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Stuart Donovan

This is a tough one.

Yes, successful transit will be crowded. It also will be fast; an attribute that will be negatively impacted should large quantities of bicycles need to be carried on-board transit vehicles (by virtue of their slower loading times). So the key question is how we reduce the need to take bicycles onboard?

The Velib concept has two mutual benefits:
1. Allows for one-way trips, reducing the need to take bicycles onboard; but also
2. Ameliorates the need for every body to own their own bicycle, reducing storage demands.

One other interesting aspect of "multi-modal" integration is how to integrate transit/cycle/pedestrians corridors, rather than just stations. For example, heavy rail lines often make great cycle trails.

Such trails can, of course, increase access to rail stations, while also allowing cyclists to travel longer of their own accord should the rail service not suit their need. More passive surveillance along the corridors is also an added bonus.

Kyle

It is funny, in North America those cheap Dutch style bikes seem to cost about $500 (or more!).

Dave in KY

Bicycles are so cheap that you can afford two and chain one up at each end of your commute.

Re: Bus Racks: the goal of the transit agency, and the goal of the riders are *not* the same. The transit agency wants to get high counts of usage on the racks, so they persue things like triple-bike-racks over double-bike-racks. The rider wants to know that they can get their bike on with 100% certainty, which +small number of racks can't solve.

Transit agencies: create a folding bike policy. Set some maximum size, TELL LOCAL BIKE SHOPS so they can market their folders as "XYZ Authority Compatible", and give the passengers a guaranteed boarding.

If racks are full, charge a fare for the human, and a fare for the rack. Please. A lot of rack space is almost wasted because it is given away free. If we start charging for it - at least on the runs where you *know* its going to fill, then that resource will be more efficiently allocated by the market. I realize this is controvertial, and I'm not sure about it at all. But I'm stimulating discussion. :)

Lastly, an observation: When you're walking places, getting on transit is like jumping to lightspeed - it dwarfs your self-propelled ground speed. When you're biking places, getting on transit does not really change your ground speed. At least in Louisville it doesn't. When the bus breaks down, I'm the only person who isn't late. You might ask why ride transit at all, in that case. Well, when we first moved here from "soft" Berkeley, we were afraid of the comparatively reckless & hostile Southern automobile drivers and road engineers. But we trained up, and now Transit is a flat-tire safety net we ride about once a month. We've graduated to bicycles for everything in the local Transit Authority's service area. There's your "bicycle scaling": not more capacity on the bus, but using the bus as a feeder for bicycle education programs, to get the bicyclist competent to fend for themselves.

It ain't perfect, but we don't live in a perfect world.

Mike

I grew up on back-pedal bikes here in Australia. Never trusted hand-activated brakes.

Alexis

Jarrett, this is a great post. I just started reading your blog recently and never expected to find you talking about my absolute favorite subject, bikes and transit, so soon.

The one option you didn't mention, which is potentially great for bridging the gap between lockers/cages/bikestations and racks, is electronic-access day-use lockers. These are being looked at by BART and some discussions (before I left the Bay Area) also happened with Caltrain.

Here's a BART release on them:
http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2008/news20080125a.aspx

They are not useful for the truly occasional rider, who would likely use racks and/or sharing, but they can be great for the regular but not bike-everyday rider.

Brent

In this video*, the narrator makes the point that the Dutch cycle network IS the public transportation system -- not an adjunct to some other mode, nor something that bridges gaps, nor a transport that solves a "last mile" problem, but the network itself. That approach may be a critical difference between how Dutch planners design and integrate bicycles into their landscape and the more typical afterthought they are given in other places (like Los Angeles, where I live).


*http://vimeo.com/10095272

jim

Bike sharing!

Install bike sharing stations at metro stops and spaced along the 3/4 mile radius and the 1.5 mile radius circles centred at the metro stops.

M1EK

I like bikes, and I like transit. But let's be real: if bikes make up a large part of your transit market, you're doing something very very wrong. For one thing, transit is supposed to serve not only the able-bodied, but those who can't walk long distances (guess what? those same people are not going to be able to bike long distances either).

(People are trying to spin our disastrous Red Line as a success because they run out of space for bikes on the trains - neglecting to mention that most of those who find the service even minimally useful are cyclists precisely because the service is so bad in terms of where it actually stops).

ws

I'm no fan of bikes on the sidewalk, like that in Berlin. It would be nice if only old timers used it -- but getting a slab of sidewalk that's more than 25'+ is tough to do in some cities.

Especially in Portland.

