“Stuck in That Congestion? I Got One Suggestion: Use a Bike Rack”

Watch this instructional video from the Transit Authority of River City (that’s Louisville, Kentucky), and trust me, you won’t be able to dislodge the chorus from your head for days. I never thought of bus-mounted bike racks as the stuff of infectious music videos, but I was wrong — egregiously wrong.

Active Living by Design has the full story on this stroke of marketing genius, produced after a survey revealed that many young women in Louisville wanted to use the bike racks but didn’t know how. A follow-up vid on bus etiquette is in the works.

Any chance this starts some sort of viral trend that extends all the way to New York City Transit’s PSAs?

  • graham

    This is the best thing I’ve ever seen.

  • I agree. I can’t stop watching it. Yesterday I was playing it once an hour.

  • Red

    I didn’t think it was possible to successfully do a rap-based PSA until I saw this video.

  • His street cred with MCs surely just crashed and burned; but hey, he can count the Livable Street crowd as fans…

  • A.

    This is great; they have these on buses in Lexington too. I really wish New York’s MTA would implement these racks.

  • This PSA is fabulous!

    I don’t understand why NYC buses continue not to have exterior bike racks. The one time I brought my folded bike on a bus it was too large to manage comfortably with all the people on board. I would have been much happier if I could have placed it on an outside rack. This is hardly revolutionary when buses in Louisville, Albany, and, on our very doorstep, Yonkers, have them.

    This one of the many ways in which our “green-thinking” city almost, but not quite, “gets” cycling as transit.

  • Urbanis I think we don’t have them in NYC because bikes would get stolen… and in addition to that it takes such a long time for people to get on and off the buses as it is.

    They might be nice or some of the outer-borough routes though…

  • Pretty catchy video.

    I rode my bike to work this morning, but there’s freezing rain out there now, so I think I’ll take the bus and use the bike rack.

  • Hi Susan, not putting bike racks on buses limits people’s mobility options and encourages private car/cab use, which seems like the last thing the livable streets community would want. There are many situations in New York where taking one’s bike on the bus makes sense–darkness, bad weather, fatigue or injury, mechanical problems (e.g., flat tire)–and there is no subway alternative nearby.

    Is there any evidence that bikes would get stolen off bus racks? Has this been a problem in other cities? As for loading and unloading times, a bike can be loaded or unloaded while others are boarding.

    Look at the situation of wheelchair-assisted users. It takes time to load and unload them on a bus, but a sound and just public policy would not exclude them from taking the bus. Also, there is not likely to be more than one wheelchair-assisted user on a bus at a given time, so the time loss is not significant. Similarly, a bus-mounted bike rack can only accommodate two bikes at once.

    I would rather the city experiment with bus racks before we write them off as infeasible. This is not an expensive infrastructure investment, relatively speaking.

  • Having watched this video several times because it’s so catchy, I’ve noticed what seems to be a problem in the sequence of instructions sung by the TARCettes (bring it down, pull the bar, put it on, put it on, take it off, put it up, then you’re done). Shouldn’t it be: bring it (the rack) down, put it (the bike) on, pull the bar, put it (the bar) on (the wheel), take it (the bar, then bicycle) off, put it (the rack) up, then you’re done?

    I love the dancing bus drivers. If only riding NYC buses were so fun!

  • I don’t think this would work in NYC. And Urbanis, putting racks on buses also encourages people to be lazy and not actually ride.

  • Hi Liam, by that argument bicycles should not be allowed on NYC subways because it encourages people to be lazy and not actually ride.

  • In other cities that have bus bike racks, for example Boulder, I have been told that there is almost no delay in loading bikes on because there are usually other people boarding which eats up time. Once the time the bike is put on the bus rack usually the last person is just boarding the bus and the rider just gets in line behind.

