Wednesday, January 13, 2010

bikes on buses...?

in december a couple of local san francisco blogs told a story of a young man getting aboard a MUNI bus after having put his bike on the front of the bus. he sat in the front by the driver, and then suddenly jumped off the bus. his bike had been stolen from the rack.

i personally get very paranoid about either of my bikes on MUNI. i don't like to do it, and definitely go out of my way to not put my bike on the bus. however, sometimes you just need to.

baby as bus ornament by busbozo

i talked to a few SF people and asked them how they felt. one of them was someone you know, meligrosa. she claimed a certain bus line was worse than others and generally agreed with my paranoia while on the bus.

muni bike by meligrosa

i also talked to a friend of the blog, *honeychild*, and she also expressed a paranoia, along with a potential solution:

HC: oh man
yeah i've never put mine on muni but i put it on the ac transbay bus
i've locked it to the rail before but the bus driver doesnt like that
because it takes too long
he honked at me
me: haha
yeah, it sucks
HC: so now i put my u-lock on the front tire and down tube before the bus gets here
me: i was more paranoid about my road bike
i only did it cause the tire got flat
HC: it's not going to stop that but it's something

and yet another friend conveyed his thoughts on the matter: i'm ambivalent. i always wonder what's stopping someone from just taking it.

so what about you dear readers: if you are a multi-modal commuter, do you feel paranoid about leaving your bike on the bus rack every day? what would make you feel comfortable taking your bike on the bus?


  1. We have a similar system of bikes on the front of buses here in Toronto. I definitely feel it is a good idea but it makes me nervous too! I haven't done it that often, and thankfully the buses weren't overly crowded so I was able to keep a watch on my bike. I'm afraid it is going to fall off and get crushed under the bus because the racks seem so feeble! It also doesn't help that the bus drivers generally disdain cyclists.
    I love your blog so much it always brightens my day after I read it! Thank you for your beautiful perspectives!

  2. I try to use the inner rack because it is more stable and the bikie is less likely to fall off from there (even though those racks are so rickety appearing, I doubt the bike would fall off if I have put it on correctly). My big revelation was when I had my bike and Una's as well. I had to bungee them together to keep mu super heavy bike from swaying around so much. Lashing the bikes together made them more stable but also made them impossible to just take off the front.

    Mostly I don't use the bus. My Batavus is just not terribly compatible with racks. It is meant to stay on the ground : )

  3. I have used the racks on the bus in Portland from time to time, and while I have heard of a couple bikes being stolen in this manner, it doesn't seem to be a major problem, so I've never been terribly worried about it.

    I think using a lock to prevent one of the wheels from turning is a good idea (a rear frame lock makes that super convenient, just click it shut before you lift your bike up).

    Other than that, I don't know that there's too much you can do, but I think this may be a case of the bad interactions sticking out and overshadowing the huge majority of times when it isn't a problem at all.

    Certainly it might depend on which areas of town you're going through, or if the bus stops for any extended period during your ride (at a transit center, for instance).

  4. As a reader from London in the UK I can only say how incredibly jealous I am that we don't have the rack system here. Multi-method-transport isn't an option. You either ride or take public transport. On a really long journey or if I had to go up a steep hill, I'd be prepared to chance it.

  5. First of all, I wish bus lines would magically turn into light rail. World's not perfect though.

    In Santa Barbara, it feels safe to leave my bike unlocked. I admit I can be too trusting sometimes though.

    My biggest problem with putting my bike on the bus is when the amount of cyclists exceeds the carrying capacity. For example, I was taking the bus home at 9PM and all the racks were FULL. Was I supposed to leave my bike at the bus stop??? There wasn't even safe parking nearby.

    Lucky a gentleman left and removed his bike. OK, I sort of complained for a minute. Not sure if the cyclist dude left because of me of not. (Thank you!)

    P.S. Love the last photo there!

  6. I put my bike on a bus once here in Fresno and had no problem. In fact the bus driver got out and helped me as I had never seen it done before.

  7. mind you before my knee sabatical, last i'd take muni like once ever 3 years. and everytime yes, I sit all the way to the front eyeballing its every move.
    I used to take the AC bus transbay when I worked in berkeley and back to the city, but i doubt anyone would come to steal it while on the bay bridge...
    have never heard of such thing though. times must be really tough -

  8. I rarely put my bike on the bus but have talked to the drivers about it here and there.

    One of them had the recommendation to shift (if you're into that kind of thing) into your lowest gear so that the potential thief can't just hope on and take off fast.

    If you don't have a lock you could get your hands dirty and drop your chain off the chainring... but really locking a wheel so it can't be ridden is about the most practical thing, no?

    I remember taking a bus from Arcata to Prairie Creek redwoods... my touring bike had a Tubus Tara front rack and it was a real struggle to secure on a bus rack. At least I didn't have an Xtracycle.

  9. Good idea to lock the bike to itself to at last hobble a potential thief.

    I've never worried about it in Santa Cruz. I've heard there have been bike thefts off of VTA buses in the South Bay lately.

  10. Natalie,

    As I remember front bike racks aren't legal in the UK but rear ones are and I've seen them on busses in the south of England, Exeter I think. I did have three in my garage last year because the local Sustrans guy had a fire in his workshop and I was looking after them.

    I prefer to use a Brompton and keep it beside me.

  11. No paranoia. But there was this one time when Don had to put his gigantic Pashley on the front and it didn't fit properly. I'm not sure the rack was designed for that style of bike and certainly not in that size. As the bus was going downhill I swear the bike was going to pop off and the bus would run it over.

    BUT, it just bounced around precariously the whole time and no bike casualty!

    I'm just self conscious about everybody watching and being impatient while I get the thing to go down and haul Pashley onto it.