COMMENTARY AND OTHER OPINION
Bikes Plus Racks Equal Bus Riders
By Melinda Tuhus
[This article ran in the Hartford Courant August 02, 2001]
In mid-July, I wheeled my loaded touring bike into the
baggage car of the Amtrak train I was taking from New Haven to Burlington,
Vt., for a cycling vacation.
The train was due to arrive around dusk, and I pictured
myself riding a few blocks through the streets of that small city to
my friends' house. But the train was an hour late, and it didn't go
to Burlington as I'd thought, but to Essex Junction, almost 10 miles
I was faced with the unappealing prospect of riding
a convoluted route in the dark down a highway with no shoulder, with
rain threatening - not an auspicious beginning.
Then the station master said, "Or you could wait
20 minutes for a city bus."
All buses serving the greater Burlington area are equipped
with front racks to hold two bikes. A little before 10 p.m., the bus
rolled up with one bike already aboard. In 15 seconds, I had secured
mine to the second rack, paid the standard bus fare of one dollar -
no charge for the bike - and 20 minutes later arrived at my friends'
As a lifelong pleasure cyclist and a daily bicycle commuter
for the past 15 years in Connecticut, there have been plenty of times
when I would have appreciated being able to throw my bike on a bus rack
- when it rained, when I got a flat tire, when I made some bulky purchases
in town that wouldn't fit in my backpack.
Yet Connecticut is one of just a handful of states that
provides no bike racks on its fleets of buses.
Federal transportation data show that commuters will
walk an average of one-quarter mile to a bus stop, but they will bike
up to 2.5 miles to a stop. They could then either lock their bikes at
the stop and hop on the bus, or put their bikes on a rack and continue
their bike commute at the other end of the bus ride.
That option would increase commuter flexibility, but
would only be feasible if all the buses in a region were fitted with
Many large cities have equipped their entire fleets
with bike racks, including Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Tucson, Ariz.; Miami;
San Jose, Calif.; and San Diego, according to Sportworks, the largest
provider of such racks. A company spokeswoman says 40 percent of public
buses in the United States and Canada now have bike racks - double the
number of five years ago.
This "multi-modal" transportation model contributes
significantly to easing traffic congestion, as well as increasing recreational
So what's up with Connecticut? Connecticut Transit is
scheduled to do a pilot project this fall, putting bike racks on all
36 buses in Stamford. Most of the money for bike racks comes from federal
transportation dollars funneled through the states.
Transportation planners and state officials are wringing
their hands over the gridlock in our state. But when it came time to
create a transportation strategy board in the General Assembly this
year, no cycling representatives were included, although the Connecticut
Bicycle Coalition and the newer, broader Transportation Choices Coalition
of Connecticut have been working to improve bike access to mass transit
and thereby ease congestion.
Bicycle advocates need to increase their outreach and
keep up the pressure on elected representatives and regional planning
bodies to come up with workable solutions to our transportation woes.
Let's hope the bike racks on Stamford buses soon multiply
to all our urban areas.
Melinda Tuhus of New Haven is a free-lance writer
and communications director for Connecticut Fund for the Environment,
which sponsors the Transportation Choices Coalition of Connecticut.