Buses in the West of England could have trailers attached to them for passengers’ bicycles, with the boss of the largest public transport provider in the region saying “it might be the answer” to the question of how to carry bikes safely on buses.
First West of England, a subsidiary of FirstGroup, provides bus services in Bristol, Bath, Somerset, South Gloucestershire and West Wiltshire.
The Bristol Post reports that the company’s managing director, James Freeman, put forward the idea at the first-ever regional transport forum held by the West of England Combined Authority.
While buses in other countries carry bicycles on racks on the front, UK law does not permit that, and Mr Freeman believes that with bikes stored on the back vulnerable to theft, a trailer is the solution.
“The bike-on-a-bus issue is an interesting one because bikes are prickly things and they don’t sit comfortably inside a vehicle where there are people walking about and are likely to be thrown about,” he said.
“So it’s quite an issue as to how you can safely get a bike into a vehicle and put it away so it’s neatly and safely stowed.
“The issue we have with a lot of our buses is they’re rather busy, particularly on the lower deck of double-deckers because that part of the bus is used by people in wheelchairs, people with kids in buggies, by people who don’t enjoy stairs.
“All these people need that lower deck section between the front axle and the back axles.”
He continued: “My own vote would be to put bikes on the outside because they live outside, so why shouldn’t they?
“Unfortunately we have hit a complete brick wall because the DVSA says it might be alright for the United States and for New Zealand but it won’t do for the UK — you cannot put bikes on the front of buses, you have to have them on the back.
“The back is the most dangerous place of a bus. And I have mental images that people will just quietly walk off with them while the bus is waiting for a traffic light.”
“I have wondered about trailers,” he added. “In Europe there are bicycle trailers towed by vehicles.
“That’s conceivable. I’m not terribly keen on it but it might be the answer.”
In 2015 Ben Howlett, the Conservative MP for Bath, unsuccessfully called for bike racks to be trialled on buses in the city.
UK-based website Bikesonbuses.com insists that the perception of danger posed by bike racks attached to vehicles is wrong, saying: “We have been working closely with many cities and other partners across Europe to implement the racks.
“Cities in Spain, Poland, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland have all seen and tested the racks, and want to go ahead.
“However, they have not been allowed to do this, as permission has been refused by the various national regulating bodies.
“These bus racks still have a perception of 'danger', and so traffic authorities have always refused them, and demanded yet more studies.
“This is despite widespread use around the world with no reported pedestrian accidents.
“If the same logic was used, with extensive tests needed of proven products we would have no cars or even bicycles on the roads, and very few new developments,” it adds.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.