Busing the Bike



Busing the Bike

As many are likely aware, the RIPTA bus system enables cyclists to expand their area of travel through their Rack n’ Ride system.  Each RIPTA bus is able to carry two bikes and there is no additional charge.  Many people have been eased into bicycle commuting by putting their bike on the bus into work and then enjoying a ride home, it is a great way to reduce the perceived challenge.

Unfortunately, the following story recently came across the Bike-to-Brown email list:

This is to warn those who use the bus bike racks.  This morning by bike went flying off the rack while going over rough pavement on Rt 95.  Luckily it didn’t make the big leap but got hung up in the rack and stayed there.

I’ve taken the bus and bike many times, but this was the first time I noticed the rack bouncing WAY up and down, from my seat near the front, when we hit potholes. and then it was gone.

When we got to Kennedy Plaza the driver told me I had it on the rack wrong and claimed the FRONT wheel should be hooked in.  He called his supervisor who said, no, I was correct.

They’re saying “your bike looks fine” but I tell them to hold on, I need to check the rims and derailleur.  I spin the wheels and look at everything and it does seem to be OK.  I tried to tell the supervisor there may be something going on with the rack, doing that huge bouncing on the road, he didn’t want to hear it.  I said all seems well with my bike but suppose there does turn out to be a problem, what should I do?  At that point he says “you spun the wheels, you’re fine”.  They both turn their backs on me and walk away.

How would you handle this situation?

Some tasks I think RIBike should take on and report back to the community on are:

  • How should someone contact RIPTA when a rider notices a bike rack is in disrepair?
  • What is the maintenance or replacement schedule for the racks on the buses?
  • Who assumes liability for a bicycle on the bus?  Is it completely placed upon the rider?  RIPTA?  What if the rack is in disrepair?

Please contact us if you are interested in approaching RIPTA on these matters and we will put you in touch with some contacts who can point you in the right direction.


  • Jul 15, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    It's been about 4 weeks since I had a RIPTA driver yell at me to get off the road (as detailed here: http://carfreepvd.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/honk-r… ). I've had a few emails with a customer service rep there, but no news on if they've done anything to educate drivers about Frank's Law. In fact, the rep asked me to send my email a second time because it got lost in all of the other complaints she gets. Most tellingly, she mentioned that she could not follow my link to to the press release about the law because she does not have web access.

    I've never used the Rack 'n' Ride system. I'd like to take RIPTA to other parts of the state to ride, but I've always been afraid of the racks – now even more so. So count me in on contacting RIPTA about all manner of bus interaction with cyclists.

  • barry
    Jul 16, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Well I've been using the racks ever since they were installed in the 1990s and never had the slightest problem. But "news" is always the problems, those who use the racks without problems never write in.

    I believe it is the front wheel that is supposed to be hooked in.

    That said, it would be good to know the procedures if there is a problem.

  • Labann
    Jul 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    The problem? No self respecting cyclist would wait for a bus when he/she could be riding.

    About the only time a bus is useful is when you have an otherwise insurmountable obstacle, like the Newport Pell Bridge. I might recommend people take bus to the beach, then ride around there where it's cooler. However, there's too much beach traffic. Little Compton, on the other hand, has none to speak of, but bus doesn't go there.

  • Bill Lewis
    Jul 16, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I also have been using the racks since their introduction by RIPTA. I have had only one experience with a loose arm on the rack. There is newer style of rack and it seems to me, not as good as the old ones.

    As for why someone would take the bus instead of a fourty mile ride, maybe I have to do another task and I need to be presentable and not sweaty in a super-hero costume, not that I wear one ever. Maybe you don't cycle for utility or work and a two hour commute doesn't make sense but that little three or four miles does.

    This week I transported a bike too small for me to ride from Willimantic to Providence on PeterPan and then on RIPTA to Newport. I didn't have the will or ability to ride a century on a bike three inches too little. I have had good luck with the busses so far.

  • Jul 16, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    The problem? No self respecting cyclist would wait for a bus when he/she could be riding.

    What's wrong with a cyclist who wants to extend their range by tossing their bike on a bus? Not everyone is able to ride many miles, would you rather they drove their car? I for one would rather see more people opt into using a bike and bus combination than relying on their car. Sure, if a person can make the trip entirely by bike, all the better, but I think there is a natural relationship between bicycles and buses.

    I've had success introducing people to bicycle commuting by having them ride a bus into work and then their bike home.

  • Barry
    Jul 17, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Alan often makes good points, but he is far less effectve due to his needless insults such as to those who do use the racks by saying that no "self-resecting" bicyclist would want to use the bus racks.

