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Stranded on the South Shore

By Matt Wood in Miscellaneous on Aug 29, 2006 4:12PM

chicagoist_2006_08_biketrai.jpgWe've all been hung out to dry with no way to get home, left in some remote location with seemingly no other option than an expensive cab ride. Your boyfriend got stuck at work and couldn't pick you up from the airport, and you have too much luggage for the train. You missed the last Metra train of the night and it's either $50 to Waukegan or sleeping on the grimy floor of the station. Annoying as these situations may seem, home is still within reach, not as bad as, say, being stuck in South Bend with no way to get home but your bike.

Alan Forester took his bike on the South Shore Line Sunday to spend the afternoon wheeling around looking for Touchdown Jesus. No one hassled him on the train from Chicago, but on his way home that evening at nearly 10 p.m., a crew member told him he'd have to leave the train, calling the bike a safety risk. The train had already left the station, but returned so Forester could leave. He decided to get off, instead of arguing and possibly getting arrested in these days of Super Crazy Mass Transit Paranoia Madness. He hopped in a cab, and $150 later he was back at his home in Lincoln Park.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District admitted they shouldn't have stranded one of their customers 100 miles from home, and agreed to reimburse Forester for the $150 and his wasted $9 one-way trip back home. But they told the Tribune that their biggest mistake was letting him on the first train at all. The NICTD's website says South Shore riders are permitted to bring bikes on the train only if they're "disassembled and carried on board in a bag or container expressly designed for such purposes and stowed in the overhead luggage racks." Forester thought he was following the rules. He had taken the wheels off his bike, put them in one bag, put the frame in another, and stowed it on the racks. But the handlebars were poking out of one of the bags, prompting the conductor to throw Alan from the train.

The NICTD says they are reviewing the wording of the bike rules to see if they need clarification. We can help them with that. The whole "bag or container expressly designed for such purposes" is what's going to get them into trouble. Who's to say Forester's duffel bags weren't expressly designed for holding his bike? His only mistake was letting the handlebars poke out of the bag. We suppose the train conductor would have felt better about the safety of other passengers had he lugged two large (fully-closed though) bags full of clanking metal parts onto a commuter train.