Folding bikes vs. the bus: experience report

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sprite
Participant
#

Yesterday I wanted to try my Bike Friday Tikit on a bus rack from downtown to Oakland and see if it was stable with those teeny wheels (it was) but in the process found some bus drivers are not hip to the long-standing policy “folders can ride rackless buses”.

– First bus that came by had a rack but didn’t feel like letting anyone on.. haha. Won’t count that one.

– 61c with no rack, I figured I’d catch it and run the experiment later, folded my bike and started to board and the driver wouldn’t let me on. He said the bus running behind him was a 61 with a rack. Fine I like to hear that I can hop an empty bus instead, but as a courtesy which I’ll take yinz up on, please. Not as “not allowed period”.

– 61b with rack, 1 other passenger (are we counting empty buses in our T vs bus discussion? Heh )

Very patient driver waited while I UNfolded the bike again and figured out the rack. He agreed with the other driver’s statement relayed by me that folding bikes are “not allowed ” regardless of rack status.

I actually had a brochure with me but wasn’t feeling up to a confrontation / reeducation. Next time though because this is lame. Not surprising mind you but still lame.


erok
Keymaster
#

not surprising. growing pains with these people. there sometimes seems to be a severe disconnect between those who make the decisions and those who can change their mind based on their mood.

keep us updated on the experiment! if you have more trouble, please let us know.


netviln
Participant
#

Considering the following:

http://www.portauthority.org/PAAC/CustomerInfo/RacknRoll/tabid/267/Default.aspx

It seems there is a disconnect between what PAT policies are and what the drivers think the policies are.


cburch
Participant
#

hmmm a little driver training would seem to be in order….


rsprake
Participant
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What a pain. I have used the rack & roll racks twice now. Good experience both times but man is it stressful seeing my bike bounce around.


dwillen
Participant
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If it makes you feel any better, usually they just drive by without any eye contact if they think there is an empty bus behind them, whether you have a bike or not.

Do these racks work if I have a front fender on my bike? It only sticks out about 7 inches or so beyond the fork. Do I put the bar on top of that? in front of it? I don’t think it would fit under, but I guess I could force it?


Mick
Participant
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I have a pretty good fender on my bike, but was able to use the racks when I flatted out of the tweed ride. As with rsprake, the stability was a little worrysome.

If I use the racks, say, once or twice a month, I would cut the fender back a few inches. That front part doesn’t really do much.

Mick


ieverhart
Participant
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I’ve used the racks when I’ve gotten a flat, and was always borderline freaking out that my bike would fall off and get crushed. Another question that occurred to me when I had it loaded on was what if I’m at the back of the bus, and someone steals it from the rack on the front. I guess the driver is supposed to know whose bike is whose, but they’ve got a lot of other things to worry about, and can’t be paying exclusive attention to that. But I guess if Stu uses the racks, they must be OK.


scott
Keymaster
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I’ve used the racks a ton with fenders and have never had a problem. Ian, the bike will not fall off the bus as long as you make sure the wheels are in the dishes and the spring-loaded hook is over the front wheel. As for making sure your bike doesn’t get stolen. Well, I haven’t heard of that even happening in cities with major bike theft problems. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it would most likely be a very rare occurrence.


Steven
Participant
#

I put the bar just in front of my fender. It seems to hold on just fine. One driver suggested I put the bar on top instead, but I haven’t tried that.

Informing a driver of the new policy is worth trying, but I don’t think it’ll convince many drivers. Rather than arguing, just note down the bus #, time, route, and driver # if you can, and send in a complaint.

I’ve never heard of a bike being stolen off a bus’s rack. The buses are equipped with cameras, so a thief would have to be pretty brazen and/or stupid. The Rack’n’Roll instructions say to sit near the front where you can keep an eye on your bike, for what that’s worth.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

Another Reason To Wear A Helmet Department:

It’s a lot easier for the bus driver to figure out who the owner of the bike is if the passenger trying to take the bike is wearing a helmet, gloves and a blaze-orange vest.

