MSPs call for bikes to be allowed on Scotland's buses

Move seen as essential element of getting more people to switch to cycling

by Simon_MacMichael   June 22, 2011  

Scottish Parliament Bike Stands (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

Members of the Scottish Parliament have given their backing to a campaign seeking to get bus operators to allow bicycles to be carried on them.

While the issue has been raised as a result of the difficulty of reaching the Glentrees mountain bike centre near Peebles, south of Edinburgh, which cannot be accessed by train from the capital, bus operators throughout the country are being urged to allow bicycles to be carried.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who represents the Lothians constituency, has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament urging bus companies to provide bicycle racks for both everyday trips and leisure journeys, and her call has been echoed by Marco Biagi, the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central.

"I was contacted by a constituent who said he wanted to use public transport to get to Glentress, but found it virtually impossible with his bike,” Ms Johnstone told The Scotsman.

"Bicycle racks are used on buses in the United States, Australia, Wales and some big European cities.

"I just think that if we're serious about encouraging cycling, then it's the sort of thing we should be doing here.

"I'd like to see the city council speak to Lothian Buses about this. Putting bike racks on buses is not exactly radical, but if we're serious about cycling, we have to start doing more to encourage cyclists."

Edinburgh is the only city in the United Kingdom that has signed the Charter of Brussels, which has a goal of 15 per cent of trips being made by bicycle by 2020, and last month the city council backed measures to let cyclists ride on pavements in some areas that do not have on-street bicycle lanes.

Mark Sydenham from the Better Way to Work campaign supported the initiative, but not in every situation. "It would be great for certain routes, but not necessarily on every bus. I have seen it in action in San Francisco and it works really well,” he explained.

"The bus pulls up and you put the bike on the rack. It has its limitations because it has the capacity to delay buses and that's why bus firms have been reticent in the past, but I've seen it working well.

"It would be ideal for the likes of Glentress. Mountain biking has really taken off and you'll often see the road between here and Peebles packed with cars on a Sunday morning. It would be good to get all those people on to buses," he added.

6 user comments

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I refer to my comment from last week about a joined-up transport policy.

The trick here has to be to get the bus companies to see commercial advantage in this rather than trying to railroad them into it.

posted by mad_scot_rider [546 posts]
22nd June 2011 - 8:59

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i was just thinking about this the other day, although i live in Auckland New Zealand. I was thinking that companies should have a few buses just for cyclist to transport their bikes (have hooks or a mounting system or something to hold the bikes in place in the bus it self).
I think it would be a good idea.

posted by Vidal [32 posts]
22nd June 2011 - 10:47

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They have bike racks on the front of busses all over the US and Canada, however id question the ability of most UK bus drivers to deal with a bike rack on the front, not to mention the restricted nature of many bus routes (down residential streets).

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posted by STATO [411 posts]
22nd June 2011 - 10:49

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mad_scot_rider wrote:
The trick here has to be to get the bus companies to see commercial advantage in this rather than trying to railroad them into it.

The bus company oligopoly can't see the commercial advantage in running services that people enjoy using instead of tolerating nor of providing transfer tickets which would shorten many journeys and increase ridership, so there's no hope of something sensible but outside-the-box like this unless they're required.

posted by a.jumper [698 posts]
22nd June 2011 - 12:48

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I used to travel to Glentress with my bike (and room for up to 3 others) on the No 62 bus, which ran hourly in the late 1980's when Arthur Phillips was running MTB sessions in Glentress Forest, generating less than 5000 visitors per year. SMT (the Nationalised Scottish Bus operation) carried bikes officially on all rural services under Clause 7(d) of their conditions of carriage, and I used the bus almost every week to visit the Sustrans site at Callander with my bike.

Now we have a half hourly bus service on route 62 with accessible (sic) buses, and officially they don't carry cycles (however Peebles is a long way from First Lothian & Borders HQ in Camelon, and drivers have a pragmatic outlook when their bus is barely filled and you are gubbed physically or mechanically). And Glentress now gets over 100 times more visitors.

There is a solution for both London-Peebles and Edinburgh Peebles that can be delivered relatively easily taking around 40 riders & bikes up overnight for a weekend, and running day trips from Edinburgh to Peebles. I'm happy to develop this with a backer or operator. In the interim you can bag up your bike (small and flat) and use the National Express 383 (Wrexham-Edinburgh) or Megabus (neither company offer proper timetables to help you plan routes and times properly - complain!) and you can reach Galashiels, from where minor roads can take you along the Tweed to Innerleithen/Glentress.

Elsewhere in Scotland Stagecoach Express coach operated routes carry cycles - reportedly up to 10 per coach (20% of seats filled) generally by kids who want to get to MTB trails (Ben Aigan) or BMX tracks (Aberdeen). Other useful routes are 500 (Galloway Forest sites) X74(Ae/Dumfries). On the Western Isles cycle carriage is a default clause on all subsidised bus services (a simple solution which is a no brainer for a local council - but then again.....) In Argyll a bike carrying bus service has been linking 3 ferry piers since 2007. Tim Dearman's bus service between Inverness and Durness also continues to run in the summer, carrying bikes, and another nice summer service is the 501/502 going over from Deesside to Aberfeldy and Perth through the Spittal of Glenshee. be aware though that you may be refused boarding at a roadside stop on safety grounds - cycle to a main bus station or large lay by stop, and dirty/wet bikes should be bagged up or cleaned. Hitrans has made the CTC poly sacks available at a number of bus offices so you can get one of these relatively easily.

Finally a word about racks and trailers. Front racks not likely now or for any foreseeable date - fully reviewed for the 1996 Bikes on buses project by TRL (TRL 592 - downloadable report). Rear racks and trailers - cost around 40 seconds per bike to load at the bus stop and bikes are easy pickings if the bus gets stopped in a queue of traffic. The solution is however simple and deliverable for the entire service bus fleet by 2020 when the law requires all buses to be roll-on accessible (all new buses from 1999 have had to be like this). The way forward is to take the bikes in to the bus and this is working in Northumberland, Snowdonia, South Yorkshire, and Devon - officially - and the Snowdon Sherpa service S2 drops you at the road summit of Pen-y-Pas just set up nicely to scream downhill to Llanberis.

Now what was it about not getting a bike on the bus in Scotland?

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [481 posts]
22nd June 2011 - 22:15

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AV Lowe, any chance of some more information on how this is being done in the places you've listed? (northumberland, yorkshire, devon and snowdon)

I've chatted with a bus and coach operator about the options, but without modifying vehicles, it's not practical (or even possible for some vehicles), to carry bikes.

posted by mc [1 posts]
23rd June 2011 - 13:01

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