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Thread: Bus Bike Racks

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    Senior Member Commando303's Avatar
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    Bus Bike Racks

    I've recently been seeing bike racks on the fronts of many public buses (I know: "Where have you been"?). I think it's a good idea, but, honestly, the first I used one, I was apprehensive that, 1) my bicycle could be stolen at a stop, and, 2) whether the bike was adequately secured to the rack by the arm, and wouldn't go flying off, at some point.

    Happily, everything turned out fine, but I wonder if anyone has had any bad experiences with these things, or has some advice on using them. I will say, I chose to secure my bike to the rack with a U-lock, though I didn't bother to think whether this could cause any problems (I still don't know if it could).

    Thanks.

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    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    I'm surprised that the driver let you lock the bike to the rack. Reason being, if for some reason (like an accident), then the bike could do more damage if it's not allowed to be jettisoned instead of being dragged.

    If you feel insecure about it, lock your bike to itself- immobilize either wheel. I've been toying with the idea of running my cable lock through the frame and rear wheel. Of course, I don't live in an area where I feel theft from the bus rack is very high, YMMV. And if you're really paranoid about theft, get a folder and bring it on the bus with you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    I'm surprised that the driver let you lock the bike to the rack. Reason being, if for some reason (like an accident), then the bike could do more damage if it's not allowed to be jettisoned instead of being dragged.

    If you feel insecure about it, lock your bike to itself- immobilize either wheel. I've been toying with the idea of running my cable lock through the frame and rear wheel. Of course, I don't live in an area where I feel theft from the bus rack is very high, YMMV. And if you're really paranoid about theft, get a folder and bring it on the bus with you.
    Exactly. The drivers on my route are so impatient they would never stand still for the time it would take to get a lock out and secure it. In fact, they are so impatient, I have never even used one of the racks because I honestly don't know if I could hold my 20" wheel folder and I don't feel like experimenting on their time. I simply take my folder on the bus, folded ahead of time. I get strange looks from some drivers but mostly they let it go. Saves a place on the rack for someone else with a bike. From what I have seen, a bike on the rack is pretty secure. The driver isn't going to let just anyone take your bike, and if they did... woo hoo... there'd be a Specialized Cirrus with my name on it as soon as the claims check from Trimet cleared. But, to be honest, there aren't that many occasions for me to take my bike on the bus. I'd rather ride it. I see folks get on at my stop and put their bike on the rack I know they are going to the same place I am but I am riding the bike. Worse is if there are already two bikes in the rack.. they have to wait for the next bus. That's 20 minutes. Nutz to that, if I get just one red light ahead of the bus it's no contest on a weekday. On weekends the bus makes much better time than I can because it makes fewer stops but I'd still rather ride the bike.

    H

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    I used to ride the bus when i had my old Kona and my front fork and brakes got damaged from that arm that comes up and holds the front wheel. The rack was full on that bus though and from what i remember it was a pretty bumpy ride. I didn't notice the damage till a couple of days later when i noticed my front brake rubbing. I think most of the damage came from the adjacent bikes pushing against eachother. Anyway, i ended up just getting a new fork and selling that bike. Now i just ride my bike the whole commute and don't worry about catching the bus.

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    Senior Member Ira B's Avatar
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    I use the bus here for most of my commute to work and bike home after they stop running.
    The racks they have here are the fold down type and if there are no other bikes on board you are expected to know how to lower it and properly mount your bike to it. When you remove your bike you are expected to raise the rack back up.
    I have found them to be simple and easy to operate and they hold the bike very securely. The drivers here are actually very friendly and helpful but around here they know everybody by name and vice versa.
    Yep, THAT Ira

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    The racks seems to work fine. I did notice that the arm scratched up my fork even though there were no other bikes on the rack. I have disc brakes so I don't know whether or not rim brakes would have been damaged.

    That said, I am weary of either having the bike nabbed or the driver taking off before I can get to the bike but neither has happened. The front half of the bus is reserved for seniors/disabled and crush loads can mean enough standees that I can really only get off the back.