+1 Steven

ACTC is actively working with Port Authority to resolve differences between policy and practice. The folding bikes one is new to me, but I’ll pass it along. The issue we’ve been following a while is that buses marked Ross Garage (or one of the others) ARE INDEED supposed to stop and pick you up, if you make it known you wish to board, esp. if you have a pretty good idea where the bus is going. Example: Inbound Second Ave at Technology Drive at 5pm on a weekday, there are about 15 buses that say West Mifflin Garage or 67J or some other route obviously are going Downtown, but just try getting one to open the door, even if they’re already stopped at the light and it’s raining. *sigh*


scott
Keymaster
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I was just cc’d on an email to two dozen port authority folks to post and review the bike policy (including folding bikes) with all of the operators. Please let us know if you continue to have problems.


rsprake
Participant
#

I put the bar just in front of my fender. It seems to hold on just fine.

This is what I do too.

Once with my heavier Long Haul Trucker the driver must have been doing 50+ on the busway and it stayed on. I was in the back and couldn’t see it.

With my lighter single speed bike I could see it bouncing around in the rack and I was terrified that it was going to hop right off the bus.


Nick D
Participant
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Scott, that was fast!


spakbros
Participant
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I rode the 54C all the way across town only to realize once I got off that the hook had fallen off the front wheel and the bike was flopping around like a ragdoll the whole time.

The only issue I would even worry about after that would not be whether or not it would fall off, but rather how out of true my wheels would be after all that lateral pressure on them.

Any insight there?


Impala26
Participant
#

And the only request I pass on to Stu and Scott is to inquire to the necessary PAT worker or other official if there is any rough timetable in installing bike racks on 100% of the buses.

Stu already knows I’ve been harping on this, but I’m convinced the system could practically DOUBLE its effectiveness if this were the case versus what we have now. I know it’s not a big deal if you’re catching a 61 or 71 series bus during rushes where you can just simply wait 5 minutes at most for the next bus with a rack. It would be much more of an issue if I were wanting to ride a P11, the only bus for MILES in the area it serves there are only like 3 or 4 buses and ONLY at the peak-direction.


sprite
Participant
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Yeah, it would be huge to know that a 44u would always have a rack.

I’m on it right now and today it’s the big cushy kind where I wouldn’t really even want to carry a folder on (I didn’t bike today.) The next (=last) one is in an hour… which is why I normally take the jail trail and the T.


edmonds59
Participant
#

I just got off a big cushy too, no rack, no place for a folder. It’s a little frustrating to realize you could probably get a full sized bike in one of the side storage compartments.

What kind of folder do you have?


edmonds59
Participant
#

Oh, darn you did say what kind. Never mind.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

That IS a good question: Just what use DOES the Port Authority have for the under-bus spaces on the 1900s? Would a bike fit there? Would anyone dare to put their bike on its side for a bumpy bus ride, even if it does fit?

Worth asking, though.


edmonds59
Participant
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The doors sure look big enough. There would need to be some kind of mat or even carpet to prevent random sliding, but for the longer trips they use those big boys on, G1, G2, 28x, heck yes. Esp based on the stories about those bouncety front racks.


ieverhart
Participant
#

@scott, Stu, Steven–I’ve never had a bad experience with the racks–to the contrary, the drivers have always given me time, nothing’s been stolen, nor have I had anything fall off and be damaged. Just my paranoia.


salty
Participant
#

What is the policy if a route is supposed to have a rack but doesn’t? I had that happen on the 54C one night; the driver grumbled a bit but let me on while warning me to keep a good hold on the bike.

When we got to Main & Liberty, it was a good thing he’d told me that because the bus came to a VERY abrupt stop and the bike would have gone flying otherwise. Turns out some idiot drove up the wrong side of the little concrete separator there. The funny part is, judging by how close his (very shocked looking) eyeballs looked through the bus windshield, I’d imagine he would have smashed my bike if it was on a rack.

