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Metro replacing bus bike rack arms + the mayor tweets about bike sharing

The outside arms on King County’s relatively new three-bike racks on the front of their buses are wearing out far more quickly than expected. The racks are still under warranty, so the manufacturer is sending replacement parts.

However, you may want to be prepared to encounter a bus without a rack on the front.

From Metro:

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In response to recent problems with some of King County Metro’s bus bicycle racks, Metro’s Vehicle Maintenance staff have inspected all of the bike racks and determined that many of the support arms, especially those on the outside bike rack position, are wearing out much faster than the manufacturer expected. Fortunately, most of the bike racks are still under warranty, and our vendor is already shipping necessary replacement parts. The first repairs will be completed by the first weekend of July on North, East and Bellevue Base buses, which operate most of the service on SR 522 and SR 520. Repairs on the rest of the Metro system will take a bit longer, but should be completed by mid-July.

All of the bike rack slots currently on the buses have been inspected and determined to work correctly. However, approximately 15% of the slots have been taken out of service because of non-working support arms. Metro apologizes for the inconvenience to the cycling community and is working as quickly as possible to replace support arms that are experiencing problems. While the repairs are being done, most buses will continue to have at least two bike rack spaces available.

We have written several times proclaiming the incredible power of the bus/bike combo in Seattle. Often, the combo of riding to an express route, then to your destination will be the absolute fastest way to get where you’re going.

The change from two-bike racks to three was great, except that the new racks are a little too hard to use. The buttons often stick and you have to learn to pull the arm straight out before moving it (instead of pulling and moving at once, as one might do in a hurry). Hopefully the replacement parts will help with this small problem.

In the end, though, taking a bike on a bus is not a permanent solution that is built to scale. My friend Marie, for example, has been trying to take her bike on a bus from the U-District to Lynnwood for work. Today, after watching two buses go by with full racks, she had to go back home and get her car so she would not be late.

The solution: A regional bike share system. No reason to take your own bike on the bus when you can just depend on there being a bike waiting for you at your stop.

Mayor McGinn tweeted about how great Washington DC’s bike share system is, saying “We’re working with King County on a business plan to bring it to Seattle.” (see our previous post for more on that effort)

Considering the plurality of Seattle commuters who depend on transit, our city could be particularly well-positioned for a bike share system. With bike racks near express bus stops and public bikes near commercial centers and bus depots, people will discover what many readers of this blog already know: Biking is the fastest and most enjoyable way to get around the city, even if it is only for a mile or less.

UPDATE: Here’s what I mean by scale. Clearly, no bus bike rack could hold enough bikes to handle this:

The Biggest, Baddest Bike-Share in the World: Hangzhou China from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

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17 responses to “Metro replacing bus bike rack arms + the mayor tweets about bike sharing”

  1. Chris

    Often, the combo of riding to an express route, then to your destination will be the absolute fastest way to get where you’re going.

    Or in the case of 520 commuters, the only way to get where you’re going if you’re on a bike. That said, about half the time during the evening and the majority of the time in the morning it’s much faster for me to bike/bus between Fremont and Bellevue then it ever would be via a car.

    I’ve noticed the bike arms are wearing out fast. I’m glad they’re still under warranty.

    1. mt

      How is it faster between Fremont and Bellevue via bus?

      1. Chris

        During the morning rush it takes me around 40 min to bike from Fremont to the east Bellevue area via BGT, bus across the lake to the East Base, and to my office. Probably around 5-10 faster then by car since the backup just to get on 520 at Montlake can take 10-15 min.

        Coming home you bypass all the 520 traffic. A drive that can take an hour takes 40-45 min by bike.

  2. The idea of a bike share system sounds great at first, and would work for a variety of users who travel relatively benign distances; but there are a lot of riders where this wouldn’t be applicable. Being “fit” to your bike is a high priority to me, jumping on-board a different machine on a daily basis just isn;t practical in my case.

    No surprise to hear about the bike racks falling apart. Ever since they went to the three bike style with the crazy plastic front wheel holder it seems like they last a matter of months before breaking down. If they stayed with the old stainless steel style with the hook like we have on Island Transit then the problem would be minimized greatly. The only problem I hear with the older type is that they don’t fit all wheel types and sizes.

    Also, on IT we’re lucky enough that in case the bike rack gets filled the driver will let you bring your bike directly on-board the bus. Two weeks ago we had to do just that, twice within one week.

