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  1. #1
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    Bike Racks on Buses -- Another Tool for the Carfree

    I never tested the bike rack on a bus until this weekend and enjoyed the experience. I’ve always used my bike on trains and experienced first hand the power of multimode transport for the carfree. However, this was my first weekend using it in conjunction with the bus and was surprised at how useful it can be for those who don’t have vehicles.

    I took my bike to the bus depot at Newark New Jersey since most of their fleet have bike racks that are never used! This actually works to our advantage so don’t start spreading the news! LOL! Using my monthly bus card, I boarded five separate bus lines for free crossing restricted highways and up huge hills.

    Here’s what I discovered.

    1. Multi-mode transport allows further travel with less cost --- I could not believe how cheap it was when traveling by bus compared to train. Once I reached the last stop, it saved a lot of wear and tear on my legs leaving me fresh to travel even longer distances. I ended up racing back to the bus depot to hop on another bus!

    2. I could take any bus as long as it was headed in the right direction --- Most bus riders have to wait long periods of time if they miss the bus since they are walking. However, many bus lines often head in the same direction and end up only a couple or several miles apart. As a multimode bus user, I could make up that distance in 10 minutes or less which means EVERY BUS is fare game and ok with me! I don’t have to wait an hour for one bus and have the option of taking 2or 4 different lines. I hope people don’t find out about this or the racks will be full from the start.

    3. The bus (with bike rack) opens a lot destinations --- Trains are great but they don’t go everywhere and buses certainly open many more options. There are areas that would be hard to get to because of the huge hills involved in climbing. The bus carries my bike up those climbs effortlessly and gives me the option of going there again. I don’t feel restricted to riding in one location anymore. I intend to experiment with more bus lines and other bus depots that will take me further out.

    4. It takes only ten seconds to learn the mechanics --- I thought it was going to be hard but videos on YouTube showed how easy it was to open, unfold and load your bike on the rack. You should put the bike on the second rack so someone else can load their bike if this should ever happen. I intend to buy a small cable lock to prevent theft.

    Well, that’s all for now. I suspect it would have cost about $25.00 dollars in gas for the amount of travel I did this weekend but it only cost me about $5.00 dollars for the train. If you have access to the bus with a bike rack, it’s time to take advantage of it and I regret not doing this sooner. I consider this another tool for the carfree.

    One bus left me by the Edison National Historical Park. What a surprise because I forgot it was located in West Orange New Jersey. He was an amazing man.


    Thomas Edison National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service)

    Edison's Black Maria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 08-17-14 at 09:00 PM.

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    And how did the bus drivers react to you using the racks? Were they supportive?


    I ride the bus quite a lot, and have done in just about all the places I've lived for the past couple decades. Yes, they are a good way to get around quite inexpensively.


    When bike racks were installed on buses I saw three main issues:

    1. For reasons I could not understand, in one of the cities I lived in, they installed bike racks on only two buses ... then ran those buses at random times in random places. You could never count on the next bus pulling up having a rack. In fact, since only two buses in the entire system had bike racks, chances are the next bus pulling up would not have a rack. After a few weeks of this, I learned that more often than not they were running the bike rack buses at night. And then, not surprisingly, they pronounced the program a failure. I don't know what has happened since.

    But I have noticed something similar in other cities where random buses will have racks and you can't count on there being racks on the one you need.

    2. In the case of the city I mentioned above, the two racks they installed were different. I think the idea was that they were trying out two different models to see which would be best. One was, apparently, quite easy to work with (from observation and discussions with other cyclists), the other was not, and created various issues and frustrations. Again, I have no idea what happened after they pronounced the program a failure.

    If there are racks, they do need to be easy to use.

    3. Driver attitude. In the city I mentioned above, the drivers were not allowed to leave their seats to help you load your bicycle, would not offer advice ... and if you took some time loading, their annoyance level rose. I never used the racks myself, but I watched several times as this happened. Drivers got quite agitated. I also overheard drivers talking ... and they did not like the racks.

    That's why I ask about the drivers ... it sounds like most of your buses have racks so the first issue isn't a problem for you. It sounds like your racks are easy to use. But how did the driver react to having to wait a moment while you loaded your bicycle? Were they quite supportive of it?


    Rowan and I are in the process of getting folding bikes, and I'm hoping that we might be able to take those onto buses. I'm even toying with the idea of taking the bus halfway to work and then cycling the rest of the way ... or something like that.



