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  1. #1
    rhm
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    Getting home last Friday

    I thought this anecdote might be interesting to some of the folder people.

    I have a commuter bike that I usually ride about five miles to the train station, where I park it in a bike locker, which is where I also store my Strida. So every morning the Strida comes out of the locker, the commuter goes in, and I sit on the NJTransit train for an hour-long ride to NYC, where I unfold and ride the Strida to my office. Unfortunately my Strida broke down last week, and I was forced to set use my son's Kent cheapie folder, which I have set up so I can use it when I need to.

    The Kent is not a great bike, but it's rideable. And since it folds, NJTransit allows it on the train. In fact it doesn't fold up very well, and it fits better when not folded; I put the seat down, flop the handlbar over, and lift it all up onto the overhead rack. It's a pain to put it up there, but it fits. So as an emergency spare, it'll do. Just.

    Well, last Friday my train broke down on the tracks about twenty miles from home. The train was packed; there was no power, no ventilation, and we couldn't open the windows or get off the train for about an hour. Eventually they got another locomotive in place and pulled the whole train back to the nearest station, where everyone got out. Getting the bike out in such crowded conditions was especially tricky, but people were pretty cooperative about it. And then all the people on the train stood around on the platform looking bummed out. I called my wife on my cell phone, then got on my bike and rode away. My wife met me in the car about halfway home, but in fact traffic was so heavy that in retrospect I might as well have ridden the whole way, it wouldn't have taken much longer.

    I had to ride down the shoulder of Route One, which is about the last place anyone would want to ride a bike, and occasionally a car would honk at me as if to say, "what kind of a jerk are you to be riding your bike down Route One at rush hour on a Friday afternoon?." Not exactly pleasant; but you should have seen the faces of the other commuters, waiting for NJTransit to figure out how to get them all home, watching me get on my bike and riding away. One guy actually offered me $1500 for the bike! I assumed he wasn't serious, of course (heck, I would have taken $200 if I thought I could get it!).

    I don't know when all those other people on the train got home. When a train breaks down on the tracks, the whole system gets clogged up, especially if it happens at a busy time like Friday afternoon rush hour. I was really really glad to have a folding bike with me --even the Kent, which I don't like. But I like it a whole lot more now!

    Rudi

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    I thought this anecdote might be interesting to some of the folder people.
    ...
    Well, last Friday my train broke down on the tracks about twenty miles from home. The train was packed; there was no power, no ventilation, and we couldn't open the windows or get off the train for about an hour. Eventually they got another locomotive in place and pulled the whole train back to the nearest station, where everyone got out. Getting the bike out in such crowded conditions was especially tricky, but people were pretty cooperative about it. And then all the people on the train stood around on the platform looking bummed out. I called my wife on my cell phone, then got on my bike and rode away. My wife met me in the car about halfway home, but in fact traffic was so heavy that in retrospect I might as well have ridden the whole way, it wouldn't have taken much longer.

    One guy actually offered me $1500 for the bike! I assumed he wasn't serious, of course (heck, I would have taken $200 if I thought I could get it!).

    I don't know when all those other people on the train got home. When a train breaks down on the tracks, the whole system gets clogged up, especially if it happens at a busy time like Friday afternoon rush hour. I was really really glad to have a folding bike with me --even the Kent, which I don't like. But I like it a whole lot more now!

    Rudi
    Hi Rudi, interesting tale, not unlike one of Folder Fanatic's scenario's.....
    What's gone wrong on the Strida?

    Folders are *really* useful in emergencies....

    One of our friends has been advised by his Doctor to get more exercise.
    So a few days ago we decided to meet for a fairly gentle flat ride along a disused rail track.
    Unbeknown to me when we started, he had no tools with him. I had a tiny all in one , mostly Allen (hex) keys.

    Seven miles into our ride, his chain broke! Busy chatting when we started out, we'd managed to leave phone & map (gps based) in the car. We did have a camera :-)
    Not having chains, we had no chain tool either.
    Our friend jokingly said "I need a tow". Thinking about that I decided it was feasible.

