Transit Solutions for Bikes

Bicyclists on Sound Transit's Link light rail in Seattle

Bicyclists are a great potential market for transit services. By combining their travel with train or bus service, bicyclists can extend the length of their trips. However, there are often problems in accessing transit by bicycle—there may be no place to safely park a bicycle before riding transit or no way to take the bike on the bus or train. Facilitating bicycle access on transit vehicles and offering bicycle parking at transit locations are key aspects of bicycle-transit integration.

Bikes on Buses and Trains

Front-mounted bike racks are the most common way for transit agencies to carry bicycles on buses. In 2010, 72 percent of buses in the U.S. had exterior racks for bicycles, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Most transit agencies use racks that carry two bicycles, but some racks now accommodate three bikes. Bicycles can be quickly loaded and unloaded from the bus without causing delays, and rack designs have been modified to ensure bus headlights remain visible.

Examples of Bicycles on Buses:

This video from King County Metro explains how to load a bike onto a rack designed for three bikes.

Bicycle access on trains has improved over the last 20 years, with most major rail systems providing some accommodations for bicycles. However, even when allowed, bicycles are often restricted to a maximum number per car, limited to certain hours of operation, and prohibited on full cars. Transit stations can improve access by installing an elevator, retrofitting a staircase with a bicycle wheel channel, or providing ramps. Check your local transit agency for its specific policies regarding bicycles on trains.

A model program is Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has become very accessible for bicyclists by ensuring that every train has two bike cars that can accommodate 48-80 bicycles.

Examples of Bicycles on Trains:

Bike parking

u-rack bicycle parking near a bus shelter in East Lansing, Michigan

The availability of safe and convenient parking is critical for bicyclists riding transit. Bike parking can be as simple as an inverted U rack adjacent to a bus shelter (with enough overhang to protect the bicycle from the elements), to a sophisticated system of pre-rented lockers. 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. Visit the Facility Design section about bicycle parking to learn more about the basics of bicycle parking, bike parking costs, and other guidelines.

Examples of Bicycle Parking Programs at Transit Stops: