Let’s trial putting bikes on trams

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WEB TILE Letters
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I’m grateful that Mike Dodgson (16 November) responded to my plea (27 October) for readers to sign CycleSheffield’s e-petition to trial the carriage of bicycles on the pilot of national light rail.

As Oscar Wilde said: “There is only one thing worse in life than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.

He queries whether such a trial would be welcomed by other passengers and wonders whether the carriage of bikes may be hazardous.

I had the good fortune to travel on light rail schemes in Chicago and St Louis this summer and both systems allowed the carriage of bikes with no problems - and the US is arguably the most litigious nation in the world.

Similar European systems to the one proposed, with similar rolling stock, carry bikes without damage or opposition from other passengers.

Many commuting heavy rail services in this country allow the carriage of bicycles in ordinary passenger carriages, including most in and out of Sheffield station, without reports of injuries or damage to others.

CycleSheffield’s point is that we would not know whether it is hazardous or damaging for other light-rail passengers until we try it.

Trying it is also important because this is a national trial.

The evidence from this trial will inform future UK light-rail schemes, some of which, including the local one, may replace heavy rail services that have an obligation to carry bikes.

If a light-rail scheme were to run from Stocksbridge to, say, Rotherham then it would be reasonable for passengers to expect similar conditions of carriage to those that heavy rail services must provide.

Currently UK light-rail operating companies, like Stagecoach, do not allow the carriage of bikes, and are highly resistant to offering it even as a trial.

All public transport relies on publicly funded subsidies to provide a quality service and a quid pro quo for these subsidies would be the trialling of the carriage of bicycles on these light-rail systems.

Mr Dodgson also raises the costs of such a trial.

Well, we have never argued that the carriage of bicycles should necessarily be free and a charge for a bicycle may be reasonable.

We also believe that it may provide more passengers and income on less used routes on less busy days (e.g. getting out of town to go for a spin in Rother Valley and beyond on a Sunday morning).

We are aware that there may well need to be conditions that limit the number of bikes per tram-train or carriage (in Chicago it was two bikes per carriage).

There would need to be consideration and rules about priority for people with wheelchairs, pushchairs and mobility scooters, and these rules must apply to bikes as well.

There are no significant reports of such problems from heavy rail, or from light rail systems outside the UK.

Only a trial will accurately evaluate Mr Dodgson’s concerns about “health, safety, quality, costs”.

Until Stagecoach and SYPTE accept, as local councillors do, that a trial would be reasonable, we urge readers to sign the petition, Trialling the carriage of bicycles on light rail in South Yorkshire, which can be found at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/39937

Mick Nott, Chair, Cycle
Sheffield, Scott Rd S4