Joel Haasnoot

One thing you have to realize with the Dutch situation is that it is a combination of all of the above solutions and more. One thing that isn't mentioned but is pretty popular are foldable bikes. They are allowed on trains all day long (as opposed to normal bicycles which are only allowed on trains in off-peak times and with a 6 euro dayticket) and can be used from home to the station and from the destination station to your office. Works well, though the bikes are expensive.
A problem we have with the bike racks in the Netherlands is "bike wrecks", where bikes aren't picked up ever: there's selling of stolen bikes going on and such. The "bike repair shop + bike cage" solution is one that's being downsized in the Netherlands and automated.
Oh, and a final alternative is the Dutch version of the Parisian Velib, literally called "Public transport bike" (OV-Fiets). You buy a 10 euro / year subscription and 24 hours bike rent costs about 3 euros. The bill is sent to your house automatically, and it works quite well. You do have to return the bike to the same station however...

MU

That was quick! Thanks for addressing the topic.

With relation to "commuter rail" type lines I think there is need for a bit of mind shift in terms of parking access. You routinely see large land area devoted to auto parking with little to no bicycle parking because of the "cost". Of course, if you account for the real cost of parking, bike facilities can be competitive if not significantly cheaper. When you assign zero cost to the assumed car parking, it distorts all sorts of decisions about what facilities can be provided at collector stations.

At least in Los Angeles, the carry-on issue in more appropriate to the city wide transit system. Because we have a fairly fledgling and sparse train system, stations tend to be spaced much farther apart than the normal 1 mile walkable radius. While the bus system does serve most areas, it suffers from speed issues, especially when multiple transfers are needed. More aggressive accommodation of bikes on rail would expand ridership because the radius each station serves expands massively while still providing high speed travel. With a sparse network of stations and a system that operates below capacity for most of the day, it would seem that purposely incorporating bikes into the transit plan would benefit train operations.

One of the big frustrations is that city transportation plans (at least in a dysfunctional planning environment like Los Angeles) seem to be developed separately for each mode. Little thought is put into to linking and integrating various transit modes into a cohesive system. Each mode is built as a stand alone network which tends to miss opportunities for obvious synergies.

Finally, while sidewalk paths are perceived to be safer, they generally are more dangerous due to the sudden "appearance" of the bike in the roadway at intersections. They also tend to increase bike/ped crashes. They work fairly well in a city like Berlin blessed with wide sidewalks and huge numbers of cyclists. But rolling out a newer network I think is better served by on street, preferably protected, facilities.

RMC

The Transmilenio has 'Cicloparqueos' at its terminus stations with cycle routes leading to them. A good way to extend the reach of a stop/system, especially if it's further out.

The "Radstation Muenster" (the largest one of its kind with 3,300 spots) offers all of the above storage options. Day parking, specially secured personal parking spaces, spaces for standing customers, and rental bikes.

Matthew

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/02/crazy-bike-stor/

Saw the above a while ago (forgotten where) - looks like a pretty cool way to store a bike.

Daron

1. Set up a bike sharing system.
2. Set up every train station with one of those Japanese bike garages that take up only a closet sized space on the street.
3. Expand the sytem.

Step out of your house, grab a bike from the nearest shared rack, bike to the station, check it in, and get on the train. Get off the train, grab a different bike, and off you go.

Despite the benefits of visibility, I don't think a mass of bikes piled on top of each other or a huge bike shelter like in DC is really the answer. The Japanese bike parking towers can be vertical additions to light rail stations to add placeness or they can be buried. They just make sense. They make even more sense when they're coupled with a bike sharing system.

Daniel

In Australia, it's common for kids' bikes (up to about the age of 10-12) to be gearless and the brakes activated by pedalling backwards. Above that age they're relatively uncommon.

In Melbourne, bike cages are being rolled out at some railway stations, with mixed results. Some seem well-used. At other locations you'll see an empty cage and a crowded unsecured bike rack next door. It's not helped by the decision to have bike services and advocacy organisation Bicycle Victoria administer the scheme... which means if you notice the bike cage at your local station, and ask the on-site station staff about it, they can't help you.

http://www.parkiteer.com.au/

Loose Shunter

Jarrett, as a transport planner in Melbourne, I've had a fair bit to do with policy integrating cycling and PT and the set up and operation of the Parkiteer system that Daniel disparages with such faint praise.

