Bicycles wait for their riders at the Metro station in Silver Spring, Md. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

In an effort to encourage travel to the Metro station by bicycle, Metro is expanding bike facilities, introducing free, covered and secure storage at several stations.

Bike storage rooms will open at East Falls Church and Vienna next month. And Metro has recently converted its covered Bike & Ride at College Park into a free-of-charge facility accessible with a registered SmarTrip card.

Metro said more bike amenities are planned across the 91-station system, which already has about 2,400 bicycle racks with capacity for 4,800 bicycles and an additional 1,300 key-operated bicycle lockers for rent.

The College Park Bike & Ride, which opened three years ago, was a first of its kind in the system, featuring security cameras, an emergency callbox and real-time video and intercom communications with Metro’s Parking Operations Control Center. Until recently, it was operated by a third-party vendor that charged users a nominal fee and required them to get an access card.

Now Metro said it has lifted the fees and other requirements, opening up the 2,400-square-foot facility with capacity for 120 bikes to more riders. Users need to register their SmarTrip card and sign up for access to use the facility.

Bike storage rooms similar to the one in College Park are under construction at the East Falls Church and Vienna Metro stations and scheduled to open next month, the transit agency said. All Bike and Ride facilities are planned to be accessed with a SmarTrip card.

At College Park, riders can access the bike room in the first level of the parking garage. The East Falls Church facility will be on the edge of the Kiss & Ride lot, and the Vienna facility will be on the ground level of the Vienna North parking garage.

Take a peak at the College Park Bike & Ride in this 2012 video.  (Remember, the facility is now free, and all you will need to use it is your SmarTrip card).

Although bikes are allowed on trains, some commuters may be discouraged from bringing them aboard because of the rush hour restrictions. Bikes are not allowed in the Metro system between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., and between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. In addition, they are forbidden during special events when the system is crowded, such as during the Cherry Blossom festivities or Inauguration Day. All Metrobuses have racks at the front with space for two bicycles.

Bike advocates say additional, secure and free-of-charge bike facilities can help encourage more multi-modal commutes. Some commuters may choose to do the first or second leg of their travels by bike. Metro thinks it will also encourage Metro use.

“Many Metro customers live close enough to Metrorail stations to bike and ride, and we believe that convenient, easy access to secure, covered bicycle parking will encourage transit use,” said Patrick Schmitt, director of parking at Metro. He said providing SmarTrip card access will help eliminate barriers for customers.

The secure storage is also likely to provide peace of mind to bike owners leaving a bicycle at Metro stations, which have been targeted by bike thieves in the past. Even when parking in the secure room, Metro recommends riders lock their bikes to the racks. And, if you regularly park at Metro, you may also consider registering your bike with the Metro Transit Police to help them identify and recover it if it is lost or stolen.