Rules allowing downtown bus/bike loading here to stay

One year ago, it was against the rules to load your bike on the front of a King County Metro bus in the downtown Ride Free Area during rush hour. The idea was that bike loading would slow bus movement through the busy downtown stops, slowing down the whole system.

In February last year, Metro removed the restriction for one year to determine if bike loading would, in fact, interfere with bus movement. Cascade Bicycle Club reports that the results are in, and bikes had no measurable effect on bus movement. Therefore, starting next month, the rule becomes permanent. From Cascade:

Nearly a year has passed. The results are in and the news is good! Metro says there have been no problems with safety, operation or on-time performance due to this policy change, and they are making it permanent with the February 2011 service change. It will no longer be billed as a demonstration.

Thanks to King County Metro for offering better options for linking bus and bike transportation.

When I learned there was a rule against loading and unloading a bike from a Metro bus in the Free Ride Area, I had been doing it for months. Drivers did not seem to care at all, and I went about my way completely oblivious to the rule’s existence. I didn’t even know it existed until I heard the rule was going away last year.

I’m happy Metro did this study and changed the rules. Perhaps if any other cities have a similar rule, they can use Metro’s study to help change their rules, too.

I have written about bike/bus synergy before. Combining bikes and buses is a beautiful, practical solution to many people’s biggest concerns about both transit and bikes. The bike makes getting to bus stops faster and easier for those who do not live/work near a good bus line. The bus can do most of the leg work for longer distances, and bikes can fill in the gaps. Bikes can often replace the need to transfer. Were you going to transfer to a bus and ride it for less than a few miles? Just hop on the bike and forget that transfer entirely. The possibilities are endless. After getting into a routine, you may even find yourself skipping the bus and riding the whole way instead…

Here’s one example of the power of the bus/bike combo. When I lived up the hill in Fremont, I used to ride a few blocks to Aurora, hop on the 358, get off in Belltown and ride downtown to my work. My record door-to-door travel time (including parking) was in the neighborhood of 14 minutes (though 20 was much more usual). I am pretty sure there is no way to make that trip in less time.

Anyone else have a good example of the power of the bus/bike combo?

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6 Responses to Rules allowing downtown bus/bike loading here to stay

  1. Brian says:

    I work at the UW Seatle campus and live south of Boeing Field. I never worry about my commute, because the bus options are so varied, I can do almost anything. If I get out the door and a ride just isn’t going to work that day, the 124 gets me to within a 10 minute ride to campus. I can do 10 miles into the ID and hope an express to campus to avoid downtown rush hour silliness. I just recently discovered the 133 express, which gets me from campus to georgetown in <20 mins, with a quick 5 mile ride home. Some days I ride all 30 miles of my commute, some days I only do about 10. Weather, darkness, whatever, it's so flexible, and I can detour for social events easily. Like you though, I had no idea it used to be against the rules to load bikes. I never got hassled for it prior to the temporary suspension of the rule.

  2. Kevin says:

    Awesome! I always thought it was a ridiculous rule. Loading wheelchairs on/off take far more time and we wouldn’t ban those from the downtown area would we?

  3. rich says:

    Bus/bike combo makes the 520 bridge possible.

  4. Andreas says:

    Downtown transit stops almost always have so many people boarding that I can load my bike and get back in line long before the bus is ready to leave. Really, if Metro was concerned with keeping buses on schedule, they should’ve banned bike loading outside the RFA, since loading or unloading a bike only slows things up when no one else is boarding or deboarding at the same time. I’m glad they finally realized that the most reasonable thing is to allow loading everywhere.

    Nonetheless, bus/bike comboists should be aware that they can and do slow transit. If your stop’s coming up, get up extra early to make sure you’re first in line to get off so you can unload while other passengers fiddle with their change. And tell the driver you’ll be getting your bike off before the bus stops, so the driver can properly orient the coach and set the brake when s/he pulls into the stop, instead of having to adjust afterward.

    As for the bike/bus combo, I’ve taken transit from Ballard to North Bend a couple times for hikes on Mount Si and Rattlesnake Ridge. Without a bike, it’s two Metro locals and one ST Express each way—which is just too much in my book. The bike cuts out one local bus, making the trip doable. I don’t have a car (or a license), so it can be difficult to get out of the city, but with a bike & transit, it’s much better.

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  6. Kat says:

    There are safety issues with unloading/ loading bikes in the RFA. Cyclists hop off the back door and walk directly in front of the coach, without alerting the driver that they are taking their bike. More often, a cyclist will just miss a bus, race down third, and cut in front of the bus to load at the next stop. Both cases have only happened a couple of times to me, but the gravity of being ran over by a bus outweighs the frequency of occurrence.
    The bike/ bus combo is an excellent way to get around. It often increases my methods of getting home. If I just miss the 54, late at night, I’ll hop on the 21, 120, or 125 and ride the rest of the way.
    The bus/ bike combo also makes commuting all year round more tolerable. If you ride into work, only to find it raining slugs and frogs when you finish your shift, you toss your bike on the bus to stay dry.

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