The aim of Parkiteer was to try and intercept a segment of cyclists that carry their bikes on trains so as to reduce crowding on trains, especially in the AM and PM peaks. We first went after the segment that carried their bikes on trains because there was no secure parking at the station at which they joined the train. This has worked fairly well in a number of the locations where cages have been deployed, although as Daniel says, there are many thinly populated cages with overflowing bike racks adjacent, along with cages that have not performed well in areas where overall cycling rates are low. There's already been a demonstrable impact on the numbers of bikes on trains, with numbers holding steady or decreasing on all timebands over the past two years (at a time when Melbourne's metropolitan train patronage has grown by 20%).

The next stages of the project will aim at trying to intercept PT users who need a bike at the end of their journey by providing cages at stations near major trip generators. This will promote a new mindset where (as DaveinKY puts it) having a cheap bike parked at each end of the PT network is seen as a good choice for the journey to work.

The cages give a number of advantages over their locker counterparts, such as a higher level of utilisation (around 20% of all bike lockers on the Melbourne network are in use on any given weekday), lower maintenance costs (both cyclic maintenance and reactive maintenance to vandalism) and a much smaller take of land in a station precinct for the equivalent number of lockers. There's also been some interesting data from surveys of cage users that show over 50% of cage users were formerly car drivers.

A successful policy of integrating bikes with PT also includes allowing folding bikes to be carried for free on all modes. This is something Melbourne did back in 2008 and allows bikes (folded and in a bag) to be carried on trams and buses for the first time. It was an interesting process convincing the bus and tram operators that this was not a crazy idea that would lead to the end of the world! Once they saw that when folded up folding bikes were small, would not clutter up their vehicles and would not have non-cycling passengers complaining about torn cloting and chain grease on their clothes, the way ahead was smooth and easy.

Another important aspect to a bike/PT integration policy is to start studding the PT network with lots of open air racks and hoops, especially at key modal interchanges, including on-road PT services such as tram/bus or bus/bus interchanges on arterial road junctions - gaining the cooperation of local government in this process (through a mixture of funding and exhortation) is important here as local councils are both the responsible authority in the planning system and also installers of hoops and racks.

The final piece of the bike/PT integration puzzle in my experience is the provision of good bike infrastructure into the station precinct. In Melbourne we are starting to draw strong, demonstrable correlations between good bike paths to railway stations and use of Parkiteer cages. The effective engagement of local government and road agencies (responsible for off-road and on-road paths respectively) is important here. We have found that cages with good existing paths into the station have always performed well, while stations where cages have already been installed and access has been improved into the station, average daily usage increases dramatically.

LS

alexjonlin

Here in Seattle, every single bus has a three-bike rack, and each light rail car has two bike hooks and allows two people to stand with their bike. A suburban transit agency just outside of Seattle came up with a very innovative in-bus bike storage system:http://lh5.ggpht.com/_fqJLz7xLjqM/SgeqwXVkGGI/AAAAAAAABtw/BKP5FUJMmtY/484.JPG

Ted King

Re : Back-stroke braking

http://www.ehow.com/video_4946650_stingray-bicycles.html

The above page has a video showing three examples of stingray-type bikes. Some were single speed w/ the back-stroke brakes (I rebuilt one of those in my early teens), some had five gears and clamp brakes (like the bike my step-brother handed down to me), and others were tricked out in various ways. Be careful to distinguish between "Schwinn Sting-Ray" and stingray-type. At one point most boys bikes were stingray-type even though they weren't made by Schwinn (the one I inherited was made for Sears Roebuck).

More :
Schwinn Sting-Ray history page (server may be down)
http://www.schwinnstingray.com/history.html
backup">http://www.schwinnstingray.com/history.html">backup copy at the Web Archive

Ted King

Sorry, the "More :" section should be -

More :
Schwinn Sting-Ray history page (server may be down)
http://www.schwinnstingray.com/history.html
Backup copy at the Web Archive

Web Archive URL's have two "http" prefixes and I needed to change the second one to "%68ttp".

mezzanine

In vancouver all buses are equipped with a bike rack for 2 bikes. On skytrain, you can wheel bikes onto the skytrain, although i think there are rules where you can't do it with rush hour inbound flow (you can do it on emptier outbound rush hour trains, though, and on non-peak times, no restrictions, aside from pushing thru the crowds).

IMO one issue hampering more wide-spread use of bikes is BC's helmet law (cyclists have to use them, and this is occassionally enforced by police). Good and bad to this one - i see the need for a helmet for public health, but i suppose more psychologically limiting. And how will this work with any proposed bike-sharing network?

And don't people call them coaster brakes anymore? I had 'em for the 2 banana-seat bikes I had back in the day...

Alan Robinson

Jarrett, I think you may have opened a bag of worms. Cycling infastructure can be very difficult to get right. First is the issue of safety, for which the wikipedia article on segregated cycle facilities gives a good overview.