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    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    I've used RTD bike racks many times before. For a while, I was using them every day when I commuted from Denver into Broomfield. They are very secure, the bike isn't going anywhere. Once I put the bike in, I give it a good wiggle, and it will be pretty obvious is the rack is broken.

    I would also not lock the bike to the rack. It delays the bus. Just throw it on and go.

    I like to sit at the front of the bus to watch the bike. If someone looked like they were stealing it, you could easily jump off and deal with it.
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    Buses here in Burlington have racks. I've never heard of any issues. I've used them on rare occassion. Once it was about 10F/-12C and the trail conditions weren't what I expected so I just took the bus. People were looking at me like I was an alien.

    As for theft, sure, just run a lock through your wheels before you put the bike in the rack. Nobody's gonna be able to ride away with it.

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    Old, but not really wise CptjohnC's Avatar
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    Let me start by saying that I've never actually used a bus bike rack, but I was wondering about the very same thing (potential for theft) just the other day.

    It appears that most of you who say 'no concern' come from smaller municipalities with (presumably?) less crowded buses. Here, it is not unusual for a bus to be packed, such that I don't know if one could even see the bike while riding said bus (probably standing, near the back). And I don't know that the drivers would have any sense of whose bike it was (if they cared... I'm willing to bet that use of the racks is 'at your own risk' for the most part). Having said that, I am not aware of any thefts from the bus racks.

    I tend to agree with the lock it to itself/immobilize it idea -- that will deter target of opportunity theft, which is probably the main concern. I can't imagine any 'real' thief riding the bus to scan for decent bikes -- there are too many better targets (like rail stations).

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    I've used the Bus racks here in Chicago a few times when I first started commuting and my conditioning wasn't up to par yet, once when the weather got nasty and once when I had a double flat and forgot my pump. I haven't had a problem yet. Granted I will stay up at the front of the bus standing if needed. Even during the rush hour crush I can manage to stay at the front. The only down side it the wheel clamp isn't vey fender friendly, but it works.

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    Senior Member zandoval's Avatar
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    Saw a vintage Motobecane on an Austin Tx bus rack the other day - It looked like a fancy head ornament - And yes I did think - Wow I could just pick that up and run...

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    The biggest problem I have with bus bike racks is them not being dependably available. There's a list of routes in my city that are supposed have them all the time, but I ride one of those routes somewhat frequently, and have seen cyclists left behind because the rack wasn't present. Indeed, the only time I've tried to use a bike bus rack, it was missing and I ended up taking a taxi-van home instead.

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    While I haven't used a bus bike rack myself, I have heard stories about damage and theft, but that was years ago.

    If memory serves me correctly the damage was because of the arm used to secure the front wheel would sometimes mess up fenders and/or racks and certain wheel widths wouldn't fit. I'm not sure though if that problem is still prevalent or if the issues had been fixed.

    I've heard that theft usually occurred when someone would just grab it while the bus was loading or unloading passengers and the driver wasn't paying attention or was unsure of who owned the bike. However these issues took place in major cities.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jsdavis View Post
    That said, I am weary of either having the bike nabbed or the driver taking off before I can get to the bike but neither has happened. The front half of the bus is reserved for seniors/disabled and crush loads can mean enough standees that I can really only get off the back.
    I always sit or stand as close to the front of the bus as possible and exit at the front when with bike. And ALWAYS alert the driver that you're offloading your bike. One transit company I've ridden actually has the driver hand you a big yellow card which you then hand back to the driver as you exit.

    For some other things I saw mentioned in the thread:

    Most racks hold 20" wheeled bikes no problem. Some transit operations have a location with a rack bolted to the ground that you can practice on. Back in the day Portland's TriMet required rack users to carry a bike rack user card which you were to show to the driver before racking. It cost $5 and required watching a video then practicing on the static display bike rack.

