In trains, bicycles invite themselves slowly
For most workers and cyclists, it had become a way of the cross. But for several months, bicycles are slowly but surely regaining a place of choice in stations in France. Between 2021 and 2022, despite the still numerous logistical difficulties in stations, reservations of spaces dedicated to cycles on the SNCF network increased by 24%. A figure that reinforces recent institutional positions on this subject, all in favor of the multiplication of bicycles in trains in France and elsewhere.
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne recalled this herself in her speech of February 24: “To decarbonize transport, we must offer alternatives to the individual use of the car. » For environmentalists, it is an idea that is now a consensus and pushes to highlight the concept that must save transport in France: intermodality, the use of several modes of transport during the same trip. A framework in which the train-bike combination fits perfectly.
A European impetus
In 2018, already with this in mind, the European Parliament, or rather its Transport Committee, voted an amendment imposing the presence of eight places for undismantled bicycles in each new train set built in the European Union. “It was very important, supports Érick Marchandise, president of Cyclo TransEurope and member of the collective Mon vélo dans le train. It gave legitimacy to this fight. » According to him, the mobility orientation law that followed, voted in France in 2019, “was in line with this first position statement. »
It is this text that has led to the return of bicycles to French trains, which is happening gradually, especially as the SNCF puts its freshly built trains into circulation. “It had almost disappeared on the TGVs, especially in the South-East, and we now find it on most lines. For now, there are only two places, but it is an improvement. SNCF has ordered a hundred new TGV trains (in 2018), in which there will be eight bicycle spaces. »
At present, however, it remains difficult to determine which trains are or are not accessible by bicycle. Overall, with a dismantled machine, it is possible to ride everywhere except in the Ouigo, where reservation is compulsory for luggage anyway. With full bikes, it’s something else again: apart from in the north of France, most TGVs have places, which must be reserved for an extra charge and which are unavailable on peak days. The TER on the other hand take the bicycles without supplement, but only within the limit of the available places.
In addition to this illegibility, there are also other difficulties: the problems of access by bicycle to many French stations, lack of lifts or equipped stairs, the absence of bicycle parking nearby… “It’s a shame because the train’s penetration rate among cyclists is one of the best assures Érick Marchandise. These are subjects we are working on during our workshops with the SNCF, there are still many obstacles to be reduced one by one. But there is reason to be optimistic, when you see the situation 20 years ago…”