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The Case for Bike Racks on NYC Buses

Over the last ten years (or more) just about every major city in the U.S. has added bike-carrying capacity to their buses. While cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco can boast 100% of their bus fleet sporting bike racks, NYC comes in at 0% - the only one in The Alliance for Biking & Walking's 2010 Benchmarking report.

This probably comes as no surprise to any cyclist from NYC who travels an ample amount, but what is shocking is this fact quietly goes unmentioned in NYC. We cannot recall a single news story or push to get bike racks anywhere in the last ten years.

Of course, there are reasonable assumptions one can make why NYC has not tried out some program. First and foremost: the NYC MTA subway system already allows bikes 24 hours a day.  It's an excellent benefit for sure, but there are many regions of the five boroughs that are not easily within reach of a train. If we want to encourage multi-modalism, we need seriously think about that.

Then there is a barrage of others: cyclists will be too slow to load, bikes might fall off the racks, cost, maintenance, etc, but after viewing our Streetfilm you'll see there really isn't a valid excuse not to.

So we think it's time that the MTA and the city to consider a few pilot programs to put some bike racks on some routes. Of course, we are not talking about places like Manhattan or most parts of Brooklyn but we feel there are some great candidates that would yield good results.  Look here:

  • Anywhere in Staten Island.
  • Eastern Queens.
  • Parts of The Bronx.
  • Any buses that cross bridges without cycle paths including the Verrazano-Narrows, The Whitestone and The Throggs Neck bridges.
 <br> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Kristen Steele:</i>  [00:16] Our Benchmarking study, Bicycling and Walking in the US, found that almost every major city, including Las Vegas, Kansas City, and right here in San Francisco, have 100% of buses equipped with bike racks.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Kristen Steele:</i>  [00:35] New York City was the only major city in the US where none of their buses have bike racks.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Clarence Eckerson Jr.:</i>  [00:46] You know I’ve been all over the United States and just about every city I go to I see bike racks on buses, small cities, big cities, East Coast, West Coast, it doesn’t seem to matter.  Why doesn’t New York City have any bike racks on their buses?  As I’ve been travelling I’ve been documenting how bus bike racks are doing in other cities and I’ve been talking to city officials and commuters about it.  In these cities, bus bike racks are a way of life.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Nat Bottigheimer:</i>  [01:09] Actually every one of our buses now has them as standard equipment.  They’ve had them since 2001 when the region’s funding jurisdictions basically got together and said that’s something that they wanted.  The federal congestion mitigation air quality funds to fund the retrofit of the buses.  But ever since then we’ve basically got them as original equipment with the buses and so now the entire fleet is equipped and it just comes as standard operating procedure.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Sirinya Tritipeskul:</i>  [01:31] I’m actually a multimodal commuter.  It depends on the day but either I’ll use a zooter, which is an adult kick scooter, or I have my bicycle.  I haven’t found a single bus in Los Angeles in the past 10 or 15 years that doesn’t have a bike rack.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>John Mauro:</i>  [01:46] Especially in Seattle, it’s really important to have multimodal options here because the city’s really spread out, there are a lot of bridges, a lot of places that cyclists can’t ride a across and so getting a bike on a bus is critical.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Eileen Kadesh:</i>  [01:57] We actually have as one of our mission statements trying to encourage a seamless link between bicycles and other kinds of non motorised modes.  And we’ve repeatedly heard from bus drivers that most bicycle commuters are extremely fast.  Most of them are able to load their bikes and get on the bus at the tail end of the passenger loading.  So it doesn’t really hold up buses.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Nat Bottigheimer:  </i> [02:26] Putting bikes on buses doesn’t slow buses down at all.  Not an issue.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Steve Clark:</i>  [02:29] One of the proposals that we received from Met Transit for funding is to increase the capacity of the bike racks from two to three bikes.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Jamie “Jay” Nova</i>”  [02:37] Why do I ride the bus in combination with my bike?  Well, it saves money and it saves me time and I don’t have to look for parking.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Nat Bottigheimer:</i>  [02:42] For bicyclists having racks on the buses is a great lifeline as well.  I’ve flatted twice in places where it’s going to be awkward for me to get home with a flat and it’s just been a great lifeline to have.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Sirinya Tritipeskul:</i>  [02:52] And I grew up in Los Angeles and when I entered High School my parents moved to the suburbs and so there are a lot of distances suddenly that I found very easy to travel by using a bike and then the bus.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Clarence Eckerson Jr.:</i>  [03:06] Listen, I know that New York City’s in the middle of a big budget crunch, but we really need to start looking to the future and consider these types of bike accommodation to encourage multimodal usage.  There are plenty of places in the five boroughs that do not have easy access to subways and we should test some pilot programmes.  So, where to start?  I’m standing here on Staten Island and bike racks on buses would make so much sense for Staten Islanders so they could better interact with the Staten Island railway, the ferry and make easier cross island trips throughout the borough.  We should also make it mandatory to put racks on all buses that cross bridges that are inaccessible to bikes, for example the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  And in addition I’d put bus bike racks on all the routes that connect Queens and the Bronx.  So come on New York City, I think this is a reasonable proposal.  Lots of other cities have bus bike racks.  Why don’t we try it out?  What do you think?</font> <br> </p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> Transcription Sponsored by: <a href="http://transcriptdivas.com.au">Transcript Divas Transcription Services</a>
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  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    Excellent suggestions for where it is needed and should be mandated.

