I live about five blocks away from MacArthur BART station in North Oakland, yet I ride my bike to and from the station to commute into San Francisco. To some people, that might seem a little ridiculous; it's just an eight minute walk (rather than a two minute ride), but for me it's a safety issue. There have been a huge numbers of muggings in my neighborhood, along 40th Street, to and from MacArthur BART. Fortunately, I've never been a victim of one of these crimes, but being a relatively small female, I do feel like I could potentially be targeted if I were to be walking alone. So I almost always bike that two minutes to and from my house and park at the station. Cycling means I'm less likely (though not completely safe) from being harassed or mugged. And I'm not the only woman who feels that way.
For the last couple of weeks – leading up to tonight's BART Board of Directors meeting that will decide whether the rush-hour bicycle ban on BART will be lifted – the SF Bike Coalition has asked the public to share their personal stories about why ending the blackout would improve their lives. More than 300 people across the Bay Area wrote in with their stories, and many of them were women. Yesterday, the SF Bike Coalition posted "Why Removing the Bike Blackout Would Mean a Safer Commute for Many Women," which shared two women's stories, who explain how the restriction has put their safety at a risk.
Tiffany, a student in San Bruno said, "Since I can't bring my bike on BART during rush hour, I'm forced to walk from the San Bruno BART station to my class through some desolate, industrial areas. It's especially scary at night walking alone as a woman, and it gets dark very early during wintertime."
Mira, a woman in Oakland who works in SF explained, "Because of the rush hour bike blackouts, I eventually broke down and bought a car to safely get to and from BART as a woman. This was after I was robbed walking home from BART at night after work."
Biking in potentially unsafe areas is a good idea for everyone, not just women, but I would like to point out that throughout history, bicycles have been a means to autonomous living for women. I'd love to see BART contribute to more women feeling more comfortable, independent, and safe going out and about the Bay Area, because there's nothing worse than feeling trapped at home.
Tonight's BART Board meeting (which will also cover late-night service) takes place at 6 p.m. at 344 20th Street in Oakland. The options that will be considered by the board will be to fully remove the bike ban during rush hour, to implement a five-month trial period where bikes can freely be on BART at all times, or to continue the bike ban during commute hours. If you plan on attending and want to speak for lifting the ban, contact the SF Bike Coalition. Or, you can still share your story with them on why being able to bring your bike on BART at all times is important to you.