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Watch: Khatsini explains the power of the bike/bus combo

King County has been producing a series of short videos highlighting different ways of getting around town by walking, biking and transit. We already pointed you to their video featuring family cycling and Greenwood’s G&O Family Cyclery.

In their latest video (filmed months ago, but just now released), Khatsini Simani, former education programs staffer at Cascade Bicycle Club, explains how she combines biking and busing to get around. A lifelong transit user, Khatsini added a bike as way to open her options and get around faster.

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Putting your bike on a bus adds a little bit of unreliability, since you’re out of luck if your bus arrives with three bikes already latched on the front. But there is huge power in combining the two modes, especially on the express bus routes. Skip the slow local bus and bike straight to an express route that might be outside your home’s easy walk zone. In other words, think of the bike as a way to bring express transit service closer to your home. Often, the bike/bus combo is the fastest possible way to get across the city or the region.

I feel we are living in something of a golden era of bike/bus travel in the Puget Sound region. If it gets too much more popular, the three bike spaces on the front of buses will fill up more often. There’s a problem of scale with bikes on buses, and there are a handful of routes that are already unreliable for this reason.

Expanding bike share and building better secure bike parking at express transit stops and stations are ways to provide a similar synergy without limiting the system to three bikes per bus.

Speaking of which, have you seen the new Beacon Hill Station bike cage? It appears to be mostly complete, though it isn’t open yet. Stay tuned for more details.


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14 responses to “Watch: Khatsini explains the power of the bike/bus combo”

  1. Gary Yngve

    I do the bike-bus combo in the morning, going to downtown. Going back home from downtown, because I pick up near the edge of downtown, it can be pretty unreliable to wait for a bus with free racks, especially on a rainy afternoon — I’ve pretty much given up on bussing home. I’ve even had it where there was a free spot on the rack but the driver said the bus was too full of people, and the next bus had a full rack. I’m not sure how Metro or LightRail can scale to accommodate more cyclists, unless cyclists get folding bikes.

  2. biliruben

    Side racks? Quad Racks? Hanging racks? It seems like there is a lot of usable space outside the bus which could be used that isn’t, though perhaps that can’t be done for reasons I’m not considering. Or perhaps we need an entrepreneur to built a better bike rack for buses.

    Or build a bus with bike storage (easier storage – like the hooks on Amtrak!) specifically in mind. The back of the bus with a simple roof seems like it could store a dozen bikes if engineered creatively. The signaling of loading and unloading to the driver would need some brainstorming, but this is a solvable problem.

  3. Todd

    The mixed bike thing is totally the way to go. My company pays for a free bus pass and I live 25 miles out. I take the bus in with my bike and ride my bike on the way out… and I have options along the way to go the full 25 or just do part of it. It works great because I’m not getting up two hours earlier to ride into work and take another 30 minutes to shower and get ready once I get there. BS. I commute in and ride out. It’s great. So great in fact I count my lucky stars.

  4. 1st Person

    Now, that is one secure bike jail!

  5. Tom

    Certainly appreciate the bike racks but the uncertainty of getting a spot pretty much precludes me from ever using them as I am just too anxious of an individual to deal with the stress of waiting on a bus that I might not be able to get on.

    If you are a real gambler you can try to bike-bus travel with a friend. Now you need 2/3 of the spots open or you both cannot get on. Are you feeling lucky?

    @biliruben – The hanging rack on the back of the bus idea would actually work pretty well in terms of capacity. If you staggered the hooks a bit I bet you could easily fit 7-8 bikes hanging vertically from a shelf sticking out from the back of the bus. I don’t think it would ever work though because there would be just too many instances of someone forgetting to alert the driver that they need to get their bike off. Sounds like a major safety concern.

    I was impressed with that BRT video the other day that showed you can bring your bike into the bus like you would the train. Nice!

    1. Todd

      Not if your stop basically starts at the beginning of your route going to and from work. I never miss a spot.

  6. Mike

    Shhh! Don’t tell anyone! It only works because no one does it (but me).

    1. Lulea

      I am surprised to see so much worry about the uncertainty of bike rack availability on the busses. I can see this being a problem for busses going on 520 and I do imagine there are certain routes that have this problem frequently but there are also many routes that do not. I live on the top of Queen Anne hill. There is no kind way to bike up the south side of the hill without going half way around the hill first. Frequently, I bike to the bottom of the hill and take the bus to the top. I really appreciate this option and I can count on one had the number of times the rack was full at my stop over many years. It probably would be helpful to let metro know where full racks are a problem. They might consider more storage at those locations.

      1. Actually it’s not a problem on 520 — if you’re just going Evergreen Point to Montlake, buses come so often that you can get passed by one or two without losing much time. It’s a little worse if you’re going all the way to Redmond, but still not too bad — the 545 comes every 15 minutes much of the day.

        I once got passed up at Lynnwood TC, on a nice sunny Friday evening, back when Lynnwood-Seattle buses only came every half-hour. After getting passed I had to consider what to do to meet my friends downtown — if I got a spot on the next bus I might make it on time, but if the next bus was full, too, I’d certainly be late. To avoid that risk I got in the saddle and hauled ass down the Interurban Trail. These days Lynnwood-Seattle buses come about twice as often (though a little less reliably), but Renton-Seattle buses are still every half-hour (at least the ones that are faster than just riding) and a lot of the suburb-suburb expresses have limited schedules. In most cases if the last of these passes you up you can still get there if you know the system (for example, if you miss the last 532 you can combine the 535 with the 512 or 201/202, or in some cases go through Seattle via the 550), but that takes a lot of extra time. Maybe enough to eat the advantage biking gives you over walking or local transit.

  7. Brett

    I recently started commuting to Eastgate from Seattle and like to put my bike on the bus in the morning to avoid the Factoria Hill (and associated sweat). I get on the bus at the I-90 freeway station. Generally 554 racks are full by the time they get to Rainier/I-90, and the 212 & 217 are full except on Fridays. Seems to be a lot of Bellevue College students. Most of the time I have to get on a 550 and ride up Factoria Hill. I know, 1st world problems :-)

  8. Melinda

    I love the bike/bus combo so.much. I’ve been doing it for probably the last five years now… it is indeed a great way to extend the range of your typical express bus route. And, biking through the city is usually at least as fast as riding the slow local route. I’ve raced the 48 on numerous occasions :)

    Thanks Tom for all the great content. Keep it up!

  9. Daily Commuter

    I have found the racks so difficult to operate (the parts stick, they are unwieldy, and frankly, having to load one from the traffic side is dangerous) that I stopped combining these modes of operation. The racks are long past due to be replaced. And, I think a bicyclist (preferably someone with normal or less than normal hand strength) should be the one testing the next round. Until they are very easy to operate, I think most won’t use them regularly.

    1. Daily Commuter

      Sorry – I meant to say “modes of transportation”. I think combining them is very ideal, but not practical until the racks are replaced with ones that are easy to operate. Drivers are obligated to help you if there’s a problem, but boy, some of them really don’t want to be bothered!

  10. Gary

    I use the bus/bike combo as a backup for total equipment failure. It’s nice because I don’t have to carry every dang tool with me everyday for that once a year part failure…. On the otherhand there isn’t much I can’t repair but still it gives me peace of mind.

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