    However, there will be a problem when the even the three-bike racks reach capacity. In the acute sense, what happens when a rack is full? People who really need it will be extremely frustrated (or worse, insecure if left in a place they feel is dangerous while they have to wait for the next bus). In the chronic sense, bike racks on buses - they get full/you don't know when they will get full has driven up the desire for installations of bike parking, and this does cost a bit of money and needs space, too.

    So any pilot should require good bike parking at all stops on the pilot bus route. Regarding the racks are full thing, common sense should prevail (the bus driver should be given the authority to permit bikes inside at their discretion -- I am pretty sure this is allowed on buses in Santa Cruz, California).

    Related, all Copenhagen taxis have bikeracks inside the trunk. I proposed this to some Streetsblog peeps and to TLC in regards to the current (almost finished?) "Taxi of Tomorrow" (or whatever it was called) competition, but never heard back. This would also make a big difference for when your bike becomes inoperable or indeed you become inoperable (too drunk to bike).

    It is also my understanding that in the Seattle downtown area people are not allowed to take bikes off or on the racks, though bikes which are on can be left on. This should not present an issue in these NYC cases.

    Disclaimer: I have tried to get this thing going in the EU and have received equipment from one of the main US-based suppliers, Sportworks. But current laws on the outside appearance/features of buses make it impossible. There are more options in general in the EU, but mobility actors on this side of the pond say that it makes things dangerous for pedestrians (even though statistics show that it does not in the USA, even in crowded places). A pilot - not involving me - was tried in rural NL which included some powerful partners but it was rejected. Still, if people in the EU are reading this get in touch with me!

  • Jonathan

    What exactly is the problem that adding bike racks to buses in New York is intended to address? Perhaps your video could talk more about that, instead of just comparing New York pro forma to other cities.

    The problem I see with racks on buses is that they are not scalable. If every bus has three racks, and in general two of them are used at any one time, doubling the demand for the program will result in failure, as people with bikes will be unable to use the racks.

  • Kevin Love

    I'm with Jonathan. This is why the idea is rejected in NL and everywhere else with a decent bike mode share. It is impossible to satisfy demand.

    A much more productive approach is ample and secure bicycle parking at all bus stops. People who really, really want to travel multi-modal will get a folding bike.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/jqr Jonathan

    Clarence responded to my earlier comment (I don't know why it's not showing up; check spam blocker??) using Eastern Queens as an example of where bike-racks on buses might be helpful.

    As it happens, I was just in Queens (Bayside) last weekend. I went out there from Manhattan on the LIRR and biked from the RR station to my destination, and on the way back I biked all the way to the no. 7 train at Main St. If I had chosen to take the bus instead of biking, I could have been dropped off at my door.

    In my mind, the idea only makes sense for single-mode bus trips that don't involve a subway segment, like express buses. But Manhattan's concentrated business districts make it feasible to walk to your destination from the bus stop (or use a free subway transfer). Kevin's idea of "ample and secure bicycle parking at all bus stops" would accomplish the same goal, plus add to the stock of decent bicycle parking in the outer boroughs.

  • Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

    We should have ample parking everywhere, yes, I agree - like they do so well in Boulder and other cities, that should be part of the plan.  But in some sections of this city, having the option to throw your bike on a bus in an emergency or to use it for part of your commute would be key and help grow the bike commuting population. 

    I don't know how often you guys hang out in some of the places we recommended (I hope you read the entire post) but I am one of the rare New Yorkers who visits Staten Island at least a few times per year and I have ridden much in east Queens. Both of those places have a very tiny fraction of people using bikes, but many more might consider it if they had access to a bus to put their bike on.  Having racks on a bus (at least for many years) is not going to exceed demand in the places recommended.   Really. 

    I find it almost funny that bikes work in 39 of the 40 cities surveyed by Alliance for Biking and Walking, but for some reason there is so much against it here.  I mean wouldn't you guys like to have bike racks on buses that go over bridges with no bike path?  Where is the harm in that?  And Staten Island really has a transportation system that is wholly different from the rest of NYC.  They need as many mutli-modal options as they can get.

    Nowhere did I ever say they should be universally deployed over the entire MTA system, but targeted and smart spots like the ones suggested make sense.

  • ksarge

    The main issue is that it would add too much additional operational delay to an already slow bus system.

    For multi-modal trips, we need a bike share. For emergencies, bike racks in taxis would be good.  

  • LOLcat

    I bike so I don't have to take the bus.

  • Clarence Eckerson, Jr.


    That is not true.  As both the city officials in DC and Seattle said in the video, the loading adds no delay or almost no delay to loading times (and that comes from the bus drivers themselves).  I have watched in SF, DC, and Seattle and just about every stop I observed, the bike rider has loaded the bike up before the end of the line of riders gets on.  I'd say the only time it causes any delay at all is when there is only one person with one bike to go aboard.

  • J

    I just went to a presentation about the experience of added bike racks to buses in Toronto. They said that at even modestly busy stops, the extra time for putting bikes on buses was zero, since it occurs when everyone else is boarding. Just something to think about.

    We definitely need bike racks on buses that cross bridges at a bare minimum. It takes some money and logistics, but I haven't heard t a great reason why not. NYC has the best bike access to transit perhaps in the world 24/7, and a pretty extensive network, so this is a fairly low priority in my opinion.

  • John harshbarger

    Where is that list of cities that is shown in the film?
    I live in Omaha, ne and we have had racks on every bus for 2 years now and it is great. Only once did I encounter a full rack and decided it was quicker to simply ride my bike to my destination. Though honestly the only 2 times I now use the racks is for transporting a bike to the shop and for the occasional unexpected flat on the way to work.

  • GW Troll

    Within the borders of NYC, demand for bike racks probably isn't that high. All the numerous East/Harlem river bridges have bike paths and the extensive bike friendly subway network fills the need as well. The real demand is on the NJ transit buses. It is either difficult or expensive to cross the Hudson river by bike. The ferries are great, but the cheapest one costs $9.75 each way, $1 extra for a bike! The PATH train is great and cheap, but viciously defends it's rush hour restrictions with threat of arrest, even on the empty, and I do mean empty, cars commuting NY to NJ opposite the flow. The final option is going potentially 20 miles out of the way to the GW bridge. If the Buses had racks, it would open the door to 100's of frequently running lines into various points of entry that are inaccessible by bike.

  • Helen Ho

    This is a great film with really good suggestions!  Increasing multimodal bike options for Staten Island will help ease SIers from their car dependency as many of their buses go north-south to the ferry terminal but not east-west crosstown.  Also, there is no easy way of getting your bike from Queens to the Bronx (or vice versa) without either driving across the bridge or taking an extremely long detour through Manhattan.  The QBx1 used to have a bike rack.  Please bring it back!

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    @Kevin Love: Could you please provide some details on the why NL rejected thing you mention?

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/cyclelicious Richard Masoner

    @Todd - You might be thinking of the Highway 17 commuter express bus between Santa Cruz and San Jose, in which you can stow a bike in the handicap area if space permits; otherwise, no bikes allowed inside Santa Cruz buses. Santa Clara VTA (which serves "Silicon Valley") drivers will sometimes let me bring my bike inside if there's room.

