Green travel to green places

In search of climate and wildlife stories…by bike

A rant about having to leave my bike in Oban — August 29, 2012

A rant about having to leave my bike in Oban

In my blog post Bikes Trains and Automatons on the 18th I explained the trials and tribulations of booking a bike onto a train. Remember I said that I would take the chance of getting my bike on the train from Oban that they said had no bike space reservations left? Well it did come true, there were 6 bikes booked onto the train and, no I wasn’t allowed to take it apart and put it on as luggage and ‘if something went wrong I would be in for it’, said the conductor. So I had to leave my bike locked up in Oban till Monday when I could go back to pick it up. Poor thing – left alone in the rain.

I accept my own stupidity and complacency but what is annoying is 1) that the bike spaces were the only full thing on that train. There were plenty of empty seats and spare luggage space – why couldn’t I have slotted it in somewhere, even if I had to stand guard over it;  2) On my return journey with my bike on Monday there were 12 bike spaces on the train (so 6 on the last rain on a Fri evening in summer but 12 on a mid afternoon train on a Monday!);  3) I asked if I could book my bike onto the train in Dumfries yesterday and the ticket guy said, ‘No, it’s first come first served’! How’s someone to know what to do?

If we are to get people out of their cars and onto trains we must have a better system for bikes and more bike spaces – especially on busy routes in summer. Otherwise it will just put people off. Train companies only seem to organise their businesses around commuters and getting them to work, rather than holidaymakers or leisure users. Rant over!

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Bikes, trains and automatons — August 18, 2012

Bikes, trains and automatons

The dictionary defines an automaton as ‘a person acting in a mechanical way’. I’ve experienced a couple of automatons when trying to book my bike onto the train this week – a couple of odd experiences.

I don’t usually book my bike on the train but as it is holiday season I thought it best to do so for my journeys next week. At Glasgow Central I went up to the window and asked if I could book my bike onto the train to Oban and back. I got mechanical monosyllables and long silences while the guy looked constantly at his screen and shook his head. I wondered if he had actually forgotten about me. After a few minutes and a verbal nudge from me, it seemed he couldn’t find any availability from Oban to Glasgow. I tried the Scotrail website. Some information but nothing on how to make a bike space reservation. I tried by phone. The automated voice didn’t give an option for booking a bike onto the train so I chose a random number. A helpful woman helped me. Very helpful – probably because I had dialled the number for booking ‘assisted travel’. Her approach was to constantly talk and mechanically describe her every action to me as she looked up availability, more for her benefit than mine.

The good news is that my bike booked onto the train to Oban next week for my trip to Coll and Tiree. The bad news is zero availability on the train back from Oban. So I’ll just have to take the risk and a full set of spanners so in the event that there is a whole cycling club booked on I can take my bike to bits and get it on the train as luggage. Wish me luck.

Scotrail could do better and make cycle space reservation available on line at the same time as booking a ticket. It could also create more spaces for bikes on trains – that might inspire more people to get out and enjoy nature and leave the car at home.

My bike, on the train – unreserved