Almost half of Americans live within a quarter mile of a transit stop and bicycling offers the potential to serve as a first- and last-mile connector to and from transit, and offers many benefits: riders occupy less road space than private autos, emit no harmful pollutants, users benefit from physical activity, and bicycles require significantly less storage space (parking) than a car. Allowing bicyclists to use the transit network also allows them to avoid riding uncomfortable environments, such as riding in tunnels, in bad weather, in highly congested areas, or places where there is little bicycle infrastructure. Bicycles can extend the geographic reach of transit services, enhancing the usefulness of the transit network. Similarly, high quality pedestrian connections provide safe, secure and comfortable access to the transit network.
Transit agencies often have little control over the networks of infrastructure leading to stations and stops. However, there are some ways that transit agencies can influence bicycle access to transit by providing bicycle parking at stations and allowing passengers to transport their bicycles on train cars or bus-mounted bike racks. Indirectly, transportation agencies can provide funding to municipalities for building bicycle infrastructure (such as bike lanes and other street treatments). Despite the ability to allocate funding, however, transit agencies often lack direct control over the design, engineering, placement, and prioritization of bicycle and pedestrian facilities that connect to stations and stops. Transit agencies may also support changes to infrastructure through financial and technical assistance in creating bicycle and pedestrian master plans.
Bicycles and Buses
Allowing bicycles to be carried on board transit vehicles can be very cost-effective. In fact, according to one TCRP Synthesis, “Providing bicycle racks on a bus or vanpool vehicle typically costs between $500 and $1,000, which represents a small fraction of the cost of the entire vehicle.” Racks can be mounted on the front or the back of buses. However, rear-mounted bicycle racks can pose some problems for maintenance and safety. Agencies have found that rear-mounted racks can limit access to the bus’ engine and limiting bicyclists’ visibility to bus drivers as they mount their bicycles. In terms of bicycle storage, racks and lockers at bus stops and stations can be affordable and represents a tiny fraction of the cost of providing automobile parking. Providing bike storage facilities on public sidewalks may involve other challenges, such as ensuring there is enough space for them and that they do not interfere with other uses of those sidewalks.
Bicycles and Rail Transit
The primary concern when allowing bicycles on board light rail is storage: bikes may be stored on racks or hooks, in a single car, or space may be allocated for bicycles and their owners in each car.
Some bus drivers and maintenance workers unions have expressed concerns that adding bicycle racks to buses or other vehicles increases drivers’ workloads and may disagree with their addition. New features that allow also transit to accommodate bicyclists may also require some training of drivers and other transit workers. Finally, marketing and education campaigns are often necessary to inform passengers that bicycle accommodations are available and how to use them.
Case Study: Long Beach, California
Long Beach, California has, over the last several years, worked hard to become a bike-friendly city. By improving bike facilities, including bike parking near transit stations, creating separated bikeways, and supporting a safe routes to school program, the city has gained notoriety as a great place to bike. The City has also worked with business owners and the County Department of Public Health to create “bike-friendly business districts,” which include ample bike parking (in “bike corrals”) and cross-promotions with small businesses. Importantly, the City has also teamed up with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, with funding from the California Department of Transportation, to make improvements around the Metro Blue Line’s rail stations. The goal of the Blue Line Bike and Pedestrian Access Plan is to enhance safety for bicyclists and pedestrians within a half mile of all Blue Line stations. For more information about Long Beach and its bicycle planning, see BikeLongBeach.org.
- The authors explore the most cost-effective ways to encourage integration between bicycling and transit. Using an index to analyze a variety of possible methods for integration, they find that allowing riders to bring their bikes on board transit was the most cost-effective way to accomplish this goal. This report includes a brief description of the success that Caltrain had in integrating service for bicyclists in Santa Clara County, California into its operations.
- This synthesis explains the benefits, costs, and technical specifications associated with making bicycle connections work together with public transit. It includes results from a survey and a discussion about how bicycles can be integrated with a wide variety of different transit's forms, including bus, rail, and even ferries and mountain transit systems.
- The California Bicycle Coalition advocates for the interests of bicyclists in California. Its website offers policy resources, guidance for creating bikeways, and links to local bicycle advocacy groups. The group also often sponsors legislation to promote bicycling by making it safer. The site also includes a thorough section on complete streets.