Bicycles and Public Transportation

Bicycles and Public Transportation

Posted on 11. Feb, 2011 by in Transportation

When given the choice to ride a bike or to take the Metro (rail or bus), I would love to be able to choose the bike every single time.  But, the reality of living in a city like DC (and most cities across the country) is that sometimes combining methods of transportation is necessary to make it to one’s destination within a reasonable amount of time.  Fortunately, some cities have very bicycle-friendly public transportation options, which make a multifaceted approach to commuting possible.

The District of Columbia is a fairly expansive city, and the DC Metro area includes portions of Northern Virginia and Maryland.  Although I can think of worse rush hours, traffic in DC can be unpleasant.  The good news is that it is relatively easy to ride a bike from a neighborhood in Arlington, VA to one of the many Metro stations in the area, where there is ample bike parking (even secure bike lockers, in some instances) for people that can use the Metro to get to their final destination.  For people that want to take their bikes onboard, they need to plan their trips around rush hour (weekdays from 7-10am and 4-7pm), holidays and special events.  Getting a bicycle onto the Metro is not difficult- just do not attempt to transport your bike on an escalator or to enter a Metrorail car through the center door (trust me- they’re watching).  Metrobus is a good option for people that need to move a bike during rush hour; the front of every bus has a rack capable of holding two bikes.

Image Credit: 511.org

Plenty of other cities have made accommodations for multi-mode travelers, but sometimes understanding the rules of riding can be a slightly perplexing.  In San Francisco, bikes are allowed on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), although some stations prohibit bikes during specified peak hours (and these hours are not necessarily consistent among stations).  Additionally, “bikes are never allowed on crowded cars,” according to BART’s bike rules.  Who makes the call on when a car is officially crowded?  On the positive side, there are three BART Bike Stations, and the Fruitvale station in Oakland includes a full-service repair shop.  Muni, or the San Francisco Municipal Railway, is one of the most diverse public transportation fleets in the world with streetcars, alternative fuel vehicle, buses and more.  While Muni’s newer diesel buses and trolleys have front-loading bike racks, the streetcars, cable cars and light rail vehicles are not yet bicycle-friendly.

Image Credit: austinontwowheels.org

In London, a folding bike seems to be the way to go if you need to take your bike on public transportation.  Folded bikes are allowed on the Tube, on buses (at the driver’s discretion), and on the London Overground.  Non-folding bikes are permitted on the Tube and the Overground within designated sections and at designated times, and bikes are always welcome “on any London boat service at any time.”  Interesting, Amsterdam’s public transport company, GVB, only has this to say about bicycle regulations: “Bicycles can be carried on the sole condition that the Transport Company has granted explicit permission to do so.”  And that enlightening explanation is located in the “Animals and bicycles” section of GVB’s company rules.

There are so many cities with so many various options and rules around the world that the only conclusion that one can draw with regards to bicycles and public transportation is that you need to investigate the rules before attempting multi-mode commuting or traveling.  In many instances, local advocacy organizations compile these resources online, and the transit operators very often have cycling guides posted online as well.  Jumping onto a train or a bus can be an incredibly convenient way to cover longer distances that may not be feasible everyday on a bike as long as your commute route and schedule are aligned with the rules and regulations of your city’s public transportation options.

Image Credit: StreetsBlog.org

8 Responses to “Bicycles and Public Transportation”

  1. Kenny Roberts

    11. Feb, 2011

    Thanks for the informative article Stacey! Even more interesting for me since we’re getting currently planning a move to the San Francisco Bay area! I’ve been very encouraged by the recent progress in cycling facilities in major US cities recently as well as the world wide trend of shared bike programs throughout the world.

    Keep up the good articles–Kenny

  2. Karen Peissinger

    11. Feb, 2011

    This article is a nice survey of bike accommodations on public transit in the US and in Europe. It’s uplifting to know that bicycles are increasingly considered one of several transportation choices by our public transportation agencies. Though there is room for growth, the momentum seems unstoppable.

    I was especially encouraged to see the photo of the Texas-tagged bus showing a bike rack that holds three bikes. I’m glad to know they exist.

  3. Chris

    11. Feb, 2011

    Denver’s RTD has bike racks on the front of buses and allows bikes on the lightrail, though the “approval” process for using the lightrail is somewhat of a joke. I’ve personally only used the bus rack and it was easy to use and really convenient.

    The big problem even with the bus bike racks is that there are only TWO spaces on each bus. If your bus doesn’t have an available rack you have to wait for another bus. If the second bus is full…you keep waiting. I’ve seen that happen to other cyclists.

    The upside to that dilemma is that the racks are getting used.

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  5. Stacey Moses

    11. Feb, 2011

    Glad that the article is useful! It was a lot of fun to research because there is so much growth in the bicycle/public transportation integration effort right now, and it is definitely encouraging to see how many cities have included this integration in their planning goals.

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  7. Cola

    11. Jan, 2012

    I’m doing a report on bike-transit integration for my faculty. Does anyone have a suggestion of what papers or articles could help me? Thank you

  8. [...] Bicycles and Public Transportation: Find out about taking your bike on public transportation in this resource.   [...]

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