Green Living 2012
Restricted Hours

Bikes on a train: The thrills and frustrations of commuting in an eco-friendly way in car city

Bikes on a train: The thrills and frustrations of commuting in an eco-friendly way in car city

Whitney Radley_UHD_METRORail_public transportation
The end of the line, whence I disembarked. Photo by Whitney Radley
Whitney Radley_bike_METRORail_public transportation
A free single ride rail ticket, gifted by a compassionate stranger.  Photo by Whitney Radley
Whitney Radley_UHD_METRORail_public transportation
Whitney Radley_bike_METRORail_public transportation

Once upon a time, I lived in Austin and in Denton, where my bike served as my primary mode of transportation. 

But Houston? No way. It's scary out there! Drivers are mad! Potholes could swallow me! Plus, on my maiden voyage into Houston's treacherous roadways, I popped my tube in a Rice Village parking lot.

However, participation in the FotoFest Bike Scramble last Saturday gave me confidence (and an excuse to finally get that tire fixed). And when Clifford Pugh, CultureMap's editor in chief, took the METRORail to work earlier this week, I decided to take on a personal challenge: Riding my bike to the train, and taking the train to work.  

My first problem was logistical — METRO only allows bicycles onboard light rail cars after 9 a.m. in the morning and after 6 p.m. in the evening, and I typically arrive at the office around 8:30 a.m.

 Bike in Houston? No way. It's scary out there! Drivers are mad! Potholes could swallow me! 

The second, sartorial — what to wear on a day that necessitated several miles of biking and acceptable appearance and hygiene at an afternoon press conference? 

After resolving those trivial issues, I was ready.

Just after 9 a.m. on Thursday morning, I arrived at the Ensemble/HCC station. The train pulled up, a friendly disembarking stranger (who must have seen me hurriedly punching buttons on the ticket kiosk while balancing my bike) gave me his single ride rail ticket, and I was off. 

From there it was a breeze: The rush hour crowd had dispersed, and the designated area on the train offered plenty of space to stand with my bike; I lost balance only twice, and before I knew it I was at the end of the line.

In all, the bike-train-bike mode added less than 10 minutes to my commute. 

Plus, the carefully-avoided eye contact and subtle body language so peculiar to public transportation, combined with the short bike rides that bookended my commute, proved more interesting and significantly less stressful than sitting in my car, by myself, in traffic. 

Verdict? I recommend it.

As long as you can make those time restrictions work for you.