MTA: Bike Racks Are Coming to Buses Over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

As of September 6, New York will no longer be the only major American city without bike racks on its buses. The MTA announced this afternoon that it is launching a one-year pilot of front-mounted bike racks on the S53 and S93 routes, which run across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

“Before this program, our customers had no direct way to travel with their bicycles on public transportation between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Now customers can take advantage of the city’s bike lanes and greenways without worrying about how to transport their bicycles,” Darryl C. Irick, Senior Vice President of Buses at MTA New York City Transit, said in a press release. “A future expansion will depend on results of this pilot and will most likely focus on routes that cross bridges.”

Adding bike racks on buses has been a goal of advocates who view it as a stepping stone to building a bicycle and pedestrian path on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Update 9:55 p.m.: “We are certain Bike & Ride will be a success, just as similar programs have been in cities all over the country that have long had bike racks as standard equipment across their vehicular fleets,” said the Harbor Ring, a coalition of path advocates, in a statement. “However, one bus carrying two bicycles is by no means a solution for our city’s overwhelming transportation deficiencies. We continue our campaign urging the MTA to create separated bicycle and pedestrian pathways across the Verrazano Bridge that would offer toll-free connectivity between Brooklyn and Staten Island.”

“This is an exciting first step in bringing New York in line with many other cities when it comes to putting bike racks on buses,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who first indicated last November that bus bike racks would be coming to New York.

The announcement comes after reports surfaced in March that the MTA had tested bike racks on the S53 line, which carries an average 10,100 customers every weekday, making it the second busiest bus route on Staten Island.

The MTA has purchased 38 bike racks at a cost of $42,000 and is testing three different models on 31 buses. The agency says it will soon post an instructional video on how to use the new bike racks. While we wait for the MTA’s video, Streetsblog suggests this classic from Louisville, Kentucky.

  • The TARC/Mr. Theo video is even better than I remember.

  • HamTech87

    The 2nd largest bus system in New York State, Bee-Line Bus in Westchester, also does not have bike racks.

  • I can’t believe this is finally happening!!! Now they need to do the bus lines that go between Queens and The Bronx like I talked about it the video. It shouldn’t be that difficult. I’m the first to admitt that it would be counter-productive to put racks on all buses, but there are plenty of places that would work well. Including northern Bronx, eastern Queens, southern Brooklyn and maybe all of Staten Island!! Great work whomever finally got this done. It’s long overdue!

  • Didn’t the Q44 buses once have bike racks?

  • Back in the 1990s there was at least one, maybe two lines that had bike racks, but apparently they were often broken or buses showed up without them frequently. Transportation Alternatives would know.

  • Andrew

    It shouldn’t be that difficult.

    There may be issues or constraints that you aren’t aware of.

    For instance, I’ve been told that buses in New York are packed into the depots so tightly that the slight additional length of the bike racks significantly reduces storage capacity in each depot.

    Perhaps that issue doesn’t apply to the depot that houses the S53 and S93 (Castleton?), or perhaps there was a way to mitigate it at Castleton that doesn’t apply elsewhere. Expanding the program to other lines may be challenging.

    Or perhaps I’m wrong about the capacity issue, in which case expansion may not be much of a challenge after all.

  • Andrew

    Those were privately operated buses, under city franchise.

    For the most part, buses are not individually dedicated to individual routes. Any instance of a dedicated fleet – such as bike racks that are supposed to run on one line but not another – reduces operational flexibility. If too many buses equipped with bike racks are out of service one morning, and the options are to send out a bus without a bike rack or to skip the run entirely, I’m quite confident that the vast majority of riders (everybody without a bike!) would favor the former.

    (Similar issue with airport buses with luggage racks and with SBS buses with the special SBS branding. In those cases, too, better to have the wrong kind of bus than no bus at all.)

  • I’ve been told that too about the packing of buses. But surely for a line or two they can find a way. I mean we are talking about maybe eliminating one bus to find a way for the space to have a half dozen or more with racks attached? I’m no expert but I can’t see if this was made policy that they couldn’t find a way to make it work.

  • bob88

    Excellent & long overdue!!

  • The Q44 was not a private-company line. I am almost certain that that line’s buses had bike lanes at one point.

  • JBS

    It was the QBx1 of Queens Surface. When MTA Bus took over the private companies, the bike racks were taken off of those buses. The QBx1 is now the Q50 and operates out of Eastchester Depot near Co-op City, which has more than enough room for storage to not be a problem. In addition, the Q50 and Bx23 (Co-op City to Pelham Bay) are the only local bus routes out of Eastchester, and both would benefit from the addition of bike racks, making it easy to make sure that buses with racks end up on the proper route.

  • JBS

    and neither does NICE at the moment.

  • Guest

    I have also heard the depot excuse. When I spoke with a depot manager, he said it wasn’t a problem.

  • Andrew

    Either there’s a physical constraint here or there isn’t, but if there is, physical constraints can’t just be wished away.

    If the racks are only on a line or two, we have the dedicated fleet problem that I described. Inevitably, there will be days when not enough equipped buses are available, and a bus or two (hopefully not back-to-back!) without a rack will be sent out, and any cyclists who were aiming to catch those buses will have to wait for the next.

  • Andrew

    Glad to hear it! Was he speaking of his depot only or systemwide?

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