A similar problem is that most pedestrians, drivers, and many cyclists, hold a one-size fits all philosophy to cycling infastructure. As a fairly fast cyclist, I will prefer cycling in heavy mixed traffic to being forced onto a bike path designed for slow bicycles. A driver in the mixed traffic with me will not understand why I don't use the dedicated infastructure.

I'm also skeptical of bicycle sharing programs. Riding an improperly sized bicycle, or especially riding with an improperly sized saddles, can be an unenjoyable experience, especially for tall people like myself. I'd be curious to try the Parisian Velib or similar systems to see how the resolve this issue, or whether one can use their own saddle on these bicycles.

Jospeh E

Jarrett, most bikes sold in the USA are in the under $200 category, even for adult bikes. A visit to any Walmart or Target will show plenty of low-quality, Chinese-made bikes at those prices. They even look like more expensive mountain bikes or cruiser bikes, with multiple gears, full suspensions and even disk breaks. Of course, they are assembled by Walmart employees and are often badly adjusted.

The "cheap" bikes in Europe often cost $400 to $600 new, and many have three speeds rather than just one. I read that the average bike insurance claim for a stolen bike there is $400, which accounts for depreciation, so many +$1000 bikes are being used and parked at train stations in those countries.

Amercians are currently happy spending $10,000 per year on car transportation costs, but can't imagine spending $1000 on a bike, which they think of as a toy or recreational item. As transportation, even a $1000 bike is cheaper than a monthly transit pass for a year.

MU

@Alan Robinson - I would agree with pretty much everything you say...provided you remove the word "cycling". It's true infrastructure is difficult to get right. It doesn't surprise me that cycling is any different. But the big difference with cycling infrastructure is how vastly cheaper it is to install than nearly any other method of increasing capacity.

This is where I think transit agencies miss opportunities. Many seem to view the job being to get the passenger to a station rather than to a destination (present company excluded of course). While no replacement for a well designed, extensive PT system, a well integrated cycle plan can vastly increase a transit system's reach and usefulness for large numbers of people. And it can do it for minimal cost.

As is often the case, a big part of the problem is likely that DOTs in charge of roads operate independently of transit agencies, at least in the US. Building multiple transportation networks with little coordination is rarely a recipe for success.

Jarrett's point about successful transit being crowded is of course relevant. But I suspect that the problem of bikes on transit is largely based on trying to take an object onto a vehicle that was not designed with that in mind. Plan from the beginning and I believe solutions will be apparent.

Of course, the bicycle industry could also stand to improve their game too. In the US we are just beginning to see a focus on cycling as transportation rather than sport. When a new light rail line opened in Los Angeles recently, one local shop celebrated by offering a discount to anyone with a ticker from that line. People in both the bike shops and transit area were all a bit shocked by the novelty of that idea...

Jason

The 'two bikes' model, of parking a bike at both ends of your transit trip, could work...

But it could also be falling into the trap of assuming transit is just for commuting. A great transit system allows me to take oddly-shaped trips at unexpected hours.

I guess it is part of a solution. There is not going to be any one magic bullet.

If only the bike sharing schemes showed any real promise. They are 'swiss army knives'. What I mean by that is that they are an engineering solution that is always there when you need it, right in your pocket! (Or, in this case right outside your train station). The problem is the technico-practical compromises that are forced on the user by dint of ever present convenience.

Noone who regularly uses a knife would use their swiss army knife's knife.
Noone who regularly uses a screwdriver would use the one on their swiss army knife.
Noone who intends to regularly ride will use a bike sharing scheme. They know what i feels like to use a tool designed for speed and comfort, rather than theft prevention.

And yes, I did invent the term 'technico-practical'. I hereby release it into the wilds of the internet.

John Murphy

Bikes on Board.

http://holierthanyou.blogspot.com/2008/10/caltrain-bikers-holier-than-caltrain.html

QED.

In the case of Caltrain, the passenger seats are rarely full (usually only when a peak commute train aligns with a baseball game that draws non-commuters). We fought hard for added bike capacity and ridership in the bike cars went up 30% - because there was more room and riders were not denied passage - at a time when overall ridership went down 10%.

Your mileage may vary. Caltrain is particularly suited for this type of usage in that the line does not service a typical "Suburban residence to urban job center" corridor - the "suburbs" are the home of Apple, Google, Yahoo, Intel, etc... and many of those tech workers live in San Francisco. Either way part of your commute is in San Mateo or Santa Clara counties which have dismal feeder service (San Franciscans love to malign its MUNI bus service but it is very comprehensive and has reasonable frequency even though it pales in comparison to a bicycle). Parking at suburban stations is cheap and therefore oversubscribed. Bikes on Board Caltrain is a huge win for the system.

