At $250, the fine for taking a bike on BART during commute hours is no trivial slap on the wrist.
But on a regular weekday, scores of passengers are seen breaking the rule, jamming their trusty two-wheelers into a train packed full of people.
There’s a reason for this habitual violation: Barely anyone ever gets busted for the misdeed.
During the entire 2010 fiscal year, BART enforcement officers only issued 15 violations to passengers who brought their bike aboard during the commute times when the rides are banned. During the 2009 fiscal year, there were just 10 citations issued, and the year prior there were only 22 handed out.
About 4.6 million passengers — 4 percent of BART’s 115 million annual total ridership — take bikes on the train. But during the weekday hours of 7:05 to 8:50 a.m., and 4:25 to 6:45 p.m., bikes are banned from nearly all stations on BART.
On Friday at 8:11 a.m., regular BART passenger Diana Nankin departed a train at the Embarcadero Station with her bike. She said she’s vaguely aware of the $250 fine for bringing the bike aboard, but it’s never stopped her from testing the rules.
"I would maybe think about it more if I ever saw the rule being enforced," Nankin said. "But I can’t think of one time where a BART official has approached me about it."
Winford Chew, a South San Francisco resident, said he takes his bike on BART every weekday to The City.
"I’ve gotten yelled at a couple of times by the station agents," Chew said. "But I’ve never been fined or anything. I know that bikes are banned, but BART is the most convenient way for me to travel, and until I get in trouble, I’m going to keep bringing my bike onboard."
According to agency statistics, the issue of bikes being on BART during the commute times has become an increasingly common complaint among passengers. Last year at this time, there were 49 complaints of rule-busting bikes on BART. This fiscal year, there have been 64 reports — a 31 percent increase.
"When the train is crowded, it can definitely be a major inconvenience," said Oren Rieger, a daily commuter on BART. "I see bikes every day for my commute, but no one ever does anything about it."
Daniel Hartwig, deputy chief of operations for the BART Police Department, said the agency has begun a campaign to improving quality-of-life issues on the system, and enforcing the bike ban is part of the initiative. He said the agency is working with its various partners, such as businesses, schools, city groups and other law enforcement agencies to come up with a plan to address the issue of unsanctioned bikes on trains.
Number of fines issued annually for passengers bringing bikes on BART during banned times:
2009-10: 15 fines, 121 reprimands (but no fines)
2008-09: 10 fines, 87 reprimands (but no fines)
2007-08: 22 fines, 142 reprimands (but no fines)
(Fiscal year — runs from June 30 to July 1.)