„Long Day, Long John!“ – Cargobikes and railway: a gamble?

The last week Patricia and I spent cycling on cargo bikes from Berlin to Copenhagen, taking a train to Rostock in between. We checked out the luxury of camping with the extra amount of luggage capacity offered by our long john bikes – a Bullit from amb cycles and a pink eHarry from PedalPower.

Camping with cargobikes turned out to be a lovely experience, as you can guess from the many fotos on the last couple of posts, text is in German. The best is: you have your cargo bike with you when you get to Copenhagen, the cargo bike mekka! With our two bikes we visited a lot of cargo bike manufacturers around the center of CPH. The sun was shining and everything was cool and chilled.

The drama begins

Sunday we cycled to the train station to start our long train ride back (its so long because you cannot take bicycles on the ICE high speed trains of Deutsche Bahn). The ride thus takes you to Kolding then to Flensburg, Hamburg and finally to Berlin. As there was no info about special bicycles like tandems or cargobikes on the danish railway website, we were unsure before our trip whether we would make it back. So we called Deutsche Bahn Hotline and they assured us that just as in german Intercity trains you only need to buy two bike tickets for an oversized long john cargo bike. Said an done- we had four bike tickets plus reservations and felt all prepared.

Already when we tried to enter the train in Copenhagen some of the personnel got quite excited, and insisted „you cannot get on the train with this bike“. We explained, that we had two reservations for each bike. We decided to get on the train as we really didn’t see any other option, and the bikes fit fine on the train. Later one of the staff members literally made us leave, also being quite impatient. We asked for an explanation and said, that we had to get to Flensburg somehow (work an so on). Obviously Deutsche Bahn had given us wrong information. However our friend-personal from the danish railway refused to tell us his name, which we wanted, so we would at least have a reference when getting upcoming expenses back from Deutsche Bahn. Therefore we gt the piece of paper on the foto, sayin „no cargo bikes in danish trains“.

We didn’t get on the next train towards Flensburg, again having several people yell around… Two hours later came another one, we approached the train personal very friendly and explained that we were stuck in Kolding if they didn’t transport us to Flensburg. And this time we were lucky, the very friendly guy did not yell, he helped us to get the bikes in, and we got to Flensburg! Again there was absolutely no space problem in the bike area of the train. It was frankly a matter of good will, not of possible or not. In Flensburg the Regional train personal was really friendly and helped us on the train to Hamburg.

  • The Reservation of four places to Kolding... no use... Foto: e-Rad Hafen

Unfotunately, in Hamburg we missed the last connection to Berlin, so we had to spend the night in Hamburg. We could at least change the ticket to be valid next day and have a reservation for the bikes (again four). However Deutsche Bahn in Hamburg did not agree to pay for the Hotel, even though earlier when we called the customer hotline they had admitted their mistake and given us a corresponding file number. It was a bit „kafka“-style when the service people in Hamburg refused to even check the said file number and argued they hadn’t been present when we bought the tickets, so didn’t know if we said the truth in the first place and thus couldn’t help us. One even said, that the danish railway would have to pay for the hotel.

So we staid in Hamburg in the Inter City Hotel, paying the Hotel ourselves. The next morning at 6.30 am we took the EuroRegio in direction of Budapest and made it to Berlin finally – in this case the Bahn personal was astonished, that we got the bikes into the train. At first sight they said – you won’t get them in! And in fact it was close, we had to lift up the back wheel a good meter to get around the curve at the door.

Why am I writing this?

Because I think, that traveling multimodal, without a private car shouldn’t be a gamble, it should be fun and easy! Of course I also think that railway companies like the danish should transport cargo bikes – reliably. If the wagons allow it size wise and you have a reservation. But at least if they don’t transport cargo bikes, they should have the information available on their website and inform partner companies‘ telephone hotlines. Not knowing and informing about your own services means treating customers badly. And there is no reason to do so, is there?

And for Deutsche Bahn – when you have given wrong information it is kind to just admit it and then take responsability e.g. by organizing the hotel room and avoid that four out of four of your employees give different and contradicting information. I know that bashing the Deutsche Bahn is lame, but this time they kind of asked for it.

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