It's ridiculous to ban bikes from trains

The object of that exercise was to point up the irrationality of Southern Railways: as of 16 January, Southern has banned bikes absolutely from peak-time trains between Brighton and London (and they're pretty generous in their interpretation of "peak-time"); but when asked whether they would allow passengers carrying something exactly the same shape and size and a bike, they agreed almost eagerly.

To be honest, I'm not really convinced that this exposes a major inconsistency on Southern's part. Their thinking is, presumably, that since the risk of being swamped by people trying to travel with cardboard bicycles is low, there's no harm in setting a precedent; on the other hand, with actual bikes, there are thousands of the bastards just waiting for you to relax your vigilance.

But this is the point, of course: cyclists want to use trains, and bikes and trains are natural partners. No journey is ever station to station; you have to have a way of getting from your doorstep to the station, and from the station to your final destination. Other rail companies, just as popular and crowded as Southern, manage to accommodate cyclists - not all cyclists, not on every rush-hour train, but they at least recognise that it might be worthwhile courting cyclists' money rather than turning them away.

Southern's inflexibility is just silly; the CTC draws an unfavourable comparison with South West Trains, which consulted extensively with cyclists before refurbishing their rolling-stock, and as a result came up with trains that can take more bikes, with little or no inconvenience to other passengers. Southern didn't consult, but just announced. The CTC's Dave Holladay points out that Mersey Trains withdrew their peak-time ban on bikes as an experiment a few years ago, and have never bothered to reinstate it - presumably because most cyclists have enough of a sense of self-preservation to stay off packed trains.

A look at the website of the Cycle Train Commuters Group shows that Southern has stirred up a hornets' nest, and hornets with unusually well-developed thighs at that. My joke conspiracy theory was that the ban was being secretly sponsored by Brompton, since folding bikes are exempt; but now I've seen the "Cycling by Train" leaflet published by the Association of Train Operating Companies, plastered with cute illustrations of happy commuters folding their Bromptons, I'm wondering if I haven't hit on something. See it at www. nationalrail.co.uk/passenger_services/cyclists.htm.

And do let me know about your good or bad bike-on-train experiences.

This week's electronic mailbag was nice and fat.

I have been ticked off good and proper by any number of people for writing that hub dynamos are a recent development. I apologise if, as they say, I unintentionally gave the wrong impression. It is indeed the case, as I vaguely knew, that hub dynamos were popular 40 years ago, but my impression was that they had become extinct by the 1980s - that's borne out by the preponderance of people whose memories date back to the Fifties and Sixties. If anybody bought one between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s, I'd be keen to hear about it. So the present boom in hub dynamos is a recent development after all, and everybody is right. Drinks all round.

Also, a couple of people have complained that my picture in prose of a moustache handlebar didn't really help them to visualise it. I apologise if I unintentionally gave no impression at all. Drew Saunders has a whole web page about them, with links to photos: www.stanford.edu/~dru/moustache.html. Drool on.

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