Buses and bikes go great together. Perhaps your commute requires a bus transfer and you’d rather get 15 minutes of exercise twice a day. Maybe you reverse commute to the suburbs and a bus brings you within a mile or two of your destination. These are real scenarios and I’m sure we can put our heads together to come up with more. Here’s how it works:
I live in the general Uptown area of Minneapolis and commute to downtown St Paul for work each day. This means riding the 94 Express bus (a better alternative to the Green Line for those making trips involving both downtowns). Believe it or not, for folks who grew up in this cold state there are about 8 months a year where weather is more than tolerable to spend 15 to 20 minutes riding a bike (or playing hockey, or cross country skiing, or sledding, or…). That’s why I’m a bit frustrated by this Metro Transit’s policy on bringing bikes onto buses:
If a bike rack is full, ask the driver to bring your bike on board. Note, however, that it is your driver’s decision. The driver knows the route and may refuse your request – even if the bus is not full at the time you are boarding – to avoid crowded conditions farther along the route.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve witnessed drivers turn away folks with bikes because the front two racks are full. One unfortunate gal had already been turned away by the previous bus driver, but that didn’t sway the driver. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m sure it will on the day I have an early meeting I simply can’t be late for.
Ignoring the unexplained (and therefore frustrating) inconsistency in why some drivers allow it but others won’t, Metro Transit should make one small change to accommodate (even encourage) transit riders to bike to the bus: replace the two seats at the articulation point with a vertical bike rack.
Let’s face it: these seats suck anyway. The post design causes rocking due to loose bolts, the articulation during turns can be nauseating, and the seats are too close to the aisle so your knees get bumped when folks pass by. While express routes do fill up, they’re not so full that the loss of two seats would be a deal breaker. As for if it can be done, I’m confident if a pair of seats can be squeezed in and meet safety standards, a brilliant engineer at the Met Council can design a suitable bike rack that can be retrofitted here.
A couple extra bikes on buses won’t solve many problems with our transit system. And I agree with Jarrett Walker that there’s an opportunity cost of bringing bikes on trains & buses, especially on crushloaded 40 foot buses. Eventually we’ll need more secure, weather-protected bike parking at key bus transfer points (which should ideally work for cyclists not getting on the bus as well). But let’s not stop us from thinking outside the box and making it easier today where we can.
Agreed that there should be indoor bike racks. I think many routes could also tolerate losing some seats for this on regular-length buses as well. I’m not sure if the articulation point in particular would work, because the racks generally need to be mounted on the wall, and the height of a bicycle is much greater than the depth of a seat. That is, a bike on a bike rack would occupy a lot more floor space in that tight accordion area.
Have you tried the racks on the Red Line buses? The Orange Line articulated buses should have something similar. It makes boarding much more efficient without the cyclist/passenger having to remove the bike from the outside of the bus.
Having a third rack on the front would help too. All CATA buses in Lansing have them just like all stops and shelters have route numbers, maps posted, and estimated arrival times for each stop instead of the next stop five or so blocks away. Red Line one was full when I used it: had to prop it up next to the one inside and hold it when there’s room for two if there were something to secure it to.
King County Metro buses in Seattle all have the three-bike rack in the front.
Bike storage on buses isn’t scalable. Yes, it’s needed, but what’s needed more is secure, sheltered bike parking at major stops.
Metro Transit was planning on a trial where they would build a cage with a roof over bike racks at two light rail stations. The cage would require some sort of ID for admittance and would feature video surveillance. I don’t know the current status of those plans.
Great idea, but why are they complicating it? ID admittance? Video surveillance? Those are great ways to make something simple become impossible, which has apparently thus far been accomplished there by Metro Transit. They can start with U-racks and expand from there.
I’d also say that more frequent buses would be another good solution. If the next bus is only a few minutes away it’s not so bad if the rack is full. If it’s 20 minutes or half an hour, well … I hate this town.
I would go buy a fifty dollar bike,
Place it at the last mile.
Then ride bus till last mile.
I would like to see a shelf system for folding bicycles. So I can put my folder on a shelf.
Encourage smaller bikes.
I <3 Nice Ride
But getting the bike onto the bus around all of the people is the issue. The rack must be ajacent to the door. The door probably has to be larger as well. Still, this is a good idea that should be integrated with the BRT system.
From what I understand, the arterial BRT fleet will have conventional 2-bike front-mounted racks, which surprised me. Hopefully the stops will have good bike storage options, or else some of the time wins from other efficiencies will be lost.
As a fellow Uptownish to St Paul via the 94 commuter, I agree. Luckily, I’m usually putting my bike on the bus at Hennepin/6th, so it’s rarely an issue to put my bike on the rack. But I’ve definitely seen people turned away later in the route. I’m not sure the best way to fit more bikes on bendy buses, but there’s gotta be something. Maybe replace the seats across from the back door?