Parable: The Pilot, the Train and the Bicycle
(or how to design a trial so that it will prove nothing about real-life situations)
Wow!!!! They’re doing a pilot on my train line! For 30 days, you can bring a bicycle on the train. I won’t go into the fact that it’s idiotic that they didn’t plan for this at the outset, right? I’m just going to be excited that I can bring my bike on the train and I’m definitely ready to participate in the pilot.
Oh, look, a flyer about it!
Oh. The pilot is only between 9 am and 3 pm and after 7 pm.
Ok, you know what, I never make client appointments during rush hour anyway. That’s OK.
Wow. That’s a long list of instructions.
I’m going to translate it for you. I think it speaks for itself, but because I can’t resist, my comments will be italicized and in parentheses.
It is recommended to get to the station at least 20 minutes prior to the train’s official departure time. (In other words, forget about any time savings you might have gleaned by cycling rather than walking to the station.)
Arrival at the station:
- On your own initiative, show the bicycle’s docking strip to the security officer. (The bicycle’s what? Don’t worry, it is explained below. And don’t search Google becase all of the search results point you to the announcement by the rail company, and the images you get are just weird.)
- If there is a station attendant at the entrance, you may ask him to open the disabled gate. You must, on your own initiative, show him your train ticket. (If he has to ask for it — what? I’m going to be forbidden to ride the train because I didn’t take the initiative here?)
- If there is no attendant (some stations do not have an attendant), lift the bicycle over the turnstile AFTER putting in your ticket. (I’m trying to imagine myself with the ticket, putting it in the slot, holding my bicycle over my head, and going through the turnstile. Now I’m trying to imagine the disabled person in that same situation.)
- It’s absolutely forbidden to ride the bicycle in the station. (That’s a pity.)
Alighting on the train:
- Use the elevator only to reach the train platform. (Oh, darn, I was looking forward to seeing how my bicycle managed on the escalator.)
- Alighting on the train with a bicycle is from the Southern-most carriage, the one marked with the disabled sign. (Sounds extremely helpful except that my train station is laid out such that the Southern-most car is actually the Northern-most one.)
- If the carriage is crowded and there is no room, wait for the next train. Do not put a bicycle on a crowded carriage. (In case you’d forgotten, I am riding at off-peak, meaning the next train is 40 minutes from now. Add that to my 20 minute buffer, and I might as well have ridden the bicycle into Tel Aviv instead of taking the train.)
- Up to 5 bicycles can be put on the train. If there is no room, wait for the next train. (Great pilot so far, isn’t it? Excellent representation of real-life conditions.)
- Wait until all passengers have gotten off or on the train before getting on the train with the bicycle.
- Use the ramp to go to the lower deck of the train carriage.
- The bicycle must be anchored using a special docking strip with adjustable buckles or hooks, or by using a bicycle lock. (I took a look around the car. It was not equipped with anything that I could see I would be able to tie a bicycle to.)
- Attach the bicycle as closely as you can to the safety rail, using a chain or strip. (It wasn’t my imagination. They didn’t install any place to tie the bicycles, so they want us to attach them to the safety rail in the disabled car. Great idea.)
<End of instructions.>
I don’t know what publicity was run for this pilot, but I didn’t see a single bicycle on the train. It seems almost as if the pilot was designed by someone who was out to prove that there’s no need or demand for bicycles on the train. Nobody is going to buy a bicycle just to participate in a pilot, for example. And almost nobody is going to bring their bicycle to the train station with the knowledge that if too many people have the same idea, they won’t get on the train at all.
You’d have to be totally fanatic about getting the rail company to allow bicycles in order to even give it a shot under those conditions. I’ll let you know next week how it goes.