    My favorite multi-modal trip is riding up to Tumwater, WA (100 miles) then putting the bike on busses for the trip from there to Seattle.
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    Real Men Ride Ordinaries fuzz2050's Avatar
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    I've used bus racks a good bit and never had a problem. Even on some really awful bumpy roads, they are remarkably secure.

    There was also one moment that I'm not terribly proud of; it had been a long day at work, and I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, so I took the bus back from work. Only, I fell sleep on the bus, woke up one stop too late, rushed off the bus, and forgot that I had a bike. My bike rode the bus all the way around, and back to the terminal. After a good nights sleep, and a very confusing morning, I realised what I must have done, I called up the bus company and apparently it was just sitting at the depot. I picked it up the next day, no trouble at all.

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    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    I'm surprised that the driver let you lock the bike to the rack. And if you're really paranoid about theft, get a folder and bring it on the bus with you.
    +1

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    Senior Member Commando303's Avatar
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    Thanks: I like the idea of running a cable through the bicycle to lock up the wheels. Someone still could pick it up, but they'd have to throw it into another vehicle, or run pretty ass-fast with a bike in their arms.

    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    I'm surprised that the driver let you lock the bike to the rack. Reason being, if for some reason (like an accident), then the bike could do more damage if it's not allowed to be jettisoned instead of being dragged.

    If you feel insecure about it, lock your bike to itself- immobilize either wheel. I've been toying with the idea of running my cable lock through the frame and rear wheel. Of course, I don't live in an area where I feel theft from the bus rack is very high, YMMV. And if you're really paranoid about theft, get a folder and bring it on the bus with you.
    The driver didn't say anything about my locking the bike to the rack, but, then, he might not have noticed.

    As for buying a folding bike, no offense, but it's an absurd suggestion. I'm trying to figure how best to manage what I ride, not whether to buy something completely new. It's as if someone asked for advice on purchasing renter's insurance, and was told he should buy a house or an R.V., instead.

    What's, "YMMV"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
    Exactly. The drivers on my route are so impatient they would never stand still for the time it would take to get a lock out and secure it. In fact, they are so impatient, I have never even used one of the racks because I honestly don't know if I could hold my 20" wheel folder and I don't feel like experimenting on their time. I simply take my folder on the bus, folded ahead of time. I get strange looks from some drivers but mostly they let it go. Saves a place on the rack for someone else with a bike. From what I have seen, a bike on the rack is pretty secure. The driver isn't going to let just anyone take your bike, and if they did... woo hoo... there'd be a Specialized Cirrus with my name on it as soon as the claims check from Trimet cleared. But, to be honest, there aren't that many occasions for me to take my bike on the bus. I'd rather ride it. I see folks get on at my stop and put their bike on the rack I know they are going to the same place I am but I am riding the bike. Worse is if there are already two bikes in the rack.. they have to wait for the next bus. That's 20 minutes. Nutz to that, if I get just one red light ahead of the bus it's no contest on a weekday. On weekends the bus makes much better time than I can because it makes fewer stops but I'd still rather ride the bike.

    H
    First, I'd suggest you not let someone's impatience keep you from taking advantage of what exists for your convenience. If anything, file a complaint if a nasty driver deserves it.

    Second, you maybe ought to be a little less "woo-hoo" about having your bicycle stolen from the rack on a bus. What do you think the driver would do if he saw someone taking it? It's quite likely he'd do nothing, just like the transportation authority running the bus service, which would quickly cite documentation expressly dismissing responsibility for bicycles secured to the racks on their fleet. You'd huff and puff, and you'd file a police report; then you'd start saving pay-cheques from the job you now take two buses to get to, until you could afford to buy a new bike.

    As I said, this was my first time using a rack on a bus (hell, I hardly ever take the bus, bicycle or no bicycle), but I decided it would be a good way to cut ~fifteen miles out of an already-lengthy trip.