Otherwise, I’ve never had a problem with the racks, and I’d have to think any fears of a bike falling off are unfounded.


Steven
Participant
#

I have a minor gripe about PAT policy regarding the T. The official rule is that when you take a bike on, you’re supposed to fold up the seats in the wheelchair area and put the bike there. Since there’s no way to secure your bike, you’re supposed to stand next to it and hold it. The T’s acceleration means you’ll likely need to hang on to something else too, or risk getting pulled off your feet.

But there’s a better place for a bike. Put it opposite the wheelchair area, pushed up against the single seats there, with one handle bar in the space for one seat, and you in the adjacent seat.

Advantages:

1. The cyclist can sit down. It’s easy to hook an elbow around the seat tube, and this secures the bike effectively. Lean the bike toward you a bit, and set a pedal against a seat so it keeps your wheels from turning, and you hardly need to even do that.

2. You won’t get tired and lose control of the bike, or get dragged while reaching for the bell, so it’s safer for other passengers too.

3. This method takes up 2 seats. PAT’s way takes 3-5 (depending on whether passengers are brave enough to sit in the row directly behind the wheelchair area, and hope you don’t let your bike roll into them).

4. This method obstructs the corridor less. All that’s sticking out is one handlebar (plus a few inches for the frame). With PAT’s method, there’s the bike plus you standing next to it, and passengers have to get around that.

I usually use this method, but occasionally a driver will say to use the wheelchair area. (Today the driver and I compromised, after he told me to use the wheelchair area. I folded down the wheelchair seats on the empty T, then ignored them and used the seats instead, and he didn’t make any further fuss.)

It would be great if PAT modified its rules so they didn’t require using the wheelchair area, but just required cyclists to get their bikes out of the corridor as much as possible.


Ohiojeff
Participant
#

I don’t know if this would require new trains (in which case forget it) or could be retrofitted but in Portland the trains have bike hooks near the doors. I would bet a LOT more people would use the T with a bike if they didn’t have to take all of the things Steven just mentioned into consideration each time. Plus, what happens if someone in a wheelchair gets on at the next platform? I wonder if they couldn’t take out one set of seats on a car and put in a rack to hang the bike on instead?


netviln
Participant
#

It does seem that there is space right behind the driver for two or 3 bike hooks. Maybe blocking that door is a violation since hooks would be at the other end too. depending on the direction of the train, one door could potentially be blocked by bikes, I dunno, just speculating.


edmonds59
Participant
#

The big 1900 buses could sure stand to have 2 rows of seats taken out right next to the driver, there is no accomodation for standing riders. The way they are now, once the seats are full and people are standing in the aisle, it is impossible to move, those aisles are ONE person wide. A thin person.

Stu, a possible (simple) suggestion?


mustion
Participant
#

I took my bike aboard the T for the first time the other day, in fact my first time riding the T at all. What an irritating and confusing experience. Makes the Cleveland RTA look like MTA in NY. Beautiful ride, though, but hey, PAT can’t take credit for the topography :)

Question – so at rush hour, when you pay as your leave the train, how do they work out riders in the 2nd car?


netviln
Participant
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At low platform stops, everyone has to enter and exit through the front. At high platform stops, there is a cashier attendant in a booth on the platform.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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57 seats and 18 standees not good enough? Articulateds. They seat about 60 and stand a whole lot more a lot more comfortably, if anything about standing up for a 10-mile bus ride can be considered comfortable.

I don’t think the remove-a-row idea is going to fly with management. The current 1900s have one more row than the previous set, simply because there was the demand for more seats, not fewer.


mustion
Participant
#

Okay that is what confused me, I got off at Dormont and paid on the train, the conductor said something unintelligible to me… when I went down the platform the cashier asked me if I’d paid already, I guess I should have paid her? BTW, it was a high platform stop (obviously, as I had my bike).


