Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

Bikes on Buses

Taking your bike on the bus is a convenient way to extend the range of commuting options on public transit.

For the past year or so, I’ve been taking the bus to work, and I ride my bike to and from the bus stop and the El Monte bus station.  Combining a bike with the bus is a great way to extend the range of usefulness for commuters—something transportation wonks call “multimodal” commuting—combining two or more modes of commuting.  All Metro, Foothill Transit, and Orange County (OCTA) busses have racks on the front that hold up to two bikes.  They’re easy to use, and Metro has helpful guidelines for using these racks.

On the bus rack, your bike is held securely in place by a spring-loaded arm that clamps down on the bike’s front tire and keeps the bike secure.  The only downside to this design (and it’s a minor one) is that it may not be compatible with a bike’s front cargo rack, such as a porteur rack, or a randonneuring rack, that extends over the top of the front wheel; and if you have a plastic front fender on your bike, it might get bent or cracked by the spring arm.  Since I use fenders on my bike to keep my clothes from getting splashed on my commute, I had the front one trimmed by my bike shop so that it does not extend past the front fork, and, voila, I keep my front fender and secure my bike to the bus rack with no problem.  Because your bike tires sit in a tire slot on the rack, it doesn’t matter what kind of top tube you have, and there is no problem with having a rear rack or rear panniers on your bike.

Another potential issue is that the racks only hold two bikes, and on busier routes, you may be stuck waiting for the next bus if the rack is full.  This is something to consider, especially if you and a friend want to bike together to the bus.  Local bicycle advocates are currently lobbying MTA to install 3-bike racks on their busses, but it may take some time before this lobbying effort achieves results.  However, in the last two years, I’ve always been able to find space on the bus racks on my two bus routes to work (knock on wood), and I appreciate the ability to take my bike on the bus.  I can read, text, talk on the phone, or do work on the bus, and I don’t have to hassle with traffic, parking, or the wasted time behind the wheel.

The bus racks can’t accommodate outsized bikes such as tandems, recumbents, cargo bikes, or trikes, but will accommodate just about any standard two-wheeled bicycle.  The racks make it easy to take your bike on the bus, and, in my experience, the drivers are more than happy to wait while you mount or dismount your bike.

The bus-bike combo is a great way to extend your commuting options and leave your car at home.


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