    Quote Originally Posted by jsdavis View Post
    That said, I am weary of [...] the driver taking off before I can get to the bike but neither has happened. The front half of the bus is reserved for seniors/disabled and crush loads can mean enough standees that I can really only get off the back.
    That's a concern that hadn't occurred to me, but it's perfectly valid. Indeed, the buses sometimes are mobile sardine-cans, and the streets are about as packed. To my knowledge, there's really no practical way to alert the driver you'll need to remove your bicycle, as, two times out of five, he'll begin driving away from the stop with twenty persons hollering, "BACK-DOOR!" because they've not yet gotten to disboard.

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    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    YMMV= Your Mileage May Vary or what works for me may not for you (and vice versa).

    I only brought up the folder because quite a few multi-modal types are attracted to them. I realize they aren't for everyone, but they are a viable option to many.
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    I was often in the situation where the bus was packed and i could only get off from the back door. I seemed to always be able to get the driver's attention somehow to let them know i had a bike. Whether it was hollering or making eye contact through their rear view mirror. Maybe i was lucky to have courteous drivers but they always seemed to be checking their back door when i was getting off. I used to also let the driver know when i got on where i was going to get off so they would hopefully remember to let me get my bike at that stop.

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    I was talking to a bus drive and he told me that yes he has witnessed two bikes being stolen off the front rack. I suppose I should note that live in a high crime area of Chicago which has a huge bike theft problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeybikes View Post
    I've used RTD bike racks many times before. For a while, I was using them every day when I commuted from Denver into Broomfield. They are very secure, the bike isn't going anywhere. Once I put the bike in, I give it a good wiggle, and it will be pretty obvious is the rack is broken.

    I would also not lock the bike to the rack. It delays the bus. Just throw it on and go.

    I like to sit at the front of the bus to watch the bike. If someone looked like they were stealing it, you could easily jump off and deal with it.
    I don't commute, but when I do, I don't need buses. Sometimes, I ride the bus when I'm tired after a 25 mile bike ride, with 5 miles remaining. I seldom see bikes on buses, so I have to pull down the racks, put my bike on the rack, and then pull the arm over my front tire to secure it. I always sit at the front of the bus when my bike is on the rack, so I can watch it to make sure that nobody steals it or that it doesn't fall off of the rack. I once saw a bike that wasn't secured with the arm, and when the bus started moving, the bike fell off and the bus ran over it.
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    Senior Member kengrubb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Commando303 View Post
    I've recently been seeing bike racks on the fronts of many public buses ...but, honestly, the first I used one, I was apprehensive that, 1) my bicycle could be stolen at a stop, and, 2) whether the bike was adequately secured to the rack by the arm, and wouldn't go flying off, at some point.
    I have used the racks on both King County Metro and Sound Transit buses. I share concerns #1 and #2. When I bring my bike on the bus, I tend to sit as close as possible, or stand at the front to watch my bike. On the one hand, if a thief tried to steal it, one would want to see so that one could get off the bus to deal with it. OTOH, if the bus were in motion, would you really want to see your bike go flying off the rack and under the bus or into traffic?

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    Senior Member KD5NRH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CptjohnC View Post
    Let me start by saying that I've never actually used a bus bike rack, but I was wondering about the very same thing (potential for theft) just the other day.
    Looks like the perfect application for the Masterlock Cuffs; have one on the bike and the other hanging loose while you're waiting for the bus, and you can have it locked on without adding two seconds to the racking process.

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    Senior Member Commando303's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KD5NRH View Post
    Looks like the perfect application for the Masterlock Cuffs; have one on the bike and the other hanging loose while you're waiting for the bus, and you can have it locked on without adding two seconds to the racking process.
    That's sort of how I applied my U-lock: I had it open before the bus arrived, and, right after securing my bike, I simply locked the rear wheel to the rack — didn't add much time to the process (maybe a second and a half). Sure, the bicycle still could be stolen, but it takes more than two seconds to get a bike free from its back wheel, and I hoped that'd be time enough in which to react.

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    20" wheels of my Dahon are held securely by the arm. Perhaps having QR pedals is another option to deter theft. Someone could stil lift the bike, but they wouldn't be able to get on to pedal away.

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