    Edit: I looked it up, and I see that the city in question is trying racks again. However, they are only on 30 buses on 3 routes. And they are all removed for the winter.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    You should check out those racks during the 'work week'- not so empty, IME. And if the rack is full, the driver has the discretion to refuse you service- and there is always the risk that the next bus will be full as well.

    Also note that they frown on people locking their bikes to the racks- but they don't have a problem with you locking your wheel(s) to your frame.

    And you're supposed to remove anything that could fall off while in transit- lights, water bottles, basically anything that isn't bolted or zip tied on- and they aren't gonna replace any of those should you not remove them (I lost a water bottle once). And any large bags should be removed as well, as they could potentially create blind spots for the driver, but this kinda depends on the driver's attitude and how the bikes sit in the driver's P.O.V.

    I discovered early on that pannier(s) didn't work doing bike/bus because a) I never knew if there would be a dry spot for me to set the pannier(s) down on in order to load the bike and b) I never knew when I would have to hustle to another stop (whether on the same route or on a parallel route) and I didn't want to hold the bus up any longer than necessary, so I adopted a backpack in a crate to carry my stuff
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  4. #4
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    Yeah, I use bike racks on the bus all the time.

    I find the ones that are used on the GO bus in the GTA/GTHA Ontario region to be a little scary though, bike rocks back and forth like crazy so I tend to take a beater bike when I am going to be doing this. Not sure what other places are like in terms of the rack models they use.

  5. #5
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    All buses in Vancouver have racks. They're very easy to use and hold the bikes securely. I use them occasionally to get through a tunnel and have never had to wait for a second bus.

  6. #6
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    All buses here have racks, the double kind. They work quickly and easily--you just put the bike on and slip a hook over the front wheel. They say they've never had a bike fall off yet. (I've read that the triple racks very rarely will toss a bike, but the double ones never do.) The drivers never get annoyed by the bikes, but they're not allowed to help people use the racks (which makes sense if you stop to think about it).

    The big drawback is that the racks are sometimes full. I would be prepared to ride all the way if they are.

    I don't use the racks very often because I live in a smaller city, so distance is rarely an issue for me. In many cases, it's faster to use the bike than the bus. The racks are a godsend if you have a broken bike. I've used them several times to get bikes to the LBS. One time I cracked a rim far from home, and it would have been a long walk if I had to push a bike with a flat tire and a crooked rim!


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  7. #7
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    I used to use the bike racks on the bus in the Denver area all the time. I was kind of nervous about getting my bike on the first time, but discovered that the main transit stations had a practice bike rack complete with a tutorial. The long distance commuter buses also allowed cyclists to stow their bikes in the luggage compartment under the bus if the racks were full (there was never any actual luggage down there, as it was a commuter bus.)

    The buses where I live now all seem to have bike racks on them as well. Much like the bus, they don't seem to get a lot of action.
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  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I looked up the metro information for my current city, and there is absolutely no mention of bike racks. Seems to me they might have been tried years ago, but it would appear they are not available now.

    Good thing we're getting folding bikes!

  9. #9
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I have been caught short more than once when the racks were full. The last time was in Charleston, SC. The last bus of the night came along and the rack was full, had to ride the full 14 miles back to my hotel... turned out it was quicker than the bus anyway.

    In towns like the one I live near, the buses only run on the half hour, so if the rack is full you are going to have a looooong wait. Folder would be my first option rather than depending on a rack on a regular basis.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    And how did the bus drivers react to you using the racks? Were they supportive?
    Here's what I found out.

    1. Some drivers don't know how to use the rack --- It's important that you know how to use them! The last thing you want is your bike falling off the rack. I was about to put my bike on backward but the driver stopped me! Most of the time, you will be on your own!

    2. It's important to start unfolding the rack while everyone is boarding --- One driver got angry at me because I asked to unfold the rack but by then, everyone was on board. Once the bus stops, just do it and get the bike on. The whole process takes no more than 10 seconds. Don't expect the bus driver to help you pick up the bike. After three tries you're a pro.
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 08-18-14 at 05:24 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    The big drawback is that the racks are sometimes full. I would be prepared to ride all the way if they are.

    I don't use the racks very often because I live in a smaller city, so distance is rarely an issue for me. In many cases, it's faster to use the bike than the bus.
    In a fairly large city like Newark, New Jersey, no one was using the bike racks this weekend. It also amazed me how they have bus lines every 15 minutes yet people would board the bus and get off after traveling less than 5 blocks!

