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On a bike/Link/Amtrak adventure to Vancouver, WA

The author standing in the bike area of a Link light rail train with a folding bike and a bag.

I’m on my way to Vancouver, WA, with a Brompton full of books. A bike to Link to Amtrak adventure is a lovely way to start a day.

I’m giving a book presentation and selling copies at the Vancouver Bicycle Club meeting, 5pm at the Aero Room this evening (Nov. 8).

It’s amazing how much less stressful and complicated train travel is compared to flying. The scenery is amazing, they have regular power outlets, and you can use your phone like normal. And, of course, you emit vastly fewer emissions along the way.

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I don’t think most people yet understand how much they will love high speed rail when we finally get around to building it. The biggest issues holding rail travel back are speed and reliability, and building high-speed dedicated tracks will solve both those issues. The Washington State legislature funded some early planning work for a high-speed upgrade for the Cascades route, and that work is ongoing.

Bringing a bike on the Amtrak Cascades is super easy, for example, which is absolutely not the case with an airplane. If you buy your ticket early enough, you can reserve a bike spot for a regular-sized bike. Then you just wheel it up to the baggage car where a worker will take it from you.

In my case, all ten bike spots were taken by the time I bought my ticket. But I have a Brompton folding bike, which you can fold and bring on board as luggage. There’s a luggage area at the end of each car, but it can also fit in the luggage space above the seats if needed. There’s no need to stress about where it will go.

A folding bike stowed in a luggage area among other bags.

I have flown with a Brompton, and it is doable. But it was a bit stressful. Sometimes you have to gate check it, and sometimes you can lug it on with you and put it in the overhead bin. And every once in a while, you encounter an airline employee who wants to charge you their $75 (or worse) bike fee even though it is smaller and lighter than many suitcases.

Then once you land, most airports don’t have good bike access. So you likely need to haul your bike onto transit or a cab. Train stations, on the other hand, are very often in great locations for biking. Step off the train, load your bags on your bike, and you’re ready to ride to your destination or start exploring.

UPDATE: Is this the world’s largest bicycle wheel? Inside Bortolami’s Pizzeria in Vancouver, WA.

A large bicycle wheel hangs from the ceiling in a restaurant. It uses an air duct for a tire.

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5 responses to “On a bike/Link/Amtrak adventure to Vancouver, WA”

  1. “Anything to declare?”
    “Biking uphill in the rain is great, actually!”

  2. asdf2

    If you’re ever visiting California and looking for airports with good bike access, you should definitely check out San Jose and Santa Barbara. I did Santa Barbara with a kick scooter that flew in the overhead bins. San Jose, I used the rental bikes/scooters. The ride back to the airport cost $1, and I had no issues just leaving the Spin bike in the airport dropoff area. It felt very weird, but the experience of using the trails to bypass all of the stress and traffic was amazing.

    1. Al Dimond

      I used to live near San Jose airport (wrong side to walk straight to the terminal but close enough to walk to the shuttle bus stop at the Santa Clara Caltrain). It was like… imagine Lake Union, filled in, paved over, and turned into an airport. The Westlake Cycletrack goes right by the drop-off loop, but far fewer people use it because so many origins and destinations for bike trips have been cleared out of the flight path, or to make way for freeway interchanges…

  3. Richard Howard

    Here’s an excellent piece in NY Magazine about political pressure to force e-bike riders to register and license their bikes: https://www.curbed.com/2023/11/e-bike-license-nyc-bob-holden-bill-problems.html

    You’ll have to open that in an incognito window if you’re not a subscriber.

  4. Stuart Strand

    Brommies are cool. I’m going to have to sell my 1990s T5 with SA 5 speed hub soon, cause I can’t stay wheels-down on 2 wheels anymore. Loving my etrike tho!

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