  • Christopher Stephens

    A great idea, and a very smart selection of routes to start on for pilot programs. Any idea how many buses make those trips across the VZ, Throggs Neck, etc., each day? The only risk I see is that since people aren't used to thinking of these routes as being ones you can take a bike across, not enough people would use the bus racks, and then the pilot would be declared a failure (sort of the same way that, while I'm a Zipcar member, I don't use it that much because my lifestyle is already car-free). You'd need some education to avoid delays and a built-in commuter base to show that the racks were worthwhile.

  • JK

    Bus racks were tried on the Whitestone Bridge express bus some long years back, they were discontinued because of lack of use. Though maybe it's time for some experiments on some of the routes than Clarence suggests, especially Staten Island. Though, along with subways, NYC is also different from other cities, because there are 55,000 livery cabs roaming around outside of Manhattan, which are easy to (illegally) hail in the event of bad weather or mechanical problems. In an era when bus service is being slashed, and maintenance reduced, racks on NYC buses will be a hard sell.

  • Tsuyoshi

    I used to live in Seattle, and they have racks on every bus there - I used bus bike racks on every transit system from Everett to Olympia.

    What happens when the rack is full (which is not common) is that you wait for the next bus. If it happens on the last bus, usually the driver will let you take the bike inside, although they are not supposed to. There is only one time I was stuck in this situation, and that was on the last bus from Lakewood to Olympia where the rack was full. Unfortunately the only way to get home at that point was for me to bike about 20 miles. Partly this was on the shoulder of I5, as for some of the way it is literally the only road between Pierce and Thurston counties.

    It sucked that one time, but it would have sucked even more if there were never any bike racks and I had to do this trip (usually twice weekly) entirely by bicycle every time - about 70 miles. Or else by bus and walking - I lived about 5 miles from the nearest bus stop. It's better to have something, even if it's full sometimes. I think this is less of an issue here because many of the bus routes run 24 hours.

    And the loading time was never a big deal. It takes about 10 seconds to put a bike on the rack.

    The issue with not being allowed to load or unload a bike downtown I never really understood, but it's not a big deal because that area is pretty small. You can bike the entire length of downtown Seattle in probably 3 minutes - faster than if you stayed on the bus, in fact.

  • Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

    JK - yeah I realize that it is a hard sell (as I quipped in the video) but I do think if they take this idea and start planning out some experiments without purchasing anything then maybe in a few years when hopefully this budget mess is cleared up, maybe they could implement something.

    I think the Whitestone Bridge was likely not used enough because A) we had far fewer riders then, and B) Transportation Alternatives seemed to be the only outlet where it was being actively encouraged.  I do think any trial these days would be easier to get the word out about.

    Looking at the AFB&W chart I think have to all get over the "but NYC is different, it won't work here" attitude.  I mean 37 major cities in the U.S. have 100% of their fleet with bike racks!  And the others on the list are all somewhere between 25% and 95%, so I do not buy that NYC cannot do this.
    Chicago, SF, Philadelphia, Portland all have pretty good subway/train systems, so I think saying we have the NYC subway system to lean on doesn't totally work.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/urbanplanner45 Mike Lydon

    In the fall of 2010 I helped form a small Transportation Alternative Brooklyn Chapter committee to look into this issue. I had just moved to NYC and was actually quite shocked to see that the MTA did not outfit the buses with racks.

    The challenge, as it was explained to me, is not with bus delay, lack of use, or overuse, but rather the bus depots are supposedly so crowded that the extra few inches added to the front each bus will mean that some buses will not be able to park in the depot (they park them bumper to bumper). 

    This seemed like a strange excuse, given the existence of modular racks (snap on and off in seconds), and the fact that buses are always coming and going from the depot. Look up aerial images in Google Earth and it seems most depot lots are not full. Late night hours would be different, I suppose.

    I am trying to find time to look deeper into this issue on behalf of our Brooklyn TA chapter. 


  • Steve O

    I live in the DC area, and knowing that every bus is going to have a bike rack gives me peace of mind, even though I've only used them a handful of times. Nice in the rain when you just don't feel like being cold and wet as well as with flats and breakdowns.