Steven
Participant
#

Yes, the unintelligible conductor was probably saying to pay at the fare booth off the train.

At low platform stops, everyone has to enter and exit through the front. At high platform stops, there is a cashier attendant in a booth on the platform.

Not precisely. All stops with fare booths are high platform stops, but not all high platform stops have fare booths (for instance, most of the stops on the Overbrook section don’t, though they’re all high-platform).

Doors to the second car only open at stops with a fare booth, plus all downtown stops. In the schedules, there’s a list of those stops with fare booths, but it seems to be incomplete (it omits Dormont and Potomac, for instance).

Bikes are allowed on or off at any high platform stop. So you can use the second car if you’re taking your bike to Library (high platform with booth), but you have to use the first if you’re bound for West Library (high platform, no booth), and you’re out of luck if you want Logan Road (low platform).

Re: bike hooks. I think in other cities, the space for bikes doubles as space for standees. Apparently the hooks are set up so they don’t go poking people in the head when there isn’t a bike there.


edmonds59
Participant
#

Irritating and confusing is a Pittsburgh tradition. That’s as confusing as some of those math threads you people do, do you have an algorithm for that?


Ohiojeff
Participant
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Re: bike hooks. I think in other cities, the space for bikes doubles as space for standees. Apparently the hooks are set up so they don’t go poking people in the head when there isn’t a bike there.

True. I stood in a bike space on the Max train from the aiport to downtown Portland.

http://trimet.org/howtoride/bikes/bikesonmax.htm


reddan
Keymaster
#

That’s as confusing as some of those math threads you people do, do you have an algorithm for that?

Yes, it’s a recursive algorithm. First you execute the algorithm; then, when you see the results, you curse and execute it again.


Impala26
Participant
#

Wait a minute here, how are we talking about two-car trains and bikes? I thought that PAT only runs the two-car trains during the “peak periods” (rush hours), and that this is the same time window in which bikes aren’t allowed? The exception being if the bike in question we’re referring to is a folding one.

Second what Steven said. Almost all of the Overbrook (Blue) Line stations between South Hills Junction and Castle Shannon are high-platform stops with no off-vehicle fare booths. So if you’re boarding from those or intending to get off, you should be in the first car.

According to a PAT brochure, here’s a list of stations where you can board the second car if you also intend on departing at another of these marked stations:

Wood St.

Steel Plaza

First Ave.

Station Square

South Hills Jct.

Memorial Hall

Willow

Washington Jct.

South Hills Village

Lytle

Library

(also according to Steven)

Potomac

Dormont Jct.

Basically, if you’re not sure about what car to be in, opt for the first car, and you can’t be wrong (though it may be more crowded).


Steven
Participant
#

They don’t immediately take the two-car trains out of service at the end of the rush period. I was in an outbound 6:34 pm Library train yesterday, and there were still enough passengers to justify two cars. And once that train gets to Library (7:17) it has to make a return trip to Washington Junction (7:40) and then to South Hills Village before they can swap it for a one-car train. (And I assume they want to have the two-car trains already out there by the start of the rush.) I’m not sure what their schedule is for two-car trains.

BTW, I think there are still several stops missing from that list. Mt. Lebanon definitely has fare booths, though I can’t say for certain if they’re used. I think Castle Shannon does too, for its big park-n-ride lot.


Impala26
Participant
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I believe you Steven, I was just reiterating what was listed on the MOST CURRENT T hand schedule. It’s kinda sad that the company that runs the service can’t even list all their own stations correctly… *facepalm*

I still also think it’s a sad reflection of the asymmetry of the system in that we have a light rail that basically runs out into rural farmland (Library) and yet we have no other light rail or commuter rail systems that run anywhere else, even though there’s still probably a good 3/5 of the Pittsburgh metro area not currently served by any rail service. I suppose the busways are an exception to this, but even those don’t run all the way to the suburbs like the T does.

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