    I guess people in smaller cities use the bike racks more than those in larger ones!

    I did multi-mode travel with my Xootr kick scooter and found it quite useful. Taking a full size bike with you on the bus is a whole other dimension. The distances I can now cover are incredible and I intend on doing this ALOT more!
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 08-18-14 at 06:48 PM.

  12. #12
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    In a fairly large city like Newark, New Jersey, no one was using the bike racks this weekend. It also amazed me how they have bus lines every 15 minutes yet people would board the bus and get off after traveling less than 5 blocks!

    I guess people in smaller cities use the bike racks more than those in larger ones!

    I did multi-mode travel with my Xootr kick scooter and found it quite useful. Taking a full size bike with you on the bus is a whole other dimension. The distances I can now cover are incredible and I intend on doing this ALOT more!
    Check on a weekday. The buses are a lot more crowded then, so the racks are more likely to be full. People who ride on the bus for just a few blocks tend to be those who have unlimited ride passes. When I was temporarily disabled, I used bus passes for a couple months. I did a lot of short rides that I wouldn't pay $1.25 for. It was pretty fun to have a pass, actually. Buses go places that I wouldn't normally visit on bike or even if I had a car, so I saw some parts of the city that were new to me.


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  13. #13
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    I went to Santa Monica today and then worked out on the rings.


    Was about 50 miles total. 6$ was the price.

  14. #14
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    My state has one public transit system and all buses have racks mostly the type that hook over the front wheel. They are easy to use and I've never had a driver get mad about the racks. we have had them about 15 years. I use the bus to cross a toll bridge frequently and sometimes take a tailwind ride and do the bus home 40 miles for two bucks. Sometimes the racks are full so I try to get to the terminal and get dibs on a spot. I've never had a problem with the racks except once, I had a folder that was too small and the driver warned me it wouldn't be secure. All drivers have bicycle safety training and for the most part are very friendly to us. One time the bus broke down and I had my own "life boat" to continue my trip. I also take an interstate bus line where I can stow my bike in the baggage compartment this lets me do very long rides.Almost all the bus systems in Mass. and Conn. have the same racks on all their buses. I love the freedom they provide to my car free lifestyle.

  15. #15
    Senior Member DiegoFrogs's Avatar
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    I live in a small city in Sweden, about 30,000 people, having just moved here from a larger city of about 100,000 nearby. Many, many people here do everyday stuff by bicycle, very similar to nearby Copenhagen in that respect.

    None of the very-well-used and very-well-planned buses have racks on them. A bike tends to be the speedy alternative to the bus, so it makes sense in some ways. Most of the trains can accommodate some bikes if they're not too overcrowded, like they were for most of the summer. Starting this week, the number of trains has nearly doubled, so it's much easier to do this. You do have to buy a child's ticket for it, though...

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    Quote Originally Posted by billew View Post
    I also take an interstate bus line where I can stow my bike in the baggage compartment this lets me do very long rides.
    I've seen this done!

    It's unfortunate that only the real big expensive buses that cross two states have a baggage compartment under the bus! However, don't bring your best bike because it's not locked to anything and the frame will get scratched.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiegoFrogs View Post
    None of the very-well-used and very-well-planned buses have racks on them. A bike tends to be the speedy alternative to the bus, so it makes sense in some ways. Most of the trains can accommodate some bikes if they're not too overcrowded
    I used to think this way but not anymore.

    Bicycles are a speedy alternative to the bus if there are no hills to climb or restricted highways to cross. Trains are great but they often restrict the bikes during rush hour when you need them the most! The bike racks can be used during rush hour, something I never thought about.

    Also, trains will provide less service during the weekends or at night. We have rail lines that only provide service during rush hour only. However, there are bus lines that provide service 24 hours a day. More options for the multi-mode carfree cyclist.

  18. #18
    meandering nomad
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    I've seen this done!

    It's unfortunate that only the real big expensive buses that cross two states have a baggage compartment under the bus! However, don't bring your best bike because it's not locked to anything and the frame will get scratched.
    I haven't seen any scratches on my bike frames as the bike rests on the handlebar and pedal, I always put the bike with the drive side up, the drivers don't swerve or otherwise drive recklessly. I am also not of the usual income level of bikeforum members which seems to be able to afford $2500- $4000 bikes. I can use the MBTA commuter rail from Providence to Boston off peak for about $11.00 one way.