Note that in addition to the on-board cyclists, Caltrain does provide substantial bike locker capacity and there is staffed valet parking at the San Francisco terminus. When capacity issues for bikes became very severe in 2008, Caltrain pushed to expand these off-board services. The ridership pushed back in that for many, open-jaw trips with multiple stops make a bike-on-board substantially more convenient. Additionally, not all trains make all stops and the distance between stops is trivial for a cyclist. If you have a bike waiting at a downstream station, and you miss the train that stops there, you could be waiting on the upstream end for an hour to get the next train to get to your stored bike.

julia

Two bikes is a non-solution for me and my family. We are car-free and need functional bikes (I'll pass on the pre-broken-for-your-convenience Walmart model, thanks) at our home. My commute requires a transit trip (because I'm not ALLOWED to ride my bike across the Bay Bridge) and I ride 5 miles over San Francisco hills on the other side- again, a setting where a decent bike is the only way to make a decent trip. Besides the expense (maybe 500-800 isn't a lot for some people, but it is here in grad student land), I challenge ANYONE to find me a safe place to lock a bike at Civic Center BART. Just like I need to know there will be space for my bike on a bus, I need to know the 2nd most expensive thing I own will still be there every day.

Nathanael

It's all a good idea! In my neighborhood, however, we need to start with WALKING facilities. There are no sidewalks and the road speed limit is 50 miles per hour. Can you imagine?

Nathanael

@MU: "But the big difference with cycling infrastructure is how vastly cheaper it is to install than nearly any other method of increasing capacity. "

Actually, I'm fairly sure increasing pedestrian capacity remains the cheapest.

Nathanael

@Julia: "My commute requires a transit trip (because I'm not ALLOWED to ride my bike across the Bay Bridge)"

Blatantly, the Bay Bridge needs a full two-way bikeway. This could exit into special ramps at either end; the SF approach already has special bus ramps, formerly for streetcars. It also needs a full pedestrian path.

This could be done pretty easily by taking away, say, two lanes of traffic. But noooo, traffic lanes are HOLY ARTIFACTS which must NEVER BE REMOVED and must ALWAYS BE WIDENED....

Tom Ed White

I've spent several years experimenting with possible solutions to the last mile problem. I've tried many things on for size: folding bikes, electric bikes, even folding electric bikes.

An excellent solution to many logistical problems is a high quality folding kick scooter. It solves the three problems raised in this post. For distances up to two miles, a high performance scooter can match a bike in point to point travel time. If the segments between origin, transit, and destination are under two miles, the scooter can solve the problems raised in this post.

From origin to the transit stop, the only requirement is pavement. The scooter works well on sidewalks, bike lanes, and greenways. It's light enough to carry over obstacles.

At the transit stop, the scooter eliminates the need for parking, since it can easily be carried onto transit.

On board, the folded scooter will fit under the seat, between knees, or on your lap. It's small size and light weight make it easy to carry on and off, and manage in tight spaces.

At the destination, portability really comes in handy. Being able to carry it into work places, bars, and restaurants eliminates security and parking issues. It's also possible to spontaneously hitch a lift, if friends or co-workers are going some place interesting.

Tom Ed White

I've spent several years experimenting with possible solutions to the last mile problem. I've tried many things on for size: folding bikes, electric bikes, even folding electric bikes.

An excellent solution to many logistical problems is a high quality folding kick scooter. It solves the three problems raised in this post. For distances up to two miles, a high performance scooter can match a bike in point to point travel time. If the segments between origin, transit, and destination are under two miles, the scooter can solve the problems raised in this post.

From origin to the transit stop, the only requirement is pavement. The scooter works well on sidewalks, bike lanes, and greenways. It's light enough to carry over obstacles.

At the transit stop, the scooter eliminates the need for parking, since it can easily be carried onto transit.

On board, the folded scooter will fit under the seat, between knees, or on your lap. It's small size and light weight make it easy to carry on and off, and manage in tight spaces.

At the destination, portability really comes in handy. Being able to carry it into work places, bars, and restaurants eliminates security and parking issues. It's also possible to spontaneously hitch a lift, if friends or co-workers are going some place interesting.

bike storage

For the best possible solution - local cycling profiles should be analyzed and executed... I see too much emphasis on athlete biking these days, which has killed off the interest in casual biking for middle-age people and those who would like to cycle to work but can't because of the competitive speed-status! Nice post by the way!

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