TriMet looks into three-bike rack options for buses

Posted by on December 18th, 2007 at 1:16 pm

TriMet bus with rack

Current TriMet buses
can hold two bikes.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

Looking for ways to add capacity for riders that like to bus and bike, TriMet officials say they’re currently testing racks that would hold three bikes (current racks have room for two bikes).

However, according to TriMet stategic planner Eric Hesse, initial testing has given them reason to pause. He says they have evaluated two different models and that “unfortunately, neither yet meet our needs.”

Hesse says the major challenge is that the wider and deeper three-bike racks significantly reduce the turning clearance, or what he calls the “dynamic envelope” of the buses. “The amount of this change is much greater than we can safely incorporate on a number of our routes.”

The VeloPorter 3 by Sportworks is
used by Metro Transit in Seattle.

Hesse also pointed out other safety concerns, like headlights and turn signals being blocked, and in some cases, bikes have fallen off the rack (both while the bus was in operation and when bikes are removed by riders).

Up in Seattle, King County Metro Transit has used three-bike racks since last February. Recently though, they’ve also had issues of bikes falling off the racks.

That situation has caused them to add an additional safety strap and in some cases, the three-bike racks are being removed until the design can be improved.

Both King County Metro and TriMet are working with Seattle-based rack manufacturer Sportworks to improve the design.

On that note, Hesse says, “Hopefully we can fix these design and functional challenges since we are interested in expanding our bus bike rack capacity.”

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28 Comments
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    Todd Boulanger December 18, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Yes…I agree that the triple Sport Works rack has a conflict with bus turn signals…I was looking at LA buses this weekend and they had this problem.

    I am not sure what Sportworks is doing about this design safety shortcoming.

    perhaps the bus companies should just add racks as part of the design process…since these racks are here to stay…or add a higher set of turn signals.

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    Hanmade December 18, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Why does the rack have to be on the front? Why not put the rack on the back of the bus, with a signal device for the cyclist to use, letting know the driver that the bike has been removed?

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    Mike December 18, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Hanmade,
    If they were on the back of the bus, I could see bikes being stolen very easily. This is really a no visibility area of the bus. The key is finding a rack system that is integrated into all new buses.

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    anonymous December 18, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    I think having the bikes on the back of the bus would not solve any of the problems at hand, and would actually compound those problems with the fact that the driver couldn\’t see what\’s going on.

    Maybe we could have bike racks on the top, and like some robotic stairs that come out of the side of the bus. And a ramp that comes out of the other side so you could just ride off the top! When I become mayor…

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    JayS. December 18, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    How many bikes running parallel to the bus (instead of perpendicular) could fit between the lights? I would think three. Only the center bike would be more challenging to put on and off.

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    Jeff December 18, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    How about people ride those bikes instead of putting them on the bus?

    It would be interesting to see a study of people who use the bike option on the bus in terms of where they\’re coming from, going to, and how much bike riding they do at either end… More data in general about the usage modes.

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    Josh December 18, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    hey so Eugene (Lane County Transit) has some 3 bike racks that look very similar to the 2 bike system. They don\’t appear to block any lights or be that much bigger than the 2 bike ones. In fact they are lighter because they don\’t have the rediculously heavy adds on them. availability was a problem before and this really helps.

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    true December 18, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Do we really need triple racks?

    Seems to me more buses than not go by with racks unused. -yes, I\’m aware that this is purely anecdotal evidence, and would not hold up in court-

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    Matthew December 18, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    The Lewis & Clark shuttle bus has racks on the rear.

    http://www.lclark.edu/~piolog/05-09-16/current_issue.htm#3

    \”In order to have a bike rack in the rear, Oregon law states that the bus driver must exit the bus and supervise the passenger placing the bicycle on the rack. Morgan hopes to avoid this requirement by installing television cameras on the back of the bus so the driver can watch the rear bike rack. Morgan has sent his plans to Raz and is awaiting a reply.\”

    (And if I was putting my bike on the rear bike rack, I\’d lock it to the rack.)

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    Bicycledave December 18, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    I put my bike on the bus almost daily. My commute is about 11 miles each way with about 5 miles by bus one way. I usually only take the bus before work and bike all the way home. The main reason is because of a big hill. If I bike up the hill I\’ll be very sweaty by the time I reach work. There are many other reasons. It\’s nice to be able to read on the way to work, once my tire was flat when I reached the bus stop, when it\’s raining hard I stay a lot dryer etc.