  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    I used to think this way but not anymore.

    Bicycles are a speedy alternative to the bus if there are no hills to climb or restricted highways to cross. Trains are great but they often restrict the bikes during rush hour when you need them the most! The bike racks can be used during rush hour, something I never thought about.

    Also, trains will provide less service during the weekends or at night. We have rail lines that only provide service during rush hour only. However, there are bus lines that provide service 24 hours a day. More options for the multi-mode carfree cyclist.

    I suspect trains in Europe are more plentiful and frequent than trains in the US. Any time we've been in Europe, the trains are usually a very good way to get around. Travelling in Europe by train is one of the reasons why we're acquiring folding bicycles ... for even greater convenience and flexibility than what already exists there.


    Are you sure the bike racks can be used during rush hour? Or are they full then?

  20. #20
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    I suspect trains in Europe are more plentiful and frequent than trains in the US. Any time we've been in Europe, the trains are usually a very good way to get around. Travelling in Europe by train is one of the reasons why we're acquiring folding bicycles ... for even greater convenience and flexibility than what already exists there.
    Folding bikes make good sense for long distance European train travel. Many of the trains, like the German ICE, do not accept full size bicycles, others charge a fee for the limited number of allotted slots for bicycles. The local and regional trains, at least in Germany are much better for taking full size bikes for a low price extra tariff.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Are you sure the bike racks can be used during rush hour? Or are they full then?

    It's true the racks can be used during rush hour. I've never seen anyone use the bike racks during rush hour. It's sounds strange but multi-mode commuters do not take their bike on the bus but rather lock it at the train station.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billew View Post
    ...I can use the MBTA commuter rail from Providence to Boston off peak for about $11.00 one way.
    It should be noted that $11.00 is train fare, bikes travel free, but (non-folding) bikes are only allowed during off -peak hours, which includes both directions on weekends. You just roll your bike right into the passenger car. My own commute is in the off-peak direction.

    The MBTA Commuter Rail is a great car-free/lite resource, though riders in the peak directions don't have it so good.
    Last edited by Jim from Boston; 08-22-14 at 04:13 AM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post

    Are you sure the bike racks can be used during rush hour? Or are they full then?

    LA resident here. Very very rare to have the racks full. I can bet on getting from chats worth to long beach no problem. Even easier (though more$) if I take the train.

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    I want to bump this up one more time.

    This weekend I enjoyed using the bike racks on our buses and wanted to report my satisfaction.

    1. Local Bus --- I started buy using the local bus which just happened to roll down the street this Sunday. Normally, I would let it go but why waste my energy riding the same streets when the bus can take me to new ones! LOL! I really appreciate these new racks and the expression from people on the sidewalk tells me they have never seen anyone use them. Total Cost saved (2.35)

    2. Local Bus to Newark --- This bus crosses two bridges which can be dangerous and the bike path is full of glass and dirt. However, there's a bus that will cross both bridges so no need for me to waste my energy. Total Cost saved (2.35)

    3. Bus to Montclair New Jersey --- There's a train that goes to Montclair but it hardly runs on the weekend. However, the bus from Newark provides service frequenly so this is no longer a problem! You can also ride there but there are alot of hills and the road is less than friendly. This is why I avoided going there for years but now that I discovered "Bike Racks", I decided to visit and what a surprise! This town has great resturants and they even opened a bike shop. Total Cost saved (2.35)

    I rode back by bicycle to make the trip complete. Why didn't I use bike racks before?

    On a different subject, there was an old guy in a wheel chair waiting for the bus and he told me to keep riding because you're only young once in your life. Sometimes we take things for granted like our ability to ride bicycles. We never seem to think this might be only temporary.

    Once the bus arrived, the lift that carrying his wheelchair got stuck and the vehicle couldn't move. It took all the fun out of my bike rack exploring. I went home after that.

  25. #25
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post

    This weekend I enjoyed using the bike racks on our buses and wanted to report my satisfaction.
    I've often seen two bicycles on a bus... probably meaning a third bicycle rider would have to wait for the next bus. Hasn't happened to me yet... but I usually only use the service in an emergency.

    The big problem with the bike racks is that it doesn't scale too well. So as cycling become ever more popular, fewer riders see the racks as a useful way to travel.

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