Transit 101 – Episode 4 – Bikes on transit

Ever wanted to take your bike with you when you embark on your transit commute? Well in many cases, you can! Many transit agencies have equipped their buses with bike racks, which allow for easy transport of your bike when going from A to B. Additionally, many transit agencies no longer require you to have a special permit to use this service.

In this episode of Transit 101, I’ll show you how easy it can be to bring your bike with you while riding the bus or train.

Bikes on Buses

You can see the bike rack that is attached to the front of this Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus.

As I mentioned a moment ago, many transit agencies have equipped their buses with bike racks. While many agencies use racks that can accommodate two bikes, some agencies use racks that can accommodate three. The way that the racks look may vary based on the supplier that the transit agency uses, but a wide array of bikes can be accommodated regardless of the type of rack used.

Below is a video from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) illustrating how to use the bike rack on the front of the bus. Before the bus arrives at your stop, be sure to have your proper fare ready and step near the curb with your bike with you. It is a general courtesy to notify the operator of your bike before loading it onto the bike rack of the bus.

When unloading your bike, as illustrated in the video, notify the operator that you’re going to remove the bike from the rack and exit the bus through the front door.

Bikes on Trains

Two bikes are secured to the on-board bike rack on a SunRail Commuter Rail train car.

Many transit agencies that operate subway, light rail, or commuter rail systems will also allow customers to bring their bikes with them while on board a train. Specific rules may vary between agencies, including whether an on-board bike rack is available. Generally, older trains will not have on-board bike racks available – so if you’re allowed to take your bike with you, you’ll need to make sure that you hold your bike securely and keep all aisles and doors clear.

Accessing rail lines that do not utilize traditional fare gates or turnstiles are usually not an issue if you have your bike with you. However, accessing systems that do use such mechanisms can be very challenging and intimidating. In these situations, never attempt to lift your bike over a turnstile. Instead, utilize the service swing gate to access the rail platform. Always carry your bike up and down stairways and use elevators when they are available. Do not attempt to carry your bike onto an escalator, as you may wind up easily falling on the moving steps – which can result in serious injury or even death.

If a transit agency staff member or security guard is visible, it is generally advised that you notify them first so that they may assist you in getting your bike to and from the platform area. On older subway systems (like the New York City Subway), some entrances and exits may be configured in a manner by which entering or exiting the platform area with a bike may be impossible (for instance, the station exit only features a full-height revolving gate with metal bars). In these cases, simply proceed to the next available station that has a service swing gate.

If the station exit only features full-length revolving gates like this, do not attempt to exit, simply proceed to the next station. You don’t end up like this unlucky soul (who did not have a bike, but was attempting to evade fare). Credit: NY Post.

General Rules

While specific rules regarding bikes on transit vehicles may vary between transit agency, below are the general guidelines to follow when taking your bike with you on your transit journey.

In addition to the above, do your best to not create a situation by which you may be denied boarding because your bike is suddenly considered a safety hazard. Always be considerate of those around you and wait for exiting customers to leave the transit vehicle before boarding. Always keep doors and aisles clear, properly secure your bike, and follow instructions given by transit agency staff, security guards, and law enforcement officers. But above all, enjoy your transit journey with your bike close by!

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2 thoughts on “Transit 101 – Episode 4 – Bikes on transit”

  1. NYCTransit allows people to bring their bikes in their subway trains. Unfortunately, there are very few bike racks on New York City buses (Staten Island), or none at all. The City is continuing an experimental project involving bike racks on city buses, so hopefully, someday, this could become a reality for bike owners who ride MTA buses.

    1. Hi Letticia, I was heavily surprised to see the NY MTA buses without bike racks. I do hope that the agency will eventually add them to their buses, especially with what I call (L) from Hell on the horizon.

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