Ride to ride: Getting bikes on buses

Ride to ride: Getting bikes on buses

PHOTO: J. Singleton

DETROIT—Nearly 8 years ago, SMART starting putting bike racks on buses.

“The reason was to increase accessibility to SMART and provide a way for people to be healthier,” says Beth Gibbons, spokesperson for the transit authority that runs the suburban bus network.

It was an instant hit. SMART carried nearly 38,000 bikes during the first full year of usage which increased to more than 88,000 the next year.

Having the bike racks allows people who don’t live within easy walking distance of a bus stop to get to there by bike and then take their bike with them on their bus journey.

“We felt it gave people increased access. There were places where people had to walk a distance to get to the route. So having the bike rack on the bus allowed people to be a little bit more mobile,” Gibbons says.

Racks also are used by commuters who may not have shower facilities at their offices but who want to ride home from work for exercise.

Riders load their own bikes on the racks, mounted on the front of the buses. Each bus can carry two bikes at a time, and all full-sized buses on fixed routes have racks, Gibbons says.

“This is now part of a bus. When we buy new buses, bike racks are included.

Mode Shift spoke with Gibbons about the racks and their usage.

Mode Shift: How much usage are the racks getting now?

Gibbons: In 2011, SMART carried nearly 147,000 bikes.

Mode Shift: Are their routes with heavier usage than others?

Gibbons: The routes with highest usage are 560 Gratiot leading the way with more that 25,800 bikes, 450 Woodward with 13,300 bikes and 510 Van Dyke with more than 12,000 bikes.

Mode Shift: What has your research shown about the program?

Gibbons: We conducted a short survey of riders in 2005 which indicated that people ride SMART with their bikes to work, 4 to 7 days per week and they usually ride over 2 miles to their bus stop. Our demographics have not changed too much so I believe this information would still apply to most of our riders.

Mode Shift: What has the expenditure been on the program?

Gibbons: Since the Bikes on Board program began in 2004 we have spent approximately $270,000 in bike racks.

Mode Shift: If people don’t know how to use the racks or want more information, where can they find it?

Gibbons: Our website has our “How to use a Bike Rack” video and other information on riding SMART (but we've embedded it for you below!).

To talk with a SMART Customer Information Operator call 866-962-5515, Monday – Friday, from 6:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturday, from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Do SMART buses run in your area, and if so, do they have bike racks? Is it enough to help you get where you need to go? Tell us in the comments below.