    My wife (ex girl-guide, always prepared ;-) )found a length of wood, about 5'. We had 3 bungie cords, & managed to tie the wood behind a knotty part to my seat moulding. The forked end went in nicely through the bars of his front basket.

    My wife acted as scout, making sure all was clear ahead :-)

    We decided our friend probably well exceeded the Strida weight limit, so *I* ended up doing the towing ;-) But hang on, the point of this trip was exercise for him!
    I towed him for the 7 miles back to our starting point with the "towbar" separating only twice. I was surprised the bungies did so well.

    Anyway, I got 2 pints of "Speckled Hen" & the smallest pub fish & chips lunch I've ever seen (tasted fine though) for my efforts so it wasn't too bad :-)

    I've thought about a trailer before, so I'm now tempted to investigate building a diy trailer. Any of you have any good links, especially to trailer hitches?
    The commercial ones are ~ same cost as my bike!

  3. #3
    Senior Member keithnyc's Avatar
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    rhm-
    Wow, great story...I have empathy for you. I was an ex-Cranfordite, so I too suffered many years with NJT and the rRritan Valley Line (we used to call it the Raritan Valley crawl). Sure wish I had a folder back then....
    I don't give a damn 'bout a bad reputation
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    Joan Jett, circa 1980

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    rhm
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    Hey John!

    Quote Originally Posted by cyclistjohn
    What's gone wrong on the Strida?
    Belt broke. It had been skipping more and more, lately, so I guess it gave me fair warning. Was a bit of a surprise, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyclistjohn

    So a few days ago... I got 2 pints of "Speckled Hen" & the smallest pub fish & chips lunch ....
    Good one! All's well that ends well, eh?

    Quote Originally Posted by cyclistjohn
    I've thought about a trailer before, so I'm now tempted to investigate building a diy trailer. Any of you have any good links, especially to trailer hitches?
    The commercial ones are ~ same cost as my bike!
    Yeah, me too. There was a guy making them in New Brunswick NJ, advertising them on Craigs List; I meant to have him make one for my canoe (to tow it behind the bike; easier than lifting it up on the car) but now I can't find the posting any more. Google didn't help, but I did find some interesting stuff.
    Try this link:
    http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive...go_traile.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    Hey John!

    Belt broke. It had been skipping more and more, lately, so I guess it gave me fair warning. Was a bit of a surprise, though.
    Have you got the "snubber" bearing(s) on yours (it's a model 3.x, yes?) If so, check it hasn't seized up. If they do seize, they can jam the belt causing it to snap under very heavy load.
    I keep meaning to find out which auto' it's on so I could have a spare on holiday just in case.


    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    Good one! All's well that ends well, eh?
    I certainly enjoyed the meal. Now I know how a rickshaw driver feels :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    Yeah, me too. There was a guy making them in New Brunswick NJ, advertising them on Craigs List; I meant to have him make one for my canoe (to tow it behind the bike; easier than lifting it up on the car) but now I can't find the posting any more. Google didn't help, but I did find some interesting stuff.
    Try this link:
    http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive...go_traile.html
    Thanks for the link. I'll keep you in mind now when I find some.

    What's the canoe size & weight?

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    KeithNYC and RHM, I didn't realize we were neighbors. I live in Scoth Plains and have carried both my Crescent Separable and cheapy Kent onto the train. The Crescent was absolutely horrible on the train, but I was able to roll the Kent pretty comfortably. Maybe we can get together sometime for a folder ride!

    Juan

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    rhm
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    Quote Originally Posted by juan162
    KeithNYC and RHM, I didn't realize we were neighbors.... Maybe we can get together sometime for a folder ride!

