Monthly Archives: March 2012

Open Letter to Amtrak (wittco posted on March 29th, 2012 )

Open Letter to Amtrak

Dear Amtrak,

I value Your transportation system, and I appreciate the wonderful service I have experienced in the past. My admiration for Your train system is the impetus for the letters I sent last week, one to SEA and one to PDX. I also filled out the comments form online. I am part of an organization that promotes cargo bike usage.

On Sunday, I received a call from an employee at the PDX station because he had been given my letter to “deal with.” He was polite and entertained my queries, but could not possibly speak for Amtrak as an organization. He responded with policy. Plus, he had the task of “dealing” with me, rather than having a fruitful conversation.

The goal of my proposition is open opportunities for You and Your customers. Given the increased numbers of cargo bikes in our northwest region (in cities along the Cascades service line), I think You will benefit from a review of Your bike policy, updating it to match the changing needs of Your customers.

Meeting customer needs through policy review is not uncommon. In 2009, Jet Blue had the opportunity to review one of its policies. The policy was a $50 fee for bikes shipped. A passenger had a bike that folded and fit into a standard suitcase, and was, therefore, “luggage,” but was being charged the fee because there was a bike inside. The policy was reviewed and changed “By 8:13 a.m. the next morning, Morgan [a member of JetBlue’s communication team] had helped to facilitate a policy change so that folding bikes in cases with standard bag dimensions were treated like any other checked bag and refund the fee for the customer that had helped bring it to our attention” (BlueTails, January 19, 2012).

Can You present a similar response to the service needs of Your customers? I believe You can. Yet, every solution I presented came down to being asked, is the bike under 50 pounds? Believe me; I understand the 50 pound policy. You want to keep Your baggage handlers safe. I respect this care of Your workers.

What I want to pursue is a promotional event to showcase You and bike usage. I did take my cargo bike on the Cascades train last year, placing it in a near empty train car, lifting it myself. It was a wonderful experience. One that left me thinking, hoping. Taking my bike on the train was possible. My bike is not a heavy or cumbersome bike. It is not a 400 pound taco cart.

It does not have to be a complicated deal. It is possible. However, in the case of Julian Davies’ family, their bike was denied, changing their weekend plans, which he shares in the sardonically titled, Why We Drive. He and his family are Amtrak riders. He is an example of the changing needs of Your customers.

My conversation with the Your employee was cyclically unproductive because there appeared to be two issues, and we kept coming to one after answering the other. After reflecting on the conversation, I delineated the issue into two questions: (a) is Amtrak interested in a promotional opportunity with a Portland, OR bike group and (b) is Amtrak open to solutions to the 50 pound ruling?

In the case of the first question, if You are not interested, the rest is moot. However, from the conversation I had with the Your employee, You are interested, but a solution or modification is needed.

In the case of the second question, are You willing to be creative with a promotional opportunity? I think You will want to be, and I would like to help.

For me and my travel along the I-5 corridor, taking the train makes sense. It is an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the sights, and take part in a civilized form of travel, but once I get to the train station, I am left without my cargo bike. For me, this is a loss.

I would love to continue this conversation with you.

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Are you a customer that would like Amtrak to review its policy? Please join the conversation.

Want to get out and enjoy the sun? Bring your cargo bike. (Will posted on March 23rd, 2012 )

Finally it looks like spring in Portland. The forecast may call for rain in the days ahead but today we have sun.

As you’re planning where to go and what to do with this brief break from terrible weather you should keep the utility of the cargo bike in mind.

Cargo bikes are a great option when you need to carry equipment for an outdoor activity. Frisbees, volley ball nets, BBQs, inner tubes, even kayaks will fit on the right cargo bike. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this picture Ryan Good shared via Facebook:

That’s right, it’s a kayak on a bike trailer. Virtually nothing is too big to haul with a bike.

Happy Friday!

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Cargo Bike Camping (wittco posted on March 17th, 2012 )

Saturday
We rolled into the Estacada Thriftway parking lot, Oregon. The rain had subsided, bringing with it a refreshing splash of needed sunshine. We parked our bikes in a group just left of the door, next to the propane can exchange. In the front of the store, a troop of Girl Scouts put forth their most compelling sales pitches. One scout was dressed in a cookie costume and greeted people to the store. Another scout danced about with a sparkling pinwheel. And a third scout, clearly the youngest in the troop, yelled out, “Free cookies—just four dollars!” and everyone enjoyed the silliness of youth.

thirftway

There was no hurry. This was a well timed stop before traveling the last stretch of highway 224 and forest road along a PGE reservoir, to reach McIver State Park, about 4 miles away. However, my wife and I started 48 miles prior in North East Portland, OR.
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