  3. Todd Holman

    I think the bike and bus rack combo is one of the best deals around. I ride a couple miles to the express bus and ride it in to Seattle and then finally off to my employer. Taking a car or jumping buses actually would add time to my commute. Plus my employer pays for my bus pass, so why would I even think about taking a car? But while you may be pushing for a community bike-sharing program, I am not. I typically ride the 23 miles home and a) it is unlikely such a program would support this, and b) if I’m going to ride that far, I want to ride my own bike. That’s just the way it is. When the slots fill up, I begin riding both ways.

  4. mike archambault

    In Europe, many buses have roomy standing areas by the rear door that allow people to simply carry their bike (or stroller!) on-board and stand with them, eliminating hassles all around. The time is ripe to advocate for King County to consider this concept as they replace their entire fleet of electric trolley buses in the next couple years…

  5. Joseph Singer

    There’s one big problem that I don’t see people addressing in regard to these bicycle share schemes. Currently (at least in Seattle) there’s a law requiring that you have to wear a helmet otherwise you could be liable for a citation and be fined $30 for not wearing one. This would require that if you intend to use a bicycle share that you need to schlep around a bicycle helmet with you wherever you go.

    1. Todd Holman

      Oh geez. What a hassle! That’s like carrying your keys around all day. What if I actually had to rest my poor, lonely bike helmet on my work desk all day? Plus I’d actually have to carry or wear my helmet on the bus ride home??? Are you nuts? No man or woman deserves to live through such anguish or terror.

  6. Andres

    …And there’s the option of folding bike, which I’m seriously considering. Way too many full bike racks out there.

    1. doug in seattle

      Andres has it. If I had to bike and bus every day, I’d invest in a folder.

      1. Todd Holman

        Possibly but you won’t see my riding a folder more than a mile or two. A few trips on my commute and it’d need to be replaced.

      2. Brian

        Todd, there are some very well made folding bikes on the market. People have toured thousands of miles on them. Folders can be a great option for people with certain kinds of travel needs. It sounds like with your 23 mile bike/bus commute, a folding bike could work quite well for you.

  7. Alix

    I’d like to see a vertical bike storage area in the front of some buses similar to what exists on the light rail cars. Just remove the front row of seats on one side in between the handicapped area and where the driver sits and you could store another 3 bikes upright against the side of the bus.

  8. charity

    I wish I’d seen this post about 24 hours ago. I had nothing but trouble with busses and bike racks on my commute on Thursday. The first bus I tried to catch had only one slot for the bike. Another bike rider arrived before so he had that spot. For a bus that comes once every 30 minutes the missing two spots were a serious issue. Thankfully the weather was nice and an alternate bus got me within four (flat) miles of my destination. On the older high floor bus models, bringing my bike onboard is not an option.

    The other issue arrose when I tried to commute across the 520 bridge and had to wait for two busses to come by before I could finally put my bike on the bus. This morning, nearly 545 every bus that passed by the Redmond Library (very early on the 545 route) had a bike rack that was completely full.

    In the fall I start a job where my only non-driving option is to combine bus+bike but if bike rack space continues to be an issue I may have to drive (during non-peak hours thankfully)

  9. S

    I got caught by this on Friday: the 271 across 520 to Bellevue arrived with only one functioning bike slot, and that slot was taken. The next bus wasn’t for 30 minutes, so I had to hop a base bus across to Medina and ride the rest of the way. And of course the 271 showed up after a whole bunch of empty base buses went by, and 10 minutes before the next cross-bridge bus came by.

    I really like the bus/bike combo, but getting a bike slot to Bellevue in the morning can be really tough when the weather is nice. When buses come only once every 30 minutes, it’s not really practical to sit around hoping you get a slot.

  10. R Roush

    On Friday, I waited downtown to catch a bus and put my bike in the rack. Finally, my bus came and after I told the driver I was going to load my bike, he said “It’s not working.”
    Sure enough, I took a look and none of the three slots had the yellow restraining arm.
    Needless to say, I was disappointed.

  11. Steve

    It is unfortunate that Metro and Sound Transit are not making a bigger effort to allow bikes INSIDE the buses. Naturally, this would not work when the bus is full or the wheelchair spots are taken. Pierce Transit has been able to accommodate 4-6 bikes per bus for years.
    Almost every transit agency except the ‘Big 2’ in King county allow bikes inside the bus (at least if the racks are full) including Skagit, Jefferson, Mason and I think Kitsap Counties. Even Intercity in Thurston County, made an extra effort by allowing bikes in the bus on the last run of the day (after a phone call to a supervisor)
    Sound Transit doesn’t even keep track of how often the racks are full and the bike is not allowed on the bus.

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