Recently there has been discussion on various blogs and news services about Amtrak and the expanding its capabilities to allow people to roll bicycles on board. There are 8 trains throughout the United States that allow bikes to roll on board. Otherwise there are only two options for cyclists, the first is a folding bike and bring it on as carry on luggage. This of course assumes you own one or are able to invest in one. There is another option, you can box your bicycle and bring it on board as checked baggage. It turns out that boxing you bicycle is easier than it sounds.
Finding a train that has checked baggage service is not as easy as it sounds. So I asked myself where would I go if I could or can take my bicycle on board Amtrak?
Places I would like to go.
Pittsburgh, PA – Pittsburgh is the jumping off point for the Greater Allegheny Trail, GAP Trail, which runs from from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland MD and connects to the C&O Trail that takes you to Washington, DC. 335 miles of car free trail with access to Inn's, B&B's, and campgrounds along the way. There is way to do this ride with the use of one way car rentals for $150 to $200 if you avoid picking up the car at the airport.
Washington, DC – In addition to seeing all of the sites, there are a number of trails that will lead you to a wide range of trips in the states surrounding Washington. Along with the the similar policy that SEPTA has with bicycles on board public transit. To get a general sense follow this link to more detailed information. Check out the WashCycle Bike Trail Map which is beautifully layered in Google maps.
Boston, MA – Like Washington, Boston has a wide array of historical sites and extensive system of trails and bike lanes that allow access to a wide range of the state. As well as a similar policy that SEPTA has towards bicycles.
Places I can go
Atlanta, GA – Atlanta is home to the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trail. With a combined distance of 100 miles on a continual paved, flat trail that ends in Anniston, AL. You can take an overnight train from Philadelphia, arrive in Atlanta in the morning, walk out of the station to the Silver Comet Connector Trail (Use Google Maps for info) and ride your bicycle to the trail head.
I hope that Amtrak makes plans for improved options for cyclists along the Northeast corridor for most of the year with seasonal expansion from the spring to the fall for places like Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and upstate New York. I have no doubt that there are commuter rail and railroads that use simple and easily installed equipment to transport bikes on board. I would be more than willing to make advance reservations and pay a baggage handling fee. Lets hope that Amtrak views this as an opportunity not to be missed, instead of a missed opportunity.