In their own words: Why Metrorail won’t permit #bikesonboard –– yet…

Bicycles damage commuters’ clothing, and other reasons…

It’s international best practice, an obvious way in which to integrate different modes of transport and promote NMT, and an excellent way in which to telescope distance in our sprawling, low-density cities… But Metrorail – the ‘backbone of public transport’ in Cape Town at least – remains unconvinced. Bicycles are not permitted on board…

It’s taken us more than a year of asking, mailing, forwarding queries and complaints, meeting and tweeting to get clarity on this. Sometimes ticket officers permit bikes on board, sometimes not, sometimes free of charge, sometimes after paying a ‘bulky parcel’ ticket – none of which is good for trip-planning. We tell the many bicycle commuters who ask, that Metrorail’s approach seems to be hit-or-miss, take your chances.

Even Metrorail itself has been confused, replying that, among others: there is no clear policy; that bicycles are permitted but viewed as bulky parcels and attract a ZAR 10 ticket; or that I am welcome to lay an official complaint after being turned away on my bicycle; and that they have logged an official complaint themselves…

However, on 10 October we received the following official response, which Porcia Griffith, Senior Office Administrative Assistant, Area iKapa, ‘trusted … would meet my expectations’. Sadly, I guess, it did indeed. Who can say they expected anything different?

On behalf of Mr Cyril Bauer, Manager, Cape Town Station 021 449 4210,, Ms Griffith extracts the following from Metrorail’s “Conditions of Carriage and FAQ [Page under Construction] which can be viewed on our website:” [The Page under Construction bit might explain why no-one could find the information to date…].

“I trust that this will address any misunderstandings or misinterpretations that might have derived from previous communication in regard to this enquiry/complaint. Your attention is specifically directed to the highlighted paragraphs as it is quite clear where Metrorail is heading towards in close working with the CoCT to focus on integrated public transport and non-motorised transport.

In conclusion, as responsible corporate citizen, Metrorail needs to consider the risk of injury to commuters as our current coaches do not have a facility to secure bicycles. As a freestanding object with all the movement of trains over points and around bends, customers could be injured or their clothing could be damaged hence the general decision that bicycles are prohibited.

Bicycles and surfboards are generally not permitted on Metrorail trains except during special events.

Parcel tickets

As a commuter rail operator, trains do not have parcel and baggage facilities and are therefore the personal responsibility of a commuter. Large, heavy or unwieldy parcels that may inconvenience fellow commuters must be carried by the commuter him/herself and require a parcel ticket valued at R10 available from all ticket outlets. Note: Metrorail is not responsible for any theft or loss.

FAQ [Page under Construction]
Page 1 of 2
Are bicycles permitted on trains?

Metrorail’s current conditions of carriage prohibit the transport of bicycles. This is not to say that the conditions cannot be revised in light of the focus on integrated public transport and non-motorised transport.
We are also working closely with the City of Cape Town in respect of their Non-Motorised Transport policy.
Permitting bicycles has wider ramifications including the provision of secure bicycle parks at designated stations, all of which has financial and logistic implications.

Some exceptions are under consideration, i.e. in case of occasional biking tourists during off-peak, Argus Cycle race participants [see photograph above] and travellers with special dispensation.

Commuters travelling with large parcels are required to purchase ‘parcel’ tickets of R10 and this charge is levied whenever bicycles are permitted onto trains. In future designated carriages on the new trains will also make provision for bicycles, wheelchairs and prams.

As responsible corporate citizen, Metrorail needs to consider the risk of injury to commuters as our current coaches do not have a facility to secure bicycles. As a freestanding object with all the movement of trains over points and around bends, customers could be injured or their clothing could be damaged.

Bicycle lock-up facilities at stations historically are in very poor condition, unsecured and not used by commuters. Access / Egress control facilities such as turnstiles at stations would also have to be adapted to facilitate the mobility of a bicycle from a train, onto the platform and through gates or the other way around.

With trains being over-subscribed during peak hours, the accommodation of cycles would prove problematic. The practical implementation and managing of such facilities is being considered in the formulation of our universal access policy, ensuring that all risk are mitigated and customers protected before implementation.”

So now we know…

So do we leave it up to the CoCT to lobby on our behalf?

And what about some compromises in the meantime?

Permit bicycles off-peak?
Permit bicycles on weekends?
Permit bicycles as long as the owner stands beside the bike and prevents it from rolling?

There are many minor changes that can serve cyclists’ needs for now, if the will is there!

The City of Cape Town’s MyCiTi premier bus service permits bicycles, wheelchairs, prams and other items on board at all times, with the simple request that commuters consider the needs of others, and stand aside should a less-abled commuter need the space more urgently.



GoMetro, Metrorail’s mobile info service, looks back on its first 30 days in action

Thirty days ago, as part of Metrorail’s “Programme of Action” initiative, Metrorail Western Cape partnered with South African technology start-up company, mobi.lity, to launch Go Metro – a digital resource for commuters to have more control in their journey when travelling on Metrorail trains in the Western Cape. The first month has seen the mobi-site […]

Giving infrastructure projects a green rating: how to design ‘green’ from the inside out

As we face significant challenges issues such as climate change and global warning, it is clear that the engineering profession has a significant part to play in influencing the future of our planet. Whatever we may think about environmental responsibility, we can be sure of this: that we all need, and will continue to need, […]

Fuel-cell cargo bike could power your lights and TV too

Locally designed hydrogen-powered tricycle – named ‘A hi Fambeni’, Xitsonga for ‘Let’s go’ – has attracted much attention since its 2010 launch in South Africa as a sustainably powered goods-to-market vehicle for rural areas. It’s also an entry into the international SMART Mobility EnterPrize competition, which aims to identify existing and emerging sustainable mobility business […]


  1. Thanks for doing the legwork to get a solid answer, pity it’s the expected one. They have a point re. peak hours being oversubscribeded already, but the lack of lock-up facilities excuse is ridiculous – surely all involved would be happy to just be allowed on, and that can come in time (& presumably those taking bikes on trains are not leaving them at the station anyway). Full support for any compromise options. If CoCT is doing the lobbying, I hope they know how many people would be pushing for this!

  2. From FB: Rory Williams ; Metrorail is quite right, of course, to consider safety and convenience of all passengers. The coaches are not designed for bikes – and that is where we should focus our energy: on convincing Metrorail that their roll-out of new rolling stock should include special bicycle carriages. They will also have to alter station entrances. But it does raise the thorny question: If it is difficult to allow bikes, isn’t it equally difficult to allow wheelchairs? The gap between the platform and the carriage varies from station to station, and the tolerances are not good for wheelchairs, or even for prams. I have seen many parents struggle with prams. Bikes are just one part of the NMT picture that needs to be resolved more comprehensively.
    18 hours ago · Unlike · 1

  3. jacoslabbert says:

    Maybe we should just do what the masters of cycling does (Netherlands, of course). No bicycles during peak hours, and during off-peak keep your bicycle in the cycle-storage area (which we don’t have) or in 2nd class close to the doors (which we do have, albeit 3rd class). It’s not that difficult, Metrorail, just get your head out of your bum…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: