Metro to lure bike-to-rail commuters

By Ann Scott Tyson
Sunday, March 20, 2011; 11:41 PM

With packs on their backs, reflective neon straps around their ankles and sometimes even headlamps, they are the proud few who brave traffic, rainstorms and thieves to bicycle to Metrorail stations.

Bike-to-rail commuters represent 0.7 percent of Metrorail riders - compared with about 40 percent who drive, 33 percent who walk and 22 percent who take the bus to stations.

But Metro's long-range planners, desperate to avoid having to build 30,000 to 40,000 expensive parking spaces at stations to meet the projected surge in ridership over the next 20 years, have launched an initiative to quintuple the number of cyclists.

"It's very much strategic for us to put a really big focus on bicycle parking," said Kristin Haldeman, Metro's manager of access planning. Parking spaces cost on average $25,000 each, compared with $1,000 per space for a secured bike cage. "It's an extremely expensive proposition for us" to expand car parking, she said.

Bike riders say they are motivated to mount up each day by necessity, a desire to save time and money, or, in the case of Ryan Buchholz, guilt.

"I was telling my patients they had to exercise a half-hour a day," said Buchholz, 36, a physician who rides from his home in Falls Church to the East Falls Church Station.

The father of two decided a year ago that biking to Metro was the easiest way to fit a workout into his hectic day.

More than 90 cyclists park and ride each weekday morning at East Falls Church, which has the highest number of bike-to-rail commuters of Metro's 86 rail stations.

The Medical Center Station in Bethesda attracts the most bike riders in Maryland and is the top station in the transit system in the percentage of peak-period riders who cycle to the station - 7.1 percent.

Harley Frazis, 53, hops on a hybrid mountain/touring bike at his Bethesda condominium each morning to shave five minutes off his commute to the Medical Center Station. Frazis, a research economist at the Bureau of Labor, is a die-hard bike commuter who said the only thing that deters him is ice on the path.

"If there's intermittent rain, I'll sweat it out," he said.

In the District, the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Station is the most popular with cyclists, drawing 61 during weekday morning peak periods.

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