  • Jason A

    Until there’s a bike path on the bridge, bike racks are a no-brainer for every bus that crosses the Verrazano-Narrows…

  • Clarence is right. I’ve lived in several cities that make use of the bus mounted bike racks and it has negligible impact on boarding / trip times. In truth, (no flames) loading wheelchair riders take FAR more time than mixed method commuters do with their bikes, and I don’t see anyone (with a soul) bitching about them. My only gripe is that our local transit authority is switching back to 2 bike racks from 3 due to damage to windshield wipers caused by snagging the wider handle bars found on beach cruisers etc. Honestly all they needed to do was get a 2″ spacer and some longer bolts, but alas the powers that be demanded the lobotomization.

  • Lee

    Here in DC all the buses have racks and they are very popular. Most of the Buses in Baltimore also have them. In my experience they don’t cause any problems, just better connectivity between different transport modes.
    I guess a better solution would be to get more people using folding bikes, but not everyone likes those.

  • I wouldn’t oppose a city wide implementation of bus bike racks, but here in Baltimore they’re rarely used – maybe one in every 40-50 buses I see has even one bike on it. Hopefully it would work better in NYC.

  • paulb

    I liked the idea at first, but now I wonder, in what kind of circumstances would someone use one? I understand riding to a subway station then hopping a train, which I often do myself, but would the equivalent thing happen with a bus? Would someone ride a bike to an express bus to get to Madison and 47th Street? In that case, I think protected bike parking at the bus stop might be a better priority.

    Maybe NYT could identify a few routes where there might be some demand, then try it out on those.

  • To Paulb: I can think of a circumstance in which I would use one: the Triboro isn’t great to ride over, so I could ride to the M60 on 125th St., then hop on the bus to get over the bridge, then have my bike in Queens.
    I think it’s important we think of all mixed mode users, including those of varying physical ability. Some folks may want to bypass congestion-filled Midtown, or take a bus to see friends and go for a leisurely ride in a their neighborhood; one’s reason for using two modes should not come into question, but should be unconditionally valid as an alternative to car transport.

  • Older versions of the NYC cycling map shows a bus route that ran across the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, from Ferry Point Park to Whitestone Queens, that was equipped with a bike rack. I think it may have been April to October only.

    Did anyone ever ride this route? It doesn’t appear on the 2008 map. Anyone know why it seems to have been discontinued?

  • Bill

    I’ve even seen buses without bike racks accommodate numerous riders. Take the NJ Transit bus between Atlantic City and Cape May in the summer and watch the local youth around Wildwood and Cape May shove their bikes into the storage space below the bus (a Greyhound-style coach, not an urban short-trip bus), get on and travel a mile or two, then get off and pull the bikes out. The driver on my trip in 2007 never had to get involved and took it in stride as a common occurrence. It didn’t seem to waste much time, or at least less than you’d think.

  • SEPTA has had the bike racks on all their buses that serve Philadelphia and hasn’t had a problem with theft as far as I’m aware.

    NJ TRANSIT has used them on their metro buses (not coach buses) in the South and Central service regions for more than 5 years and the new batch of metro buses being delivered now for the North service region will all have racks for 2 bikes like those pictured in the video.

  • All the buses in the Capital District (Albany/Troy/Schenectady/Saratoga) have these racks, and they make a marginal public transportation system much more usable, as you can use your bike to get the last mile to where you really want to go (but the bus doesn’t). I don’t see much use for bike racks in Manhattan (why would you want to put your bike on a crosstown bus that moves more slowly than a pedestrian?) especially since you can take your bike on the subway. On the other hand, longer distance and outer-borough routes (like the M60 and Triboro/Verazzano Bridge routes that others have mentioned) could be useful, if they are actually used. Getting significant adoption by cyclists is likely to be the hardest part.

  • Transit agencies are not very good at public outreach, the TARC video seems to be on the right track. Anecdotally it seems like people learn how to use the racks when they see others using them. So most agencies see slow but steady growth and sometimes they hit a tipping point where the racks are so popular that there is competition for space.

    Bike rack usage in the major east coast cities is not that robust. It’s much more successful in places where there is margianal transit service and bicycling conditions like in Charlotte and Metro Phoenix.

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