MTA Tests Bike Racks on Bus Across Verrazano

An anonymously-sourced New York Post story yesterday might leave readers with the impression that new bike racks on the front of Staten Island buses will lead to late trips and a liability nightmare for the MTA. The MTA, however, says it’s still studying the racks — a tried-and-true amenity in every other big American city — on a route crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which currently has no bike path.

Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr
Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr

Here’s the Post story, in full:

City buses on Staten Island will soon sport bike racks as part of a New York City Transit program that bus drivers are already slamming as a surefire way to slow down commuters.

Drivers on the S53 bus line, which runs between Port Richmond and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, will be required under the pilot plan to wait for passengers to load their wheels.

“The consensus right now — no one’s crazy about it,” said a transit source who works at Staten Island’s Castleton depot. “If the bike falls off, it’s on us. If it gets damaged, it’s on us.”

Bike racks on buses are common in less congested cities.

New York is the only major city in the country without bike racks on its buses, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking, with cities as large and congested as Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco outfitting their entire bus fleets with bike racks — all without major liability or on-time performance problems.

So will Staten Island residents get to make multi-modal trips to Brooklyn? Not in the immediate future, according to the MTA. “It was a test, not a pilot program,” said MTA spokesperson Amanda Kwan. The test occurred on March 3, she said, and consisted of “one run, on the S53 route with a non-revenue bus. The rack equipment itself was also being tested.”

The MTA would not reveal further information about the test. “It is simply too early to have or release any more details,” Kwan said.

The S53 runs from Port Richmond to Bay Ridge and is one of three non-express routes over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. (The others are the S93 and the S79 Select Bus Service.) Bike racks on those buses would be a stopgap measure until a walking and biking path is added to bridge, a goal that that’s gained support recently from local elected officials thanks to the advocacy of the Harbor Ring committee. A study of the path by Parsons Brinckerhoff is due to the MTA later this year.

Bike racks on buses would also dovetail with NYC DOT’s goal to improve bicycle access to and across the city’s bridges. Last November, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT had begun working with the MTA on a pilot program to add bike racks to buses, with a focus on routes that cross bridges. At the time, the MTA was noncommittal about its intentions.

Advocates for a path across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge welcomed the move and pushed the MTA to do right by New Yorkers looking to get between Staten Island and Brooklyn with their bikes.

“The Harbor Ring commends the MTA for testing bicycle racks on the S53 bus route that crosses the Verrazano Bridge. This is a significant development that could expand multi-modal transportation options for residents of Brooklyn and Staten Island,” the committee said in a statement. “However, bike racks alone are not a replacement for the fully accessible bicycle and pedestrian pathways across the Verrazano Bridge. The Harbor Ring hopes these racks are just a first step toward the construction of pathways that would allow non-scheduled, non-motorized bridge crossings by runners, pedestrians, and cyclists.”

  • Eric McClure

    I hope other tests run by the MTA adhere a bit more rigorously to the scientific method.

    MTA: “We’re going to test a bike rack on one bus on one run without any notice to anyone.”

    The MTA Bus-riding Public: ” ”

    MTA: “Due to lack of public interest in using bike racks on buses, we will not be pursuing such a program.”

  • JudenChino

    Gotta love the NYPost. No banal transit issue can go unremarked if it’s possible to hippie punch.

    “The consensus right now — no one’s crazy about it,” said a transit source who works at Staten Island’s Castleton depot. “If the bike falls off, it’s on us. If it gets damaged, it’s on us.”

    But seriously, fuck the NYPost for trying to flame the bus drivers into a cultural war against complete streets.

  • LiveFreeOrWatchTV

    Amen, JudenChino. I love the unsourced, hearsay nature of the Post. There’s also no fact so important that it needs to be checked (or cited).

  • r

    The New York Post hates New York.

  • Andres Dee

    “If we hit someone who has right of way, it’s on us. Right?”

  • Andres Dee

    I’ve seen how bike racks are handled on NJT buses. Routine & a non-event.

  • JDM

    So the NY Post thinks New Yorkers are astonishingly more stupid than any other city in North America, as apparently they can’t operate a bike rack like everybody else in every other city manages to do. I think a class action libel suit by New Yorkers is in order.

  • Eric Nelson

    Every bus in the Minneapolis metro has a bike rack. And I’ve never once heard a complaint.

  • kevd

    NY Post readers and writers ARE astonishingly more stupid than most people in any city.

  • kevd

    Adding racks to bus routes across bridges without bike / ped routes is incredibly simple and logical and its frightening that it can’t just happen tomorrow.

  • JDM

    That may well be but I’d wager a lot that they aren’t the only bicycle riders in NYC.

  • Tyson White

    And all of humanity. Every decent human being or good idea that has been slammed by this trashy tabloid.

  • Carbon Dated

    NYC bikers use buses with less frequency, relative to other cities, because longer trips are generally well covered by an extensive subway system. Shorter trips, of course, are what the bike is for in the first place. Obviously there are times a biker might want to jump on a bus — the Verrazano being one example (although building a bike lane would be even better!) — but I must say, in 30 years of biking in the city, I never once thought, ‘I wish I could grab a bus.’

  • BSPABNY

    Here’s how the process works: First, MTA needs to do this test so they can make the determination that existing bike rack models used worldwide are not appropriate or safe for MTA buses. Then they need to do a multi-year procurement process for an entirely new design that’s unique to New York. (Maybe a design competition?) Then they’ll select a manufacturer and require the normal mid-stream changes to the design, increasing the complexity and cost of the final product. Then a multi-year lawsuit by one or more unions who claim that installing, operating, and/or servicing bike racks is not in their contract, and objections about the final design by NYPD on “security” grounds. Repeat the above steps several times until everyone’s bank account is well-funded. Only then, if all these obstacles are overcome, will the racks start to appear on NYC buses.

  • Its definitely a good idea and initiative to add bike racks…

  • Jeff Dubrule

    Works pretty well in Seattle-area. We have some decent bike-infrastructure, but there’s lots of gaps, especially where bridges-over-things are concerned, that prevent it from being a real “network”.

    Bus racks help connect these gaps safely, especially for less-seasoned riders. Bus drivers are not typically liable for damage; there was an initial rash of bike-theft-off-the-front-of-buses, but that almost never happens, now. Our bus system holds regular outreach events of various sorts and have a prop bus-rack so people can practice loading/unloading when a bus isn’t waiting for them.

    And, once you get the hang of it, loading/unloading takes less time than someone paying a cash fare.

  • NYC doesn’t have universal bike racks? Electric bikes are illegal here?

    I’m from SF, this all seems ridiculous to us. Let’s educate some leaders or replace them.

  • Andrew

    I’ve read that the buses are packed so tightly into the depots that the addition of bike racks would significantly cut into depot capacity. I don’t know if that applies to Castleton Depot specifically, but if it does, there’s a real cost impact.

    Installing bike racks for one bus route only also reduces the flexibility to assign any bus to any line. Not insurmountable, of course, but it’s an additional challenge, and it might lead to an occasional nasty surprise when an unequipped bus shows up on a line that’s supposed to have bike racks.

  • Robert Napiorski

    NJ Transit has bike racks on our buses here across the Hudson in Jersey City. They are mostly used when there is inclement weather but I have seen them used in good weather as well.

    On a related note I can’t wait for Citi Bike to begin here in JC this summer!

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