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How can bicycles and bicycling infrastructure be integrated with transit?

There are many ways that bicycles and transit (both bus and rail) facilities and services can be connected and integrated for the mutual gain of both bicyclists and transit authorities.

Bicycles on transit

Bicycles on buses

Bike on bus programs have become quite popular across the country. Most frequently, transit agencies will equip their buses with two or three bike capacity racks on the front of the bus. Some agencies will also allow bicycles to be stored below the bus like luggage. These arrangements are popular because they do not affect the passenger capacity on buses. Occasionally, transit agencies will allow bicyclists to bring their bikes onto the bus. This is usually done at the driver's discretion and during nonpeak travel hours when there is more room on the bus.

Though accommodating bicycles on buses can be an inexpensive and valuable service, there are some limitations to this approach. On popular routes bus mounted bike racks can fill quickly, forcing riders to wait for the next bus and occasionally leaving them stranded.

Bicycles on trains

More and more commuter and light rail lines, like those in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Boston, are allowing bicycles on trains. To do this, agencies usually mark a specific spot on the train where bicycles should be stored. Some trains have hooks for hanging bicycles and others have floor space allocated for bikes.

Many transit agencies restrict bicycles on trains to nonpeak hours only. Other issues that riders may face include age restrictions for cyclists, capacity restrictions (i.e., allowing only 2-4 bicycles per train car), and rules regarding the types of bicycles allowed on trains.

Bicycles on ferries

Though not applicable in all locations, many ferry service providers also allow bicycles on ferries. Ferries in Michigan, San Francisco, and Washington state provide this service.

Bicycles to transit

Bicycle parking at transit stations and stops

Providing bicycle parking at transit stations and stops can greatly improve access to transit for many riders. Bicycle parking at transit stations provides many of the same benefits that bicycles on transit do, but with fewer capacity constraints. In fact, bicycle parking can be an important complement to bicycles on transit programs. When riders encounter full bike racks on buses or when they are unable to bring them on trains, they can park their bicycle instead.

There are many considerations when planning for bicycle parking at transit stations and stops. Bicycle theft and inclement weather conditions may deter some cyclists for parking their bicycles at some stations. Transit agencies and municipalities can help address these concerns by providing secure, covered bicycle parking.

One option is to provide bicycle lockers. Bicycle lockers are often provided on a first-come, first-serve basis and require riders to pay a key deposit for the use of the lockers.

Another option, which is becoming increasing popular, is to provide indoor, supervised bike parking. Some cities have created bikestations, which provide multiple bicycle-related services, like repairs and commuter assistance, in addition to secure indoor bike parking. Read more about bikestations in Long Beach, California and Washington, DC.

For agencies that cannot provide supervised or secure bike parking, bicycle parking should at least meet certain standards of rack type and rack spacing and, if possible, should be covered. The basic inverted U rack is the minimum requirement; otherwise bicyclists will lock their bikes to anything they find, including the pole the bus schedule is mounted on, making it inconvenient for passengers accessing transit on foot. For more information on bicycle parking, see the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Bicycle Parking Guidelines or click here.

Cost and potential use should be considered as transit agencies are choosing a bicycle parking solution. A study of bicycle parking at Chicago train stations found that when bicycle parking was constructed, demand for bicycle parking increased significantly. While the supply of parking increased 225 percent, bicycle parking use increased 400 percent, indicating, perhaps, that if you build it, it will be used. An important point of this study, however, was that the increased use of bicycle facilities did not occur evenly across all stations. Factors associated with higher rates of use were low residential density, more bicycle parking racks, low levels of crime, and fewer bus routes serving the area. (Schwartz, Rodriguez, & Golden, 2009).

Wayfinding

Another way to encourage the integration of bicycling and transit is to coordinate wayfinding systems for both modes. A good way to do this is to create maps that show both transit routes or stations and bicycle routes. Here are examples from Portland, Oregon, Long Beach, California and the Twin Cities.

Marketing

New transportation options need to be marketed well to succeed. There are many ways to increase public awareness about new transportation services. In many cases, marketing and education campaigns will be coordinated in order to alert travelers that the new service exists and teach them how to use it. Potential marketing tools include transit agency or regional transportation planning websites; posters in and around transit stops and on buses and trains; brochures; advertisements in local media; and demonstration events and special activities.

Training and Education

When integrating bicycling and transit there are two main groups that will require training and education: transit riders and transit drivers (particularly bus drivers who have more interaction with bicyclists who are loading and unloading their bicycles). Brochures and videos, like this one in Kentucky and this one in Maine, are popular ways to educate riders about how to load and unload their bicycles. Many transit agencies also describe how bicycle to transit or bicycle on transit services work on their website. Some agencies sponsor demonstration sites and events, so that riders can get comfortable using the bicycle racks before they have to load their bicycles on the bus.

For bus drivers, education entails learning how to operate the bus with bicycle racks, which add additional length to the bus; learning the transit agencies rules and regulations with regards to bringing bicycles on the bus if the racks are full; and safety training to ensure that riders are safe when loading and unloading their bicycles.

Related FAQs

References

Schwartz, M.A., Rodriguez, D.A., Golden, S.D. (2009). Environmental determinants of bicycling to rail stations in Chicago. DVD. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board of the National Academies.