    Juan
    Sure, but Scotch Plains is a long way from Lawrenceville! Ever ride through Central Park? --Rudi

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    Sure, but Scotch Plains is a long way from Lawrenceville! Ever ride through Central Park? --Rudi
    I have only done it once or twice, but when I lived in Manhattan, I was very into rollerblading and would do the loop almost every day. Now that I live in NJ, I keep thinking how great it would have been to have a folding bike in Manhattan. Ah well, live and learn.
    BTW, while my life is very hectic, I wouldn't mind trying to find the time to meet up and take a ride. Central Park sounds great.
    Juan

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    One of the strongest attractions that a folding bike offers IMO is the usefulness it offers in an unplanned situation, crisis, or a straight emergency. I bought all of my bikes for that basic reason (as well as other lesser ones). I never regretted my decision and now developed a series of related Web sites on this very topic (see below).

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    Last week the lawyers on the Amtrak from Harrisburg were joking that if the train broke down there would be a bidding war for my folder ($1500 was mentioned). This particular train was 15 minutes late due to some truck-hitting-a-railroad-bridge mishap, which probably sparked the comments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    The Kent is not a great bike, but it's rideable. And since it folds, NJTransit allows it on the train. In fact it doesn't fold up very well, and it fits better when not folded; I put the seat down, flop the handlbar over, and lift it all up onto the overhead rack. It's a pain to put it up there, but it fits. So as an emergency spare, it'll do. Just.
    Good Story.

    I'm surprised they allow you to put the folder on the overhead rack because it's not that big but the bike isn't quite small and it's heavy. I belive the instructions for NJ trainsit states you're not allowed to put folders up there.

    On another topic, I don't know why you take that train since Lawrenceville is closer to the main line stop in Trenton.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JugglerDave
    Last week the lawyers on the Amtrak from Harrisburg were joking that if the train broke down there would be a bidding war for my folder ($1500 was mentioned). This particular train was 15 minutes late due to some truck-hitting-a-railroad-bridge mishap, which probably sparked the comments.
    I wonder if these events mean there'll be greater tolerance of bikes on trains, or is it already pretty good in the US?

    Looks like cycling's doing well in NYC:

    http://www.transalt.org/press/releas...uter-race.html

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    rhm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    Good Story.
    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    I'm surprised they allow you to put the folder on the overhead rack because it's not that big but the bike isn't quite small and it's heavy. I belive the instructions for NJ trainsit states you're not allowed to put folders up there.
    I have not read the published rules for bikes on the train; I figure as long as the conductor doesn't have a problem, I don't have a problem. This raises an interesting point: while there are published rules, which may or may not spell out what we may and may not do on the train, the most important criterion is whether we get away with what we do. I took my Strida on the train for over two years, and I think some of the conductors never even figured out that it was a bicycle. Legal or not (I think the former), it was totally under the radar. The Kent was a pain, and the conductors noticed it; but did not complain. Now I'm using a Downtube Mini (Strida is still disabled), and I don't know if the conductors have noticed it yet. They know me, of course, and when they see me they know a bicycle must be hidden somewhere nearby; but the jury is still out. Mini beats Kent on all fronts, but the comparison to Strida is more complicated. In a nutshell, I would rather ride the Mini, but rather bring the Strida on the train; and I am more confident that I'll always be able to take the Strida on the train, while I'm somewhat uncertain that I'll get away with that on the Mini every time. Which brings us around to Steve's other observation:

    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    On another topic, I don't know why you take that train since Lawrenceville is closer to the main line stop in Trenton.
    Well, my house is around 6.8 miles to the Trenton station, vs. the 5.4 miles to Hamilton, and going through Trenton would be a less pleasant and more dangerous ride.
    But I may be forced to ride to Trenton anyway. The key variable may be that since the train originates at Trenton, it sits there taking on passengers for several minutes before leaving the station. In contrast, it stops in Hamilton for only a minute or so. Getting on the train as part of a fast-moving crowd was very easy with Strida, but less so with the mini; if I have problems I may end up using the Trenton station after all.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyclistjohn
    I wonder if these events mean there'll be greater tolerance of bikes on trains, or is it already pretty good in the US?
    At present, I think, use of trains by bicyclists is pretty rare, so there is no problem. If it increases very much, I won't be surprised if tolerance becomes an issue.
    Last edited by rhm; 05-21-07 at 08:15 AM.

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    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclistjohn
    I wonder if these events mean there'll be greater tolerance of bikes on trains, or is it already pretty good in the US?
    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    At present, I think, use of trains by bicyclists is pretty rare, so there is no problem. If it increases very much, I won't be surprised if tolerance becomes an issue.
    I agree with rhm, though I have noticed a marked upswing in bicycle use amoung some of our residents here in Southern California on the various trains and buses here. The bike racks are sometimes fought over since only 2 bikes can be used at any time. Our Metrolink and Metro lightrail and subway systems sometimes look the other way when more than 2 bikes sneak on a train car (there is a limit of 2 per train car-and even those might get bumped off if severe crowding occures and a wheelchair or baby carriage needs a spot). I like folding bikes for simple reason I can hide it in it's bag or slipcover when this crowding occures-and escape getting thrown off the bus or train!

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    Senior Member kgibbs51's Avatar
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    Americans are not as patient with bikes as Europeans or Canadians IMO. I get dirty biker looks from other train riders all the time, even when the bike is in a clean bag. People over here (at least in Chicago but I'd venture to say other big cities as well) are into their routines and anything that deviates from that routine is a foreign enemy.

    Its changing here but for the most part the green movement is only lip service. There are a lot of commuters who are in a "me 1st" midset. If I sit down next to them with my bike the complain to my face. If the train is crowded and I ask someone to move a pack taking up a seat so I can sit down they get belligerent because for the past 14 years they have sat in the same 2 seats and no one has ever asked them to move.

    Escalators are the same, people all think your going to get their pants greasy with chain lube or something.

    Maybe its important to say that in Chicago we have 2 train systems. An inter-urban commutter rail line called Metra Rail and the urban rapid transit called the EL or CTA. The EL is lawless and you can get away with nearly anything because they scaled back on the conductors about 10 years ago. Metra has conductors and a stated policy which allows folding bikes. rhm (Rudy right?) is sort of getting at something here. My Dahon Curve is a folder so it technically meets the specs but it is rather at the large limit and does extend into the aisle a bit. I could be gigged on this but I have a backup plan. There is a disabled person who rides on the same car every day. I've asked if I could put my bike behind his wheel chair and he said no problem. It also helps that he works for Metra.

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    Senior Member kgibbs51's Avatar
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    Here are the rules for our Metra Rail trains:

    Metra’s Bikes on Trains program is designed to enable cyclists to bring their standard-form bicycles on board trains during weekday off-peak hours and on weekends. Three bicycles are allowed in the priority seating area in each accessible diesel rail car; two in each electric railcar. There is no additional charge to your Metra fare to take a bicycle on board the train.

    Cyclists will be accommodated on a first come, first serve basis. Metra reserves the right to prohibit bicycles if coaches are crowded or access is impeded, and we make no assurances that space will be available for bicycles. Standard bicycles that do not exceed 70 inches in length are permitted on designated trains; tricycles, tandems, trailers, bulky attachments, training wheels or powered bicycles are prohibited.

    Additionally, individual cyclists must be at least 16 years old. Riders aged 12 through 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Children under 12 are not permitted. Cyclists must yield priority seating to seniors and customers with disabilities and may be required to leave the train at any time if the priority seating space is needed for customers with disabilities.

