Biking and the Caltrain
I love cyclists. It doesn’t matter where I go in the world or what city I’m in, they all have roughly the same spirit and mentality. Cyclists on the Caltrain is a great example of this.
The Caltrain is a bullet/commuter train that runs from San Francisco to San Jose and allows people to live in SF but work in Silicon Valley. Because the distances are so huge, often what people do is bike to the Caltrain, ride the train to one of the cites, and then bike to their final destination.
Each Caltrain has two cars that are designated bike trains. Imagine cramming about 50 bikes on each of these cars during commuter rush hour… and the chaos that can ensue because everyone has to find their bike in the pile and get off at their stop.
It may seem like mad chaos but it really isn’t. Everyone is patient and over time there seems to have developed an honor system that involves the labeling and stacking of bikes. People will put home made labels — like luggage tags or others made of duct tape — that tell people their two stops. Then as each cyclist comes on the train they try to match their bike up to the “pile” of like commuters.
For those situations where it just doesn’t work out, people will respectfully reorder the bikes to make it easier at each stop. I found it rather intriguing to watch these cyclists, some covered in muck, others looking like hipsters, and even one man decked out like a cat on a tiger fur bike — move bikes around like they were delicate children. I will sit on the bike train to simply watch the cyclists interact with the bikes and each other.
The Caltrain itself is rather convenient. For me, it takes roughly 45-minutes to get from SF to Palo Alto, which is really efficient given the number of people trying to commute in the mornings. It’s infinitely better than sitting in a car for 2-hours each way — and I get some semblance of an evening in SF.
If taking the Caltrain for the first time, you should note that the timings are rather non-logical. For example, if going from PA to SF, if I catch the 5:24 train, I’ll get into SF at 6:29. However, if I catch the 5:44 train, I’ll get into SF 5-minutes earlier than the 5:24 train.