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Taking Your Bike on the Bus or Train: A Primer

By Lindsey Miller in Miscellaneous on Mar 17, 2010 8:40PM

It's almost spring, the season for bicycle commuting, leisurely weekend bike rides, longer bike trips - and sudden afternoon rainstorms. In these situations, you have three choices: suck it up and get wet, leave your bike wherever it was and seek shelter, or haul yourself and your bike onto a CTA bus or train. Here's a handy-dandy list of rules and some tips for all of your emergency biking needs this spring and summer.

Taking your bike on the Bus
All CTA buses have bike racks attached to the front and bikes are allowed on these racks on any day, at any time. The CTA has extensive instructions on its website that explain how to properly secure your bike in each of the two types of racks. Or, the video below should give you a pretty good idea.

Tips to remember: Make sure your bike is secure - give it a shake to make sure it's not going to fall off (the CTA recommends sitting in front and keeping an eye on your bike during the ride). Also, Make sure the bus driver knows when you are putting your bike in the rack and taking it off. A few years ago, a woman tragically killed when she was run over by the bus while taking her bike off the bus's rack.

Taking your bike on the L
The rules for when and where your bike is allowed on the L are a little more complicated. They're not allowed during weekday rush hours (7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a,.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.), on July 3 and 4, or during times of "extreme crowding." Only two bikes are allowed inside each car. Make sure you look for the green bike decal on the side of the car that will signal whether bikes are allowed inside. One more caveat: bikes are not allowed on the Blue Line cars that have inward-swinging doors.

Tips to remember: Your bike won't fit through the turnstiles, so find an attendant to open the swing gate. The King Drive Green Line station isn't conducive to bikes because of its tall-steel barrier gates - ride to Cottage Grove instead.

Taking your bike on the Metra
For those bike trips that take you outside the city, make sure you check the Metra website beforehand for the rules. Bikes are allowed on Metra trains on weekdays if the train is scheduled to arrive in Chicago after 9:30 a.m., and leave Chicago before 3:00 p.m. and after 7:00 p.m. Most weekends are wide open, except during high-traffic events like Blues Fest, Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza, and the Air & Water Show (see the Metra website for this year's dates).

Tips to remember: Stay out of other people's way while you're bringing the bike on and off the train, and keep it out of the aisles and away from doors while you're on the train. If it's excessively dirty or longer than 70 inches in length, it won't be allowed on board.