    One of my favorite trips is to take the bike on a #60 bus (44 buses a day each way every weekday) to Bristol and enjoy the ride back on the East Bay path one-way back to my home in North Providence. I don't have the time, or at age 70, the energy for a round trip by bike I also sometimes use the #57 -17 routes to get to he West Bay path, why should I waste energy on the difficult urban roads in my area.

    Alan could help build the critical mass of bicyclists we need if he would help encourage more of us to do something similar instead of insulting us.

  • Labann
    Jul 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I've introduced more to bicycling than this entire org has. In fact, I'm convinced your attitude of "bike right" and "make nice" caters to motoring, discourages bicycle freedom, and enables government to break laws and do nothing. I've personally spoken to mayors and transportation planners who've improved a few conditions on my input. I'd prefer to initiate class action against them, but they swap seats faster than you can count on one hand what they've done on behalf of cycling. If you don't like my style, too bad. You get these jewels at this small price.

    Just because Barry is a Bus lobbyist doesn't mean there's any affinity with busses for most bicyclists. I often advise bus riders, "If you had a bike, you'd be there already." I've had a lot of fun for 40 years racing busses up Elmwood Avenue into the city… and beating them by a wide margin. You know they only average 12 mph.

    Bus drivers, with their inflated road arrogance, know it's a small fixed fine to kill any cyclists in their way. Of motorists by category who've literally run me off the road, bus drivers lead all other categories combined, although landscapers are pretty lax, too.

  • mattm
    Jul 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    The bus is just another form of transportation. As someone who is car-free except for the occasional rental, the Bus and Bike+Bus combination is invaluable to me. I've often seen the racks bouncing madly and wondered about their security. I too thought the instructions said to hook the front wheel.

    As to what is or isn't a self-respecting cyclist. At 6AM on a Saturday in winter the bus is a lot more comfortable and faster than I am in getting from Warwick to Providence. Better to arrive at the destination dry and presentable than be anti-vehicle, or to avoid heat stroke.

    Busses and Bikes aren't competing forms of transport, but rather complementary. As has already been mentioned, they extend range, comfort, and add new destinations (Newport? Jamestown?) to a bike only existence.

    Insulting other people who use bicyclists because they would deign to use the bus over your own preferred mode of transportation is certainly no way to convince new people to consider the bicycle as a transportation option instead of a children's toy or the plaything of middle-aged, middle-class caucasians.

    I too have observed the bus drivers behave just as badly as other drivers on the road, unfortunately with a much larger vehicle lending them mass and threat. That's no reason to consider them to be worse or more dangerous, or avoid using their services. Some of those drivers are quite courteous, just as other motor vehicle operators are.

  • Labann
    Jul 21, 2010 at 4:08 am

    So my degree of effectivity is inversely proportional to your agenda? You think I'm going to stand for "condemnation with faint praise"? The amount of bike unfriendliness locally is so great that it has activists and advocates at each other's throats, when you should be taking your aggression out on administrations.

    The bus is merely a necessary evil in an infrastructure that is actively hostile to bicycling. I see busses as a cheap substitute to subways and trains and lowest form of transportation. If they really wanted to cater to cyclists, they'd have a trailer that would carry enough bikes for every rider, but, as it is, their racks are usually empty. What bicyclist wants to sit in the cold and rain waiting for a vehicle which may or may not arrive on time with an empty rack? Bus rack is a bandaid at best. I have used them, blogged on it, but it was never a pleasant experience. Better rethink this policy.

    It is a HUGE MISTAKE to characterize bicyclists alike or expect them to act or think uniformly. It is enough to fight entrenched motoring lobbyists, nimbyists, and public officials who cater to motoring over self propulsion. But orgs as these don't endorse Critical Mass events or other actions that would really bring some attention to problems… no, better, invisible midnight rides.

    Working in Warwick, coworkers have asked me how I dare ride on Post Road in this heat: Duh!

    – You can use bits of bad roads where shoulder "appears" for a stretch.

    – If not when hot and dry, when? Ride in cold and snow, so not intimidated by PRIME TIME Summer!

    Spend more time riding as transportation than recreation. You can more conveniently walk to work up to a mile than wait for a bus. You can more conveniently bike to work up to 5 miles than drive. Personal vehicles are a necessity for those who commute over 300 miles/week, although almost anyone can bike commute up to that if I did. Imagine, a bike org that thinks otherwise. Consider replacing principles with real cyclists.