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.
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: