Bike racks on buses: 4 questions

As part of our bike racks on buses series we’ve been talking with Jonathan Slason, Senior Transportation Engineer at BECA. Here are four relevant issues that came out of his presentation at the IPENZ conference last week, along with my commentary (in italics).

1. What did Christchurch do wrong?

JS: Christchurch didn’t provide sufficient education and exposure. But more importantly, they didn’t put the racks on enough buses. The same route or stop didn’t have 100% of buses with the racks. Therefore, people biked up to a stop and didn’t have 100% confidence that the bus would have a rack for them. We stress 6 months or more build up period to get people knowledgeable about the racks and excited about them.

This makes sense to me. While in the long run you’d eventually get people using the racks, why wait for the long run? It also supports comments on an earlier post that Wellington should go all out rather than trialling.

2. How long does the loading time take and what does that do to the bus timings/schedule?

JS: The loading time, is negligible. Quotes from bus operators saying that is nothing to worry about given the average amount of random delay in the network. 10-20 seconds for an experienced person. This is more than accounted for by any time hitting a red light.

This should go some way to addressing GO Wellington drivers’ reasonable concerns on the matter.

3. What about loading/unloading racks and interfering with adjacent traffic lanes?

The racks are made to reduce the need to step into an adjacent lane. Newer racks allow the rack to slightly swivel to reduce the potential for conflict. More of a potential with the 3-bike model racks. But the design is mitigating against it.


4. What about full bike racks?

The risk is that closer to a destination a bus will be full. However, we aim to forecast when that is the case and more often patrons will be expected to use the storage lockers. Particularly if you are closer to the urban core, then you would be expected to cycle fully or use Bike and Ride combining the use of storage and transport, rather than just Bike and Ride.

In Wellington I think the issue will arise closer to the departure points in the evening, given that we are more likely to ride in to the city, for example, and catch the bus home up the hill. I’ll ask Jonathan about the implications of this.

So, what do you think?

By w:user:Bobanny, via Wikimedia Commons



4 thoughts on “Bike racks on buses: 4 questions

  1. atom

    i think there’s an important lesson for wellington here –

    How to Fail (but make it look like we tried) in just 4 easy steps:

    Step 1- Launch — Install bicycle racks on 5-10% of the buses. Refer to this as a “trial” and issue a small but self-congratulatory press release. It’s fine if the press release receives little or no public attention, which brings us to…

    Step 2- FUD — Provide little or no education about the racks to the bus drivers or cycling public. Racks should be perceived as mysterious and even more dangerous than cycling on the roads (that’s where cars belong!). Cyclists and drivers should remain unsure if anyone is allowed to use the racks yet; this FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) will self-perpetuate as rack utilization remains low, which brings us to…

    Step 3- Confusion — Dispatch those buses with bicycle racks randomly throughout the service area, or better yet, leave them parked at the depot when capacity allows. If/when they are put in service, it’s important that no one knows where or when to expect them; especially not far enough in advance to plan a round-trip. Anyone hoping to use a bicycle rack will be met with at least a 90% chance of NOT getting one. This will ensure that no one even tries to catch a bus with a bicycle rack. Over any given trial period, rack utilization should hover near 0%, which brings us to…

    Step 4- Conclusion — Throw your hands in the air, look to the sky, and say (this is important: try to make it sound sincere!) “Well, we tried.” Dismantle the racks, sell them on trademe or sella (or recycle them as “scrap metal”), and use all available media resources to publicise that the experiment was a failure, but “we tried”.


    surely we can do better than that. i have yet to find any research that even hints that bicycle racks would be anything short of wildly successful (from ANY perspective; including ROI) in wellington, but we do need to jump with both feet. trialing these racks is like boarding a bus with one foot, and leaving the other foot on the sidewalk because it might be quicker to walk; failure is certain.


  2. Hillbilly MTB

    I think its a step, or at least a toe dipping in the right direction.

    The cost, benefit analogy seems at little vague to me, as if no one (including the prospective cyclist) really knows how this is going pan out?

    To trail or not to trail?, is there really a rack that can do the job?, what bus route will be best accommodated? or is it simply all the ones with a hill on it? etc.

    I guess the worst case scenario would be a single bus fitted with an rack unfit for purpose on a route across the CBD @5.30 on a week day.

    I’ll give my minute silence now ….


    1. Lisa

      The cost/benefit ratio may be one of those things that’s a little difficult to quantify (though not impossible) because some of the outcomes are things like population health.

      It’s starting to look as though not trialling, simply leaping straight in, is the best option, but then I’m not the one spending the money and I’m not accountable to anyone for my opinion. So I quite understand if there’s some nervousness around this for the politicians involved.

      But, you know, leadership and all…


      1. atom

        the ROI is supported (among other papers) by these –

        Forecasting the benefits from providing an interface between cycling and public transport

        that one goes into projections for wellington and covers many direct and indirect ways that wellington and the bus companies would likely profit.

        this one is based on US cities, but the title hints at what they’re focused on – A Return on Investment Analysis of Bikes-on-Bus Programs

        so even if we ignore some of the harder to quantify returns (health, happiness, etc) and focus only on the more direct returns, the numbers still seem to be screaming at us to get bike racks on 100% of the buses.


Your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s