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

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

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.

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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A V Lowe | 12 years ago

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?

mc replied to A V Lowe | 12 years ago

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.

A V Lowe replied to mc | 8 years ago

Sorry late reply - whole issue raising its head again - by 2020 all service buses MUST be low floor ro-ro step free and since Jan 1999 no new buses other than this type should have been sold for service bus operations. These buses are 100% available to carry cycles almist immediately (in fact immediately if the driver and passenger can agree the secure and safe way to carry the bike)

When a nationalised bus operator SMT had a condition of carriages (Clause 7(d)) which officially confirmed that "Cycles will be carried on services where appropriate vehicles are in use, at the driver's discretion" This generally meant rural route with the single decker 49/70 seat Scottish Rural Routemaster the Alexander Y Type bus with a cavernous boot locker that could, with careful loading, carry up to 4 bikes (8% of the seated capacity of a standard vehicle) Y type and later T type buses were built for around 20 years and almost universally the local buses across Scotland. Most of the private operators who have taken over retain the basis of Clause 7(d) in their CoC.

Western Isles Council and Hitrans do have a default condition for any services which they subsidise, that the contractor carries bikes, where the space is available (ie NOT of the schools service which generally requires the full capacity of a bus which then runs almost empty for the rest of the day).

STATO | 12 years ago

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).

Vidal | 12 years ago

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.

mad_scot_rider | 12 years ago

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.

a.jumper replied to mad_scot_rider | 12 years ago
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.

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