As a single carefree bike riding bandit, I would sometimes use the train network in combination with my bike to extend my range. I could easily find a way to put my bike on the train, whether it was hanging it from a hook or just hanging on to it near the entrance of the newer trains. These days, with two children in a trailer behind my bike, I have struggled with how to make the formidable train-bike combination work for me until….
Last week I visited a friend who had recently had a baby. It was in the suburbs and getting there would involve either two buses, a long bike ride with some sketchy roads, or a train and a 5 km ride along the bike path. I went for the last option, completely unsure whether I could pull it off – asking myself how we would fit the bike and the trailer on the train, and then there were the issues around getting it on and off the train to the platform, and from the platform to the bike path.
I nervously arrived at the station and was sort of regretting not bringing a friend when I realised the image of the ramp up from the platform at Booragul Station was completely in my head. Negotiating stairs with a bike isn’t fun at the best of times but when you attach a trailer with two children in it, the whole thing becomes too complicated to contemplate on an empty stomach. I then had the realisation that Cockle Creek had one platform (the right one for my outbound trip) and was grateful for the the relatively new bike path from Cockle Creek station to the lake.
At the train station I asked about previous experiences with putting trailers on trains and they said they had never seen anyone put a trailer on the train. I couldn’t work out whether it was due to their lack of experience working at train stations or whether it was something that just wasn’t done. After all, if the train was an old one, there was no way I could fit the trailer in. I asked about how to know whether it would be a new or an old train. Apparently if it says “Oscar” on the trip planner app you will have a new train. Also, non-express trains and trains on the weekend tend to be new trains. And yes you can fit a trailer on the new trains!
I pulled my bike up into the carriage and did a fifty point turn to get it facing the direction of the door so we wouldn’t have to reverse out. On the way home I worked out that by entering in the next carriage and walking it through the wide automatic doors between carriages you avoid this manoeuvre. The kid jumped out of the trailer for the train trip but I started preparing early to make a smooth exit. While we were in the train my son pointed out that it looked like it was going to rain so my smooth exit turned into a mad panic of a wet cat trying to keep her kittens dry.
After securing the rain cover for the trailer and resigning myself to embracing the adventurous feel of rain hitting my clothes and skin, we were on our way. The ride along the lake was quite easy and reminded me of the days when riding in the rain was normal – you got wet while you rode and dried off at your destination and life went on. The small stretches of road with traffic really made me see the importance of a good network of quiet streets and bike paths. Even though there was a bike lane, the trailer stuck out and I was constantly negotiating with cars to make sure they gave us a wide berth.
On the way home, the rain had eased but my brain was pondering the possibility of getting the bike and trailer down the stairs at Booragul because all stations within cycling range had stairs to the platform I needed. I went with Booragul because there is a school nearby and I figured some students might help me and they did … plus every person on the platform. I detached the trailer from the bike and four boys carried my sleeping children in their chariot without waking them, while I carried my bike and then reattached the trailer before the train came. I had people offering me help getting the trailer on and off the train, and the experience made me feel good about humans, particularly one’s that catch trains.
There have to be at least some advantages to living in a country where no one else cycles.
How did u get it down the stairs at the station
Sorry, I may not have explained things well – on the way the platform had street level access but on the way back I relied on the help of some school students and literally disconnected the trailer and carried the bike and trailer separately down the stairs. I think this is something transport for NSW should consider more – the compatibility between different transport combos. Another time I caught the train to a station with street level access on the way but I needed to take two elevators on the way back – the lifts weren’t big and there was a tight corner. I ended up cornering myself with my bike on its end and kids in a trailer and we just made it in but getting out was almost impossible – I pictured myself trapped for centuries watch the trains pass… but with lost of grunts and tight manoeuvres we made it 🙂 Since then I haven’t actually done the trailer train combo again…