Why buses should have bike racks

Vancouver bicyclist loading bikes on bus
Vancouver bicyclist loading bikes on bus

People don’t live, work and play at bus stops and train stations. This seems obvious, but we tend to think about journey times in terms of getting people between transport terminii. In fact the real measure of effectiveness is point to point journey time – how long it takes people to get from their home to work, for example.

When Vancouver looked at point to point journey time a couple of years ago, it radically affected their view of how bicycling integrated with public transport. If a commuter can bike to the bus stop, put their bike on a bus or train, then bike to their destination at the other end, journey times are drastically shortened, and the investment in bike racks for buses made economic sense. As a result, all Vancouver buses have bike racks, and they’re well used – about one bus in three will be carrying a bike. Trains also  take bikes (though there are some limits during rush hour). So during my research leave at the University of British Columbia, I could ride one way into the city, then ride public transport back. The racks are quick and simple to operate, and there is no extra charge.

In NZ we’ve only just changed the vehicle regulations to allow bike racks on buses, and so far only Christchurch has taken advantage of the change.

Wellington has a number of routes where bike racks would work well. I suspect a lot more people would commute from Brooklyn and Karori into the city if they knew they had the option of riding a bus back up the hill. And think how the carbon emmissions for getting to Makara Peak would decrease if mountain bikers could put their bike on a bus, instead of driving to the overcrowded car park.

We’ve been told that it would be too expensive to outfit Wellington’s bus fleet with bike racks, but this ignores the point I started with – people don’t live, work, or play in bus stops; but if they can bike to and from the bus stop and take their bike on the bus, the effectiveness of the bus is greatly increased – this makes the investment worthwhile!

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14 thoughts on “Why buses should have bike racks

  1. ASE

    AYE!! Unfortunately, it seems that GO WELLINGTON is happy to just do as little as possible and skate by on govt subsidies, as evidenced by their disdainful attitude towards customer service (with rare and notable exceptions), poor scheduling, fares more or less doubling over the last year or so, getting rid of the gold-card and day-tripper, etc. Don’t even get me started on the “tracker” card (someone at the bus company must be getting a nice kickback for signing off on that disaster). It’s almost like they want to encourage people to not take a bus.

    I’d also like to see the diesel buses equipped with exhaust pipes at the top of the bus (like most cycle-friendly city buses have had for years). Being on a bike behind a Wellington bus when the bus gets going is no fun.

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  2. Lisa

    I’m almost certain that when I was a child in Nelson the buses there carried bikes on the front. They definitely carried pushchairs. I had wondered why they stopped.

    Great to see the law is changing to accommodate peoples’ needs.

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  3. Brent C

    Bike racks on buses should be forming a big part of the Harbour Way cycle project. Racks on the 1, 3, 25 and 81 buses would go along way go getting people to the track. Most people will only want to do short trips.

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  4. All great points, and hopefully, you would all like to make them again in submissions to Greater Wellington, because I will be working hard to get this back on the agenda, after not getting sufficient support last year…. I believe that the two new cycle friendly Councillors will now make the difference. Bike racks would give new cyclists the confidence to venture out, knowing that there was an alternative way of getting back after an emergency

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    1. Alastair

      Thanks to Paul and Daran for the hopeful comments. I think the approach to GWRC policy is to talk about the benefits to point-to-point journey time of integrating bicycles into the transport network.

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  5. Pingback: Bike racks on buses, redux. /  Cycling in Wellington

  6. Greater Wellington economic wellbeing committee meeting on 17th March at 9.30am will consider a new policy on cycle carriage on trains. The Report to the Committee is not completed yet. It appears that non folding cycles will not be able to use the new Matangi trains on peak hour services, but they will still be allowed on Ganz Mavag units (no change from now). A proposal will be included for a $50 voucher for those who choose to buy a folding bike as an alternative.

    I have not been successful in getting any recommendations in the report for the installation of racks on buses, or allowing carriage of cycles within buses (off peak).

    Public participation (3 minutes) is available at the commencement of the meeting. Please consider representing yourself or your group.

    Best wishes

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  7. russell tregonning

    Its a no-brainer. Good point made about the fact that we have gone backwards. My mother always used buses in Dunedin where there were racks to hang prams-whats the difference for bikes?If they cost a bit to put on the buses what’s the big deal?-well worth it for all the reasons that iencouraging biking is so important ie convenience,road congestion, health benefits, Co2 emissions ets etc.

    I have also used the Vancouver bike racks. They work brilliantly, allowing quick easy cycle travel around the CBD after getting to &fro the suburbs by bus or train.

    Why the delay here?

    Regret I can’t make it on a Thurs am to make a personal submission to GW. Good luck Paul et al.

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  8. Pingback: Bikes on public transport : Cycling in Wellington

  9. Janie Cook

    Even midwestern American cities with no culture of even pretending to be especially forward, sustainable or liveable have bike racks on buses. And they get used. We should be offering practical alternative transport options, and active mode need to be made as enticing as possible for the non-lycra crowd.

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  10. Pingback: Bikes on Buses – you can do it now* | Cycling in Wellington

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