    Concerns about them filling up are overblown; I think that would be a rare event. And, actually, that's one of those problems that you'd like to have (not as the cyclist, of course, but as the transportation planner).

    However, it can't be done piecemeal, with only some buses. If a route has racks on some buses, they need to be on all buses for that route. I like the Staten Island idea, because it provides certainty to the cyclists.

  • JK

    Mike, NYC Transit has been consistent about the depot space problem, lack of maneuvering room, lots of broken racks in '90's pilot. Could they figure it out? Probably. But at what cost of time and effort? The bigger issue is scalability and scarcity. NYC Transit is reeling from budget cuts. Even in Chicago, where all buses have had racks for years, bike aboard riders are maybe half of 1% of all bus riders. During a time of major cuts in NYC bus service, it is hard to argue for a service that will be at best used by a tiny portion of riders. The argument for bike aboard is usually back-up. But where in NYC, except for parts of SI, are buses a better back-up option than taxi or livery for getting home?

  • JK

    Should have added as item one that the politics of racks on buses in NYC are terrible. For Transit to roll out a new service for a tiny number of cyclists, while other people are having their service eliminated is not attractive. Nor is the prospect of ordering them on buses and seeing them empty. NYC does have a different political culture around cycling --- have the Chicago and LA city councils spent as much time as NYC's undermining cycling?

  • Helen Ho

    @JK - I understood that the bike racks on the QBx1 were removed when the MTA took over the private bus company that used to run the route for standardization, not necessarily from lack of use.  Do you have data that says that?

    Also I find your reference to livery cabs a little flip.  If we are discussing multi-modal transportation in reference to BUSES and BIKES, livery cabs are not going to be a feasible solution in the long term.  Plus you can't transport most bikes in most livery cabs.

  • Bev

    I think this is a great idea and one that many people would take advantage of. It would encourage more cyclists to ride in areas otherwise inconvenient or sometimes in accessible. A pilot program is a good idea to test the viability of it, work out the kinks, and improve our transportation system.

  • http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/ Andy B from Jersey

    Hey, even NJ Transit is finally getting with it and installing bike racks on its new fleet of low-floor urban buses as they arrive. Still, it was a tough sell for some odd reason but the are coming. Yeah! You can read more about it at:

    Great video as always Clarence!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/IanD Ian Dutton

    Clarence - you're spot on, like usual! Outer-borough and cross-bridge connections are where the demand is clearest and benefit the greatest, but I can think of trips in Manhattan that also point to bike-on-bus services (though the arrival of our anxiously-awaited bike share system in 2011/2012 will patch some of those holes).

    Seen last week in Halewa, Hawaii - a mobility-impaired gentleman descending from a public bus, retrieving his bike from the front-end rack, and pedaling to a destination that I imagine he couldn't possibly walk to. Tell him he doesn't deserve bicycle accommodations!

  • Kevin Love


    A good explanation of why there are no bike racks on busses in the Netherlands may be found at:


    Short version: If 40% of bus passengers arrive at the bus stop by bike, then a 20-bike rack would be needed.

    This is one of those things that just doesn't scale to the demand.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    Kevin, in Clarence's video and many others the racks are rarely full. Presumably there would be a lot of extra capacity in NYC as well until cycle mode share picked up a lot in particular in S.I. etc. When the racks are at capacity it is time for a new solution, for example requiring reservations or charging (though it has never been done and would be difficult to manage) to complement other solutions (parking, electric bikes, better infrastructure) and reality (higher gas prices etc.).

  • ZA

    To the 'scale' question - it's true, bike racks on buses don't scale beyond a marginal minority. But it does fit into the American mold of inoffensive 'baby steps.' Consider the political opposition that has fixated on cost-effective systemic solutions like Prospect Park West, or San Francisco's bike plan.

  • David

    Thanks a lot for using Staten Island as the example. The terrain around the ferry terminal is extremely hilly, which is amazing for heading to ferry, but daunting for coming back. The ONLY reason I do not ride more is the hills. Bike racks on buses would have a major impact for me.

  • Chris

    Only problem is the NYC ALREADY has the slowest average bus speed in the nation, and this would only slow them down further.

    They could do the obvious thing and make it so that unlimited passes don't need to be scanned (just shown to the driver). That would probably cut boarding time by about 2 seconds per rider, which would speed things up considerably. That's what they do in Toronto - you don't have to scan passes on buses or streetcars.

    But that would make too much sense for NY.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    @David - If a lot of cyclists only need a one-way trip it is fine but may need a special solution in addition to bike racks.

    @Chris - As the video mentioned, bikes do not slow a bus down. The driver being involved in checking or selling fares is ridiculous and has been eliminated on most buses in Europe (in particular in Eastern Europe urban buses) for years, with an honour system using passes, SMS ticketing and/or externally purchased and stamped tickets.

  • Edvin

    Why not settle for bike parking at all bus stops instead? As earlier mentioned, a bus can only carry 2-3 bikes. What will happen when more and more people realise that intermodal transportation is great? As soon as biking will increase just a little bit in NYC, there will be NO capacity left. Putting out plenty of bike parking is the only good choice!

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    There needs to be a supplementary (and ideally complementary) way to carry bikes in all five Boroughs, in combination with parking. So, at any time, in any place, a bike can be carried in a vehicle of some sort and that all major bus stops (to start) should have safe bike parking.

  • http://www.baltimorespokes.org Barry Childress

    FWIW I was around when Baltimore went from 0% to 100% bike racks on buses.

    I love your idea of starting in Staten Island.

    From my experience the minimum you really can do is 100% of the buses in a yard (sans buses retiring that year.)

    So the idea of just having racks on buses on the bridges while a nice idea is a logistic nightmare for the buses involved.

    I will also note we used CMAQ funds for our racks.

  • Andrew

    Dare I suggest that most of the bus systems in the U.S. are in no way comparable to New York's?  Wouldn't it make more sense to look at New York's peer cities around the world, cities with transit usage patterns that in some way resemble New York's?  In many smaller cities, bus ridership is relatively low, and adding bike racks is a good way to increase ridership.  Does that apply in New York?  I don't think so.

    Despite the claims made in the video and in the comments, the process of mounting and unmounting the bike does take considerable time.  Sometimes it can be done while others are boarding, but what if the bicyclist is the only person waiting to get on, and what happens when he gets off?  That slows down service for the 99%+ of bus riders who don't have bikes, and if even increases operating costs if the slowdown triggers a need for more buses to provide the same frequency of service.

    And what happens when the bicyclist gets on the bus?  Does he move to the back like a good bus rider?  I doubt it - he will probably remain at the front to keep an eye on the bike, either standing in the way of people boarding at subsequent stops or sitting in the seats designated for the elderly and disabled.  Then when he needs to get off the bus, does he use the rear door like a good bus rider?  Probably not, and exiting through the front door holds up service even more.

    What about liability?  Who's liable if a bike is stolen or damaged?  If there is any chance that the courts will hold the MTA liable, then this will simply not happen - end of story.

    There are logistical issues.  Buses are not generally fixed to specific routes.  With only a few exceptions (SBS-branded buses on SBS routes, luggage rack buses on the M60), any local bus in the depot will go out on any local route, and any express bus in the depot will go out on any express route.  Further segmenting the fleet - designating certain buses as required for the bridge routes - adds to NYCT's costs.

    Finally, if would help if advocates of bikes on buses would familiarize themselves with the facts on the ground.  As can be easily confirmed by looking at a Queens or Bronx bus map, there are no buses over the Throgs Neck Bridge!  And as a few have commented on, the QBx1 used to have bike racks on its buses over the Whitestone Bridge.  How can bikes on buses be proposed without even looking at that earlier program?  How did it do?  Was it popular?  Did it have any impacts on service?  What has changed since then?

    Pilot programs are expensive.  Asking the MTA to study the feasibility of installing bike racks is reasonable.  Asking for a borough-wide pilot is not.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    At least two people mentioned what is often called "mobility insurance", i.e. if you know you have some type of backup to your cycle trip, you will be more likely to cycle.

    I am not sure how this applies in NYC but current bike + subway users could be asked about it.

