Metra is getting bike-friendlier, with new dedicated bike cars on on Rock Island, BNSF lines

Bike racks on a Metra Bike Car.
Bike racks on a Metra Bike Car.

Last November there was good news for people who bike, as Metra rolled out its first dedicated bike cars with racks for 16 bicycles, instead of the usual limit of five bikes per car, on the Milwaukee District North Line as part of a pilot program. As an added bonus, the commuter railroad temporarily relaxed its bikes-on-trains policy and allowed cycles on all trains — even during rush hours in the busy direction — across all 11 lines, taking advantage of lower ridership during COVID-19 to try something new.

On Thursday Metra announced it’s adding bike cars to lines serving the southwest and western suburbs as well. Two bike cars will debuting on the Rock Island Line to Joliet, and one will be added to the BNSF Line to Aurora, this Saturday, May 15. The cars will be available on both weekend and weekday trains and can be spotted by a blue and grey paint scheme, plus a white bicycle decal next to the outside doors. Metra says it’s adding the new Bike Cars due to the success of the program on the MD-N Line, and more such cars will be added to other lines this summer.

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“The Bike Cars we introduced late last year have been well-received by the cycling community, encouraging us to move forward and expand the amenity to other lines,” said Metra CEO Jim Derwinski in a statement. “The expanded availability of Bike Cars will make the region more accessible and encourage cyclists to explore the trails and communities along our rail lines. And, of course, this effort also highlights how Metra and cycling go together as green transportation options that reduce our carbon footprint and aid the environment.”

The full schedules showing Bike Car trains can be viewed here: Rock Island and BNSF. A bike symbol on the schedules designates the trains with Bike Cars. Metra will also post alerts to these websites if a snafu takes the out of service.

The RID Line will have a Bike Car on weekend inbound trains 202, 306, 110, 114, 118, 318, 322, 126, and 326. Outbound weekend trains 205, 109, 113, 315, 319, 119, 323, 327, and 127 will also offer a Bike Car.

The Bike Cars will also be available on the Rock Island Line on weekdays on inbound trains 404, 306, 412, 616, 420, 424, and 500. Outbound weekday trains 503, 607, 409, 413, 417, 419, and 507 will also be equipped with a Bike Car.

One Bike Car will also be available on the BNSF Line. On weekends, the car will be on inbound trains 2002 and 2012 on outbound trains 2003 and 2009. On weekdays, the car will be available on inbound trains 1302, 1308 and 1320 and on outbound trains 1313 and 1293.

Possum Hollow Woods Forest Preserve. Photo via Google Maps
Possum Hollow Woods Forest Preserve. Photo via Google Maps

Metra notes that the BNSF Line is handy for accessing the trails at Bemis Woods and Possum Hollow Woods forest preserves from the LaGrange Station. On the Rock Island Line, you can ride the Blue Island Ridge Trail between the line’s 95th Street and Blue Island stations, or ride from the 91st Street Station to the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve. The Midlothian Reservoir or the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve are also a short ride away from their respective stations on the RID Line. Find other ideas for bike-and-train trips here.

To accommodate the extra bicycles, Metra removed 24 two-passenger seats on one half of the lower level of Pullman cars from the late 1960s. Seats remain on the upper level of that side of the car for customers who want to sit within view of their bike. Metra will announce the addition of Bike Cars on the Union Pacific and Metra Electric lines in the coming weeks.

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Anne Alt is president of the Chicago Cycling Club and works in the Law Offices of James Freeman, a sponsor of Streetsblog Chicago.  When legislation encouraged by then-Lt. Governor Pat Quinn allowed non-folding bikes on Metra trains for the first time in 2005, it was a long-sought victory for Chicago area cyclists. Gaining a new […]