Experienced commuter cyclist, John-Luke Hutchinson shares his views on commuting by bicycle and Gautrain from Braamfontein to Sandton. Its possible – Gautrain doesn’t make it easy, but its possible.
Believe it or not, you actually can take a bicycle on the Gautrain! You just have to hide it away in a bag. “Why?!” you ask. Apparently for “safety reasons”. If the bicycle goes flying through the air when the train comes to a mad emergency halt or goes off track then the bag will have some safety purpose. I can’t understand it either, but this is actually an explanation given to a friend of mine by management, insisting that his super fancy fold up bicycle be put into a bag.
I find the bag useful for not much other than drawing stares, being somewhat of an inconvenient and peculiar bicycle draping, and allowing me to squeeze any part of the bike up close and personal to a crowd of Sandton business types that have squashed into the elevator. One time, sharing a lift with a bunch of well-wheeled luggage a woman exclaimed, “My! You must have something very interesting under there!”
“No,” I reply, “It’s just a bicycle.” I pointed to her luggage and said, “I’m sure you’ve got far more interesting things in there!!”
I first discovered this bicycle bag rule when I confidently tried to wheel my bicycle onto the platform. Security would have none of it! You think chewing gum or accidentally opening your bottle of water is a felony on this Gautrain? Just try bringing a bicycle on board! So much for promoting and developing an integrated transport system and making bicycles at the top of Gauteng’s transport strategy.
Now, what’s highly strange is you can wheel many other items on board: baby prams, traveling luggage or your wheel chair – all without a bag. And, when those items get airborne I’m sure they’re going to do as much damage as my bicycle…
Anyways, I comply to the rules. I made this large black sack that I can haul out and throw completely over the bike. No ways am I taking the wheels off, I’m trying to do an efficient, breezy commute here. Not a whole procedure in bicycle mechanics! (I once met a guy with his bike packed away, wheels off, in a snazzy bag. He was in full lycra and told me his commute from Centurion to those fancy FNB offices in Randburg took the same by Gautrain and bicycle than by car. I was well impressed. He was also training for single speed off road champs… respect!)
So in goes the bike, in it’s big black Batman bag, and I have to carry the bike which is quite a strange sight but not an alarm starter for the Gautrain guards. They just look past me dully, it’s quite peculiar. They really seem in a daze unless you’re setting off those rule breaking alarms (I have even seen them stop a guy from entering the station because he was carrying a skateboard! It’s amazing!) I have yet to try wheeling my bike right onto the platform and then only putting it into the bag.
So, what’s it like catching the train with a bicycle? It’s a bit of procedural hassle and you get the sense that you’re sticking out like you would if you tried catching a flight with a coffin on wheels for luggage! But I’ll do it as much as I can because it’s worth it! I must be out the apartment and cruising down the hill to Park station by 06:00. I’ve bagged the bike and hit the platform for the 06:12 train, out at Sandton and in the lift, in the bus and down the road. Up a short hill and I’m at the office before the 07:00 clock in time.
That’s about three times my vehicle commute, but it’s not only precise it’s also meditative – I’m not in traffic as traffic, I’m weaving in between traffic on my bicycle, I’m speeding underground on the train or relaxing on the bus. I get to work with not much hassle of being hot and sweaty and the bonus is I can ride all the way home which is the most meditative part of my day!
Follow Luke on Instagram @104Ansteys for more Gautrain-Bike pictures.
Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of JUCA.