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Buses in West of England to get trailers for bikes?

Boss of region's biggest public transport provider says that official resistance to racks may mean trailers are the solution...

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 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.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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