dangly bikelets

Dear lazyweb,

In a couple of weeks I'm likely to be going cycle touring around the North East of England. This will involve first taking a train from Nottingham. While looking at train options just now, I was reminded of a little survey that I wanted to conduct.

Taking bicycles on trains in the UK can be a hit-or-miss experience.

The UK's train routes are operated by a variety of train operating companies who each have different policies on taking bicycles on their trains. Some require a reservation, some do not. Some do not even allow reservations at all. There's no official database of these policies. It is up to you to check all of the companies' websites individually. As far as I can tell it is impossible to make a cycle reservation online. If you don't make a reservation, chances are that you'll be OK, but there are no guarantees you won't find yourself stranded in Bolton when none of your connections will take you.

The number of spaces reserved for cycles is extermely limited. Two seems to be the most common number that a train can officially carry (you may be able to stash it in the vestibule). Even given this, it is usual to find that the cycle spaces are taken up by prams, luggage and other crap when you actually board the train, so the effective number may actually be 0.

However, it is thankfully not uncommon to find staff and other passengers who are more than willing to go out of their way to help you if they see you are trying to take a bicycle onto a train. :-)

Anyway, I'm interested in how this situation is in other non-UK countries. Better or worse? A lot of countries certainly have a more cycle-friendly culture — I'd like to know how this kind of thing works there so that I can write a Strongly Worded Letter about how we Should Be Doing Better.

(Image by onohiroki, CC-by-nd.)