    My route is pretty quiet at the time I take it so I haven\’t been bumped because of a full rack yet, but I was almost bumped on Barber Blvd.. Luckily the driver let me bring the bike on the bus.

    I also take the bus from my work in outer SW to my dentist in NE. I would have to take too much time off work to bike that far.

    I like having the rack on the front so I can keep an eye on my bike at the stops. Heard about a guy who got off the bus only to find his bike gone. The driver said a guy came from the back door and ran up to the front and grabbed the bike.

    I\’d hate to get bumped when I\’m trying to get somewhere, but not sure how to get more capacity. Maybe a video camera to keep an eye on a rack in the rear. There\’s a Lewis and Clark bus with front and rear racks.

    Best would be a big corral on top of the bus with the ramp idea mentioned earlier. It could cover the whole roof of the bus and have a keg of local microbrew and a bbq in one corner with a putting green in the middle. Portland\’s version of the double decker.

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    Axe December 18, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    I remember riding a bus with a full rack up in Olympia. Another cyclist showed up and the bus driver told them they could bring their bike on if they took off the front wheel and the seat, because that makes it technically \”bike parts\” and not a bike. He also said most bus drivers wouldn\’t let them do that, but does anybody know if there\’s a similar rule in Portland?

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    shhambo December 18, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Um yeah, three racks is a great idea. I go to PCC Sylvania. And the racks do fill up in the morning.
    I ride 5 miles to downtown. Take my bike on the bus up the hill and ride the 15 miles home after school.
    And, even with the bus ride, by the 4rth day of my commute, my legs are sore. Without the bus, I would be biking fewer days a week to let my legs rest. So until I\’m super macho and fit like you, I will let the bus take me up the hill. And I think the other students with bikes on the buses and shuttles will agree.

    I look forward to seeing what they come up with.
    what about putting permanent signals on the front of the bike racks.

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    true December 18, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Bicycledave: \”Best would be a big corral on top of the bus with the ramp idea mentioned earlier. It could cover the whole roof of the bus and have a keg of local microbrew and a bbq in one corner with a putting green in the middle. Portland\’s version of the double decker.\”

    I feel foolish for having doubted the necessity of increased bike capacity. This is clearly the way to go. I would use it every day.

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    Jason December 18, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Ummm…hmmm…Well, covering the headlights or having the bike fall of the rack ranks right up there in the \”fatal flaw\” category. Kudos to Tri-Met for looking into it!

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    bottombracket December 18, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    The Portland Community College shuttle system has a triple rack on their Cascade to Sylvania shuttle that I use all the time. It does not appear to be that much bigger than one of the double racks that Tri-Met uses (maybe a little wider to offset the two inner bikes set in the same direction for safety reasons), and I have never had a problem with bicycles falling off (uses the same holding devices as the doubles). Its good to have because there are often three riders trying to get from one campus to the other!

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    Todd B December 18, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    The triple racks are wider and deeper.

    One of the good outcomes of the new triple rack designs is that they (so far) do not have advertising panels…which are pretty heavy and can be a pain to lift on the double racks.

    I have seen Trimet and CTRAN (and other agencies) drivers allow riders to bring bikes in side a bus when the racks are full. Agencies usually leave this up to the operator and is pretty rare…usually late at night, in isolated areas, or involve female riders (in my limited experience). The interior layouts of existing inner city buses do not make them bike friendly…more parallel flip up seats would be best.

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    Tim K December 19, 2007 at 12:19 am

    We have the three bike racks on a number of our buses in Seattle. The need is there — the big issue I know about is getting from Seattle across the 520 floating bridge (no bikes allowed) to all the tech jobs in Redmond. During the summer you can sit for 40 minutes at the last stop before the bridge and watch a dozen buses go by with full racks.

    However, the three bikes racks, to put it bluntly, SUCK. They aren\’t the answer. The wheel trays are cheapo plastic and they flex all over the place. Even if the bikes don\’t fall off, a heavy bike is a challenge to mount. I find it hard to believe these are designed by the same sportworks company (but apparently they are)

    Forget about an Xtracycle (something I\’ve put on the two-bike racks a number of times). The trays are too short, too flexy, and the drivers too afraid to let you take the time to get it on there (using an extra strap as needed).

    Short term I don\’t have any answers. Maybe they can retrofit metal trays to these racks. They are useless to me int he current configuration. Frankly, it\’s a bummer to be waiting for a bus and hoping it\’s a two-bike rack, only to have the 3-slot arrive.

