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Sunday, April 30, 2006

bus + bike + me = eep!

Does anyone have any advice for a gal who's going to take her bike on the bus for the first time?

I am a frequent public transit rider (I buy the month pass!) and moreover a frequent bus rider, but never in my years of riding Metro and the CTA have I ever taken my bike on a bus. Like many of my colleagues who've never ridden a bus before are intimidated by the prospect of doing so, I've never taken my bike on the bus before, and the idea kind of intimidates me. I've taken it on Metrolink and the El, but that's pretty foolproof--you just wheel right on to the train car, and there's plenty of room. The hardest thing in that situation is not falling down or letting your bike fall. But when it comes to taking my bike on the bus, I picture myself standing there fumbling with the bike rack and trying to hoist my sloppily-painted hot pink bike up into it, while a busfull of impatient, late-to-work people watches silently, cursing me in their minds (at which point I drop the bike, probably onto myself).

What an optimistic image, no?

I'm starting a new job, and after extensive perusal of the various relevant bus schedules, it looks like it would really be to my advantage to bike to the bus, and then take the bus to work. And as a non-driver, taking my bike on the bus is a skill that would greatly improve my ability to get around anyway.

So, some time this week I'm gonna do a practice run or two, so I know what to expect before I've got a whole busload of people waiting on me at rush hour.

Any advice for me?

7 comments:

newsense said...

It's a piece of cake. Only once have I had trouble trying to get the bike on the bus or off the bus. It shouldn't even take a minute, if that, so you won't be inconveniencing any of the riders. Just remember:

* There's room for two bikes. Use the one closest to the driver if you're the first one on.

* To get the rack itself down, it's easy. Just lift up on the handle and pull down. You'll set your bike down the rack, with the front tire on the left-hand side if you're the first bike in. You'll have to pull a securing bracket over the front tire by pulling up and then over. Sometimes it can get a bit sticky, but usually not.

* When you exit the bus, remind the driver you'll be getting the bike. This is usually a piece of cake, except when the extenion bracket over the front tire is a little sticky. But this is rare. And remember after you take the bike off that you need to put the bike rack back up in place. The first time I did this I forgot to do this and the bus driver was kind of rude about it.

I was a little nervous at first, too, so I appreciate the feeling.

By the way, I prefer using my bike with the bus instead of Metro because on the bus you don't have to "baby-sit" your bike, and I can sit down, read, whatever.

I also wanted to note that light-rail projects in other cities have bike racks inside the trains themselves, so you don't have to stand with your bike in the back of the car. I hope the new Metro trains have this feature. Does anybody know if Metro has considered this as a feature to include on news trains they buy for the Metro extension?

One other note: I always have in the back of my mind that the bike rack on the buses may be filled by the time it reaches my stop, but it's never happened before.

Don't worry, it takes no longer than 30 seconds or so to get your bike on the bus, and you are inconveniencing no one!

Urban Review said...

I was worried too about the first time I planned to load my bike on the rack. It was so easy!

Here is a good site with pictures:
http://www.cata.org/bikes_racks.html

The above site differs from the last advice, it says to place the bike furthest from the bus.

The trays for the bikes are set in opposite directions -- one front wheel points one direction while the other goes the other way. You'll get used to which is the best way to position your bike as the bus arrives.

Have fun, it is a great way to extend your bus commute.

Anonymous said...

Here's another helpful site with pictures and instructions (Metro in St. Louis should ideally someday have the same):
http://www.waba.org/new/help/metro.php

newsense said...

I'm surprised that the website steve pointed to (which had some great tips) said to load the bike in the position furthest away from the bus. This makes it more difficult for the "next guy" to load her or his bike. I guess it makes the bike rack extension more visible to other motorists, which is why they recommend it.

frippy said...

These are all good comments but I still want to add my two cents of experience: I have had an easier time taking a bike on the bus than on the Metrolink.

I read the instructions on putting my bike on the bus' rack before I actually did it the first time, which made it very easy to know what to do -- but there are clear directions printed on the rack as well. I would say it didn't take me any longer to place or remove my bicycle than a passenger trying to get a rolling cart or stroller onto bus. And better still, your bike is out of the way -- unlike the situation on the Metrolink. Don't try taking your bicycle on the Metrolink between 4:30-6:00 pm on a weekday, I had to learn that the hard way.

My fears were that I installed my bicycle incorrectly and it would fall off and get crushed underneath the bus or that someone could easily lift my bike off the rack during stops, so I do sometimes sit up front and occasionally glance from around my reading to make sure it's still there, but neither fear has ever come to pass.

Also, I have never encountered a bus with a full bicycle rack. That's the sad upside to living in a not-very-bike-friendly (compared to other cities) city.

Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

Thanks, newsense, Steve, and anon! This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for! Both the descriptions and pictures oughta help, and already they're just comforting.

I'm thinking tomorrow will probably be the date of my experimental first bike-n-bus trip. If it's noteworthy in any way, I'll post about it.

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