions on Friday, July 3.
- Long Island Railroad has prohibited bicycles for the entire weekend, from Thursday through Sunday. That more or less kills any long rides to Long Island, unless you want to stow your bike in the Hampton Jitney
These restrictions put a damper what seemed like a nice idea: an Independence Day bike ride to Philadelphia, our nation’s former capital city. Instead, it looks like I’ll be riding with some friends north through Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties this Friday. The ride will end in Beacon, but we plan to take a very scenic and hilly route by way of Amenia for a day-long double metric century.
And, yes, we’ll be taking a late Metro North train back to NYC.