    Bicycles are permitted on all weekday trains arriving in Chicago after 9:30 AM and leaving Chicago before 3:00 PM and after 7:00 PM, and on all weekend trains, with the following exceptions:
    Blues Fest (June 7 - 10)
    All days during Taste of Chicago (June 29 - July 8)
    Independence Eve Fireworks (July 3)
    Venetian Night (July 28)
    Air & Water Show (August 18 & 19)
    Jazz Fest (August 30 - September 2)

    To ensure safety for all, cyclists must follow instructions of Metra personnel. Cyclists are legally responsible for any damage to the train’s equipment and/or any injury or damage to other passengers or train personnel that result from a cyclist’s negligence. Bicycles must be clean and free of dirt and grease while aboard Metra trains. Bicycles that present a hazard to other customers, Metra facilities or personnel are prohibited. Bicycles must be secured to the lower rail of folding seats in the designated priority seating area with bungee cords or other devices supplied by the cyclist that will adequately secure the bicycle. Bicycles cannot block aisles or impede passenger movement. Cyclists must stay in the same car with their bicycles at all times. All passengers must exit the train before you and your bicycle, and always wait until the train makes a complete stop before you move up the aisle. Please also make sure to take extra caution to not bump your bicycle against passengers or seats. Lift your bicycle as you walk down the steps. If there is an emergency, cyclists must leave their bicycles on the train so as to not block aisles or doors.

    Folding bicycles in protective covers are permitted on all trains at all times but should not block train aisles or doorways.

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    Senior Member kgibbs51's Avatar
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    So I guess the catchall is that regardless of what is printed the conductor still calls the shots.

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    rhm
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    Quote Originally Posted by kgibbs51
    So I guess the catchall is that regardless of what is printed the conductor still calls the shots.
    Right.

    Thanks for posting MetraRail's rules; it would be interesting to do a point-by-point comparison to other rail system rules. Most of the rules follow simple principles we bicyclists all observe religiously anyway, such as stay out of the way, don't annoy people, don't hurt people, and don't get mud on their suits. But there are always one or two rules that get you thinking. One caught my eye:

    Quote Originally Posted by kgibbs51
    If there is an emergency, cyclists must leave their bicycles on the train so as to not block aisles or doors.
    Ooof!

    If the conductor had enforced that one, I'd have been obliged to abandon my bike on the train, then wait with all the other unfortunates for the rescue train, arriving at my home station god-knows-when. And to top it all off, when I got there, I would have been without my bike, SOL, no way to get home. Fortunately, in emergencies the train crew have a way of making themselves pretty scarce, so I was able to get the bike off the train without harrassment.

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    Hi Rudi.

    I suppose the key point is "so as to not block aisles or doors"?

    One wouldn't do that with smaller folders, as their "footprint" is similar to a person's.

    Also, what's the rule for wheelchairs & prams? They surely must have priority access (hopefully other passengers not being selfish enough to object to that)!

    I've noticed that some of the recent stroller type buggies take more space than 2 side by side Stridas!

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    Senior Member kgibbs51's Avatar
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    Wheelchairs and in general "people with disablities" get priority over all other passengers. If the train pulls into a station and picks up a wheelchair rider then the conductor boots everyone out of the disability seats no questions asked. I'm not really clear on what happens if there are more disabled riders than there are slots for (Metra uses 2 disabled cars/train with room for 3 disabled riders/car).

    I suppose my "luck" is that I live in the city proper so all the new ADA accessable ramps are built in the newer suburban areas. In Chicago our train system only has a few stations with wheelchair access because they were built 100 years ago and we have a "policy" in the USA where we build new and let the existing rot in place. So at the station I board at and most of the 4 stations between mine and the terminal there isn't any way for a wheelchair bound person to get on the platform.

    Also, like I said, I made arrangements with a disabled fellow to put my bike behind his chair if the train is ever really crowed. I don't mind standing as its only a 20 minute ride but the bike can't extend into the aisle whatsoever.

    That said, my Curve is sort of at the size limit. But I'm religous with the whole "must be in a bag" thing so the conductors never give me trouble.

    Hum, prams/strollers: Well I do know the stated policy is that the conductors won't assist you with loading anything on the train with the exception of supervising and pushing the power assist to load disabled riders. I've had a few woman friends who've thought that a trip downtown with the baby and toddler might be a good idea but they didn't realize that getting a stroller up 4 steep steps with a baby in it and a 3 year old in tow wasn't at all easy.

