Michigan links trains and bikes

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By KAYLIE CONNORS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan is encouraging bicyclists to ride the rails with new ways to store bikes on trains and by creating intersections of routes for both modes of transportation.

“We are receiving lots of requests from the cycling community, both the consumers and the advocacy community, and we’ve been wanting to be able to accommodate that,” said Derrick James, the senior manager of state government affairs at Amtrak, who is based in Chicago.

In the past, bikes had to be taken apart and packed into boxes to transport them on a passenger train, Derrick said. Now a number of bikes can fit comfortably on some train routes without disassembling them.

On those routes, you can bring your bicycle onboard with a reservation. 

Each train has a limited number of bikes that are stored in an open area at the end of one coach. The Chicago-Grand Rapids trains carry 15 bikes. The Chicago-Lansing-Port Huron trains and the Chicago-Detroit-Pontiac trains each carry four bikes per train. 

In fiscal year 2019, Amtrak carried just fewer than 55,000 bikes nationwide.

Amtrak is working with the Midwestern states to create even better ways to transport cyclists, said Jeff Martin, an analyst at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

“We are working to procure new coach cars for our services right now, along with the other Midwest states,” he said. “But the new cars will have bike racks on them and then will offer even more bikes than we currently handle.” 

He didn’t know when the new cars and racks would come to Michigan.

Another benefit of the new cars is that the bikes aren’t just stored in open space, but held securely on a bike rack, he said.

The train accommodations fit with the popularity of Michigan bike trails, said Joshua DeBruyn, a bicycle and pedestrian specialist at MDOT.

“In Michigan we are among the leaders in the nation on the num

Stowing bikes on an Amtrak train. Credit: Michigan Department of Transportation.