    At best, with mobility insurance a cyclist may never or rarely use the subway (or bus or rack-equipped taxi), but just knowing it's there will encourage round-trips by bike, and this can possibly mean that new trips (because of possibility of combination) is cancelled out by people going by bike instead. See, kids, it is not so linear.

    Mobility insurance also allows spontaniety (meet someone by luck, make spontaneous journey together when only one of you has a bike and so on...)

    Andrew, while it is true that NYC is not like many other cities, once you get on the bus, it's very similar. In perhaps all the cities/systems where racks have been installed there are not serious enough problems with inside the bus behaviour, liability etc. to make any operators remove the racks.

  • http://www.trimet.org/bikes Colin Maher

    @ Todd Edelman

    'mobility insurance' - I love it! That's really the benefit of bike racks on buses.

    It's hard to put a value on insurance, but there are some practical cost issues you may want to consider: For new buses, the cost of bike racks is almost a negligible expense. However, it takes 15+ years to replace an entire bus fleet with new buses. Retrofitting existing buses with bike racks likely requires outside funding. Those grants could also fund bike parking, which is really the long-term solution since the bike racks will be full sooner than you think.

  • Andrew


    Actually, once you get on the bus, it's quite different.  Buses here are generally a lot more crowded than elsewhere in the U.S., and they're far more critical to the local economy, with many bus riders having long rides with multiple connections.  On a crowded, frequent route, a delay of just a few minutes can cause severe overcrowding.  The experience in Kansas City is simply irrelevant.  How about looking at major world-class cities like London and Tokyo?  Do their bus systems have bike racks?  If not, why not?  If so, what challenges did they have to overcome and are they encountering any operational problems now that they're installed?

    I think that approach would be a lot more fruitful than assuming that everything will be hunky dory because New York is no different from Kansas City.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Todd Edelman

    They should just try it in areas not served by the subway.

  • eric

    We have them in Boston and I used one recently when I got my first flat in two years.  It was awesome, and it took no extra time; the twenty seconds or so it took for me to put my bike up was time I would have been waiting for other people to get off or on the bus anyway.  The more crowded the bus route, the less this will slow the bus down--since buses are already pretty slow.  😉


    MTA NYCT is NOT gonna install bike racks on their buses at all. They did consider this did idea but they didn't like this idea because "the idea was nixed due to concerns about liability".  Bike racks are hard because they have tight turns on routes.
    Installing bike racks would be a waste of tax money and would increase slower boarding especially the travel time would be slower.
    NYC is anyways too fast for them, btw, it's another reason why MTA NYCT don't accept dollar bills because paying coins and/or using Metrocards is more efficent.
    There lots of reasons why MTA will never USE the bike racks on the NYC buses.It's not a good idea and it wont happen anyways, no matter what you say, but then again this is only an opinion article Im reading, not a fact.
    It's not a good idea and it wont happen anyways, no matter what you say, but then again this is only an opinion article Im reading, not a fact.

    NYC isn't NOT other cities, so that is all.

  • Matt

    Hi Clarence, Great job on this short. I live in north eastern Queens and bike regularly around the area. I work in the Bronx and have always thought of riding to work. The only way to go now would be to ride to Astoria and go over the Tri-boro (aka RFK) bridge. This would be a 10 mile increase. In the absence of the MTA stepping up, perhaps a private concern could set up a schedule for a Van with a rack to make pick ups and drop offs at specific locations at these crossings.  I do believe that if a private concern starts making money then the bean counters at MTA would see this and start complaining then something would get done. This would be a good start up business for an entrepreneur with some minimal mechanical ability in regards to the loading and unloading of the bikes.. Just my 2 cents...Be safe out there!..Matt     

  • alain smithee

    I've used bike racks in other cities for some time, and I challenge your statements.

    A properly designed bike rack can be loaded/unloaded literally in seconds.

    There have even been times that I've loaded my bicycle and made it to the bus door before the other person at the stop has finished feeding coins for their fare into the farebox.

    As far as fareboxes that don't accept dollar bills are concerned, this is the perfect opportunity for the federal department of the treasury to release some of the millions of dollar coins they have in storage so that we can use them in vending machines and for public transportation.

  • Joe Hawkins

    So three years on – any change?

  • Jeff

    StreetsBlog reports the first pilot project in 2015.