    Further, while I see strollers in the train in rush hour I think the actual stated policy is that they are not allowed during peak hours so I'd imagine the conductor could boot them off if necessary (but really what kinda person is goona kick a mom and kid off a train). Now I don't know if that also means that they will be allowed if folded and not extending into the aisle (in a bag, anyone?)

    So I think this is fair. What I feel is boarderline is that many riders carry full size suitcases with them as if they plan to fly to Asia or somthing. I see them doing this everyday so I'd venture to say they are lugging laptops and office files but they take up 2 seats and only pay for 1 ticket.

    Emergencies I think constitute fire, derailment with damage, bombings, or other events that require rapid disembarking. Simply stuck indefinately awaiting signals ahead I don't think constitutes an emergency where the conductor would make you leave your bike on the train. This rule exists probably to ensure that everyone can get off the train ASAP. In these cases, I'd probably want to run like a little girl screaming bloody Jesus and leave the bike behind anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    but the jury is still out. Mini beats Kent on all fronts, but the comparison to Strida is more complicated. In a nutshell, I would rather ride the Mini, but rather bring the Strida on the train; and I am more confident that I'll always be able to take the Strida on the train, while I'm somewhat uncertain that I'll get away with that on the Mini every time. Which brings us around to Steve's other observation:
    Did the jury arrive?

    Now that you've been riding both bikes, which one would you take tomorrow if the Strida was working?

    The Mini or Strida?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm
    Yeah, me too. There was a guy making them in New Brunswick NJ, advertising them on Craigs List; I meant to have him make one for my canoe (to tow it behind the bike; easier than lifting it up on the car) but now I can't find the posting any more. Google didn't help, but I did find some interesting stuff.
    Rudi, see if this helps:

    http://www.mikebentley.com/bike/trailers.htm

    Looks like a good resource.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kgibbs51
    Also, like I said, I made arrangements with a disabled fellow to put my bike behind his chair if the train is ever really crowed. I don't mind standing as its only a 20 minute ride but the bike can't extend into the aisle whatsoever.
    I thought when I read that in your previous post that's a great idea.If you're a traveller meeting the same folk regularly, it has to be a good way to reduce travel stress making conversation (assuming the other parties are likewise inclined) with other regulars, & would certainly help in an emergency. Sadly it's often the case that nobody speaks to any fellow passengers on rail journeys.

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    John: Well I think I'm more comfortable around disabled people than others. I care for my uncle who is a little person with degenerative bone disease, deaf and blind. I don't mind striking up a conversation with anyone.

    However, this specific individual I talk about here is somewhat of a celebrity. Everyone who walks by him on their way to the front car says hello and good morning to him. He must have been a regular rider for years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kgibbs51
    John: Well I think I'm more comfortable around disabled people than others. I care for my uncle who is a little person with degenerative bone disease, deaf and blind. I don't mind striking up a conversation with anyone.

    However, this specific individual I talk about here is somewhat of a celebrity. Everyone who walks by him on their way to the front car says hello and good morning to him. He must have been a regular rider for years.
    Ah, I see: that's commendable. I have a deaf friend, about 130 miles away. He's just changed ISP's, & it's highlighted how poorly people engage with disabled folk. In spite of him sending crystal clear emails to the departing ISP, they sent him several indicating they'd tried to ring him many times! The new ISP is only marginally better at communication, in spite of being the country's largest telecom provider :-(

    He used to cycle daily, but the balance problems are severe, & he doesn't fancy a trike.

    Sounds like your traveling companion knows how to put people at their ease :-)

    Whilst researching cycle trailers recently, I see there are a few good ideas to enable disabled folk to get out on a bicycle in one way or another.....

    BTW, this makes Chicago look more interesting :-)

    http://www.pedalpushersonline.com/?CID=854

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