    Long term, I like Todd Boulanger\’s idea of having the bus manufacturers integrate rack designs into the buses. The racks are here to stay. I imagine the first wheelchair lifts were aftermarket — now it\’s common to have them delivered as part of the bus.

    FYI: Here are a couple bus-rack threads from the Cascade Bike Club forums:

    http://cascade.org/Community/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=14&threadid=8981
    and
    http://cascade.org/Community/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=13&threadid=8992

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    Elly Blue December 19, 2007 at 9:08 am

    If bike racks are getting too full (and buses too packed to allow us to carry bikes on board when the racks are full), perhaps it would be effective to simply run more buses on these routes during peak times. I\’d love to hear from TriMet folks if this possibility has been thrown into the analytical mix.

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    Spencer December 19, 2007 at 10:27 am

    This discussion is starting to sound alot like the MAX discussion a few months back in how bike centric it is. Trimet has a ton of constituencies and special interest groups to accomodate already, so lets not wear out our welcome by vigorously complaining about improvements. Just say \”thank you\” and offer constructive advice.

    Another thought, get a fold up commuter bike like a Bike Friday Tikit, Dahon or Brompton which you can take on the bus with you. Then you don\’t need to worry about the rack at all. You see this in alot of european cities, and I don\’t remember seeing any bike racks.

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    William December 19, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    The Yuba-Sutter inter-city buses between Marysville and Sacramento (Calif.) have the white metal triple racks, which work fine, no bikes falling off and no blocking of headlamps. Bike-bus multi-mode is popular and often the racks are full. There was a report one rider paid another $10 for his slot on the rack, so she could get to work on time!

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    graves December 19, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Axe – There is a rule according to the driver on my route that states that bikes are not allowed inside the buses because it is a safety issue. Something about the bike becoming a projectile in the event of a collision… Makes sense.

    If three bike racks don\’t work, I don\’t see another solution. There is no way I\’d put my bike on the back. Could you have racks on the sides?

    Bikes parallel to the bus would make the dynamic range problem worse.

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    Opus the Poet December 19, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Again I have to ask why you guys are complaining? Here in Dallas TX there is exactly one (1) bus equipped with a bike rack, but nobody can use it because you have to have a permit from the bus authority to put your bike on it and they haven\’t held the class. Besides for me it\’s pretty useless anyway as it won\’t hold my Stratus LWB recumbent. How are the racks in PDX for LWB \’bents?

    Opus

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    anomalily December 20, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Eugene Oregon uses three-bike racks that are pretty much the same as the two bike racks currently used in Portland. They seem to work well, and I\’ve never felt sketchy about them.

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    Hasty December 21, 2007 at 12:58 am

    What about racks in the rear,
    video camera for the driver,
    and some sort of locking mechanism that locks the bike so that the driver has control. when you say \”hey I\’m going to grab my bike from the back\”, they recognize you and will be able too pess a button that will keep it unlocked which will enable you to release the lever. I feel like this would solve a lot of problems with simple technology.
    I depend on the bus/bike combo, we need more racks because we need more people to stop driving as much.

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    zilfondel December 23, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    I bus/biked once from NW Portland to Tigard, where my work was on Barbur.

    On my way home, 3 buses bumped me because their racks were full. I had to wait about an hour and a half before I could get on.. although also 2 buses never showed up. 12-Barbur line just sucks ass.

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    amphibian December 26, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    How about some sort of hanging rack? I haven\’t figured out the logistics, but it seems to me you could increase bike capacity and actually decrease the amount the rack sticks out. Unfortunately recumbents and xtracycles would likely have problems.

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    Jim O'Horo January 7, 2008 at 9:37 am

    It would be great to have more bike capacity on busses (and MAX), but Seattle\’s problems with their 3-bike racks have reached the point where they\’ve REMOVED the 3-bike racks from busses. See: http://transit.metrokc.gov/tops/bike/loadbike.html

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    NGW January 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    The biggest problem is the mfg of these racks the rack Tim K is refering to is called the Veloporter 3 by Sportworks and to call it crap would be kind. I have seen the ratcheting arm that holds the bike in place break off at the spot welds. and reports of bikes falling off because of this. I have also seen the tube frame snap in half on these racks. I my opinion dont use these racks espcially if you have a expensive bike that you dont have run over by the bus because rack failed.

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