From 1 November 2015 it will no longer be possible to take your bike in one piece on Eurostar services. Travelling by train between the UK and the continent cyclists will be forced to dismantle their bikes, put them in a box and reassemble them again when they've reached their destination. European cycle bodies fear the changes will make cycle-rail integration more difficult and are calling for a reversal of the new policy.
From 1 November only dismantled bikes are allowed on Eurostar trains. Photo © Wikimedia
Cyclists from all over the world are starting to discover the joys of bike travel. But although cycling holidays are gaining in popularity, getting to your starting point with your bike is not getting any easier. International train services seem to be getting more restricted for bike travellers.
In November 2014 we already reported on how scrapping international night trains would affect cyclists travelling to Holland with their bike. Now there's more bad news. If you're planning to come to Holland by Eurostar after 1 November 2015, you'll have to dismantle your bike (not just taking off the wheels, but also handlebars, saddle and pedals), box it up and reassemble it again at the other end. Not a very relaxed start to your holiday.
Eurostar's new bike policy is controversial, especially in the UK where the change will be felt most. UK bike charity CTC has launched a European-wide campaign, urging Eurostar to reverse its new bike policy which they believe would treat cyclists as "third-class passengers". The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and several UK MPs support the campaign and have voiced their criticism against the policy shift.
“I am writing to Eurostar asking them not to end their simple, effective bike carriage service used by thousands a year,” said Johnson. “It is a backward step, which undermines Eurostar’s green pretensions.” An MP added: “Eurostar, as a self-avowed champion for sustainable transport, should be looking to make cycle-rail integration easier, not more difficult. As things currently stand they’re coming across as anti-cyclist."
The main concern is that dismantling and reassembling a bike for transit it too difficult for novice cyclists or for those who rely on cycling as a mobility aid, preventing them from using a sustainable transport means to travel from the UK to mainland Europe. "With London, Paris, and Brussels each vying to be top cycling cities and Amsterdam, arguably Europe's cycling capital, due to join the Eurostar network in 2016, now is not the time to take a step back in cycle rail policy."
To be fair, Eurostar is not the only high-speed train company that doesn't allow passengers to take their bikes on board in one piece (see: Getting to Holland by rail). A spokesperson for Eurostar says that the new bike policy was introduced so the luggage space can be used more flexibly.
"The only change is that bikes will now need to be carried in a bike box, which we are happy to provide. When packaging bikes in this way, they take up less space which means that we can carry more bikes, or any other type of luggage." Whether boxes will be provided free of charge or whether you'll have to find somewhere to store your box during your holiday is not clear.
Cycling's zero stars for Eurostar
UK cycling charity CTC and their partners in France, Belgium, Germany and Holland (Dutch Cyclists' Union) have launched the campaign Cycling's zero for Eurostar, calling for a reversal of Eurostar's new bike policy. If you want to support their campaign, you can follow this link to the CTC website [link no longer applicable].
Alternative ways to travel
Although I'm an experienced cyclist and don't shy away from doing bike repairs myself, I'm reluctant to use any form of travel that requires me to take my bike apart, pack it into a box and trust it will arrive at the other end in one piece. On a cycling holiday my bike is such an important part of my gear, that I hate taking risks.
If, like me, you don't like the idea of dismantling and reassembling your bike, the ferry is a good alternative way to travel from the UK to Holland. It's pretty hassle and stress-free: you can simply ride your bike packed with all your luggage on and off the boat. Whether you're sailing to Europoort, Hook of Holland or IJmuiden, you won't have far to go to pick up one of the national long-distance cycle routes. For more information, go to our Getting to Holland by sea page.
You may also consider the option of renting a bike at your destination. You will find somewhere to rent a bicycle wherever you are in Holland. Renting a bicycle is easy and not that expensive. It will save you the hassle of bringing your own bike along. For more information, go to our Bicycle rental page.