One of the many cool cycling facilities in Canberra is the provision of bike racks on buses.
They had a difficult birth, having been on the public agenda since a trial and purchase of two racks in 1997. An issue over Australian Design Rules concerning “nonessential protrusions on vehicles” for safety reasons led to the cancellation of that trial, despite their use in North America for many years and in Brisbane since 2002.
The ACT Government introduced bike racks on the inter-town
bus routes (ie those which connect the satellite towns of Woden, Civic and Belconnen) in November 2005 and they seem well suited to a low-density town like Canberra which has good cycling facilities.
The racks are quick and easy to use, and two bikes can be comfortably carried without touching each other. However, not all buses have them.
“Racks on buses was an incredibly forward thinking policy on the part of the ACT government,” said John Armstrong, the executive officer of Canberra’s advocacy group, Pedal Power.
“The trouble is the government hasn’t fulfilled the policy promise and only 67 per cent of buses have the racks. This is a serious issue because it means you might have to wait for three or four buses to pass before you can put your bike on, and this discourages people from trying again. The policy must have 100 per cent compliance to be effective.”
I thought John was being a bit negative, even ungrateful. After all, having racks on 67 per cent of buses sounded brilliant to someone who comes from a city where there are none. However when I found myself stranded in a thunderstorm late this afternoon, I started to agree with him. Two buses came by with racks, but they were going in the wrong direction. A third bus came – with two bikes already fitted.
“Any chance of just hopping on with my bike?” I asked the driver. He shook his head. “Sorry it’s against policy.”
I remembered that John had mentioned this as a possible interim solution – if drivers could have the discretion to take bikes inside the bus if there were few passengers. Unfortunately, it had been rejected by the transport whizzes.
I stuck my head out of the shelter, wondering if it was safe to start riding, but the sky lit up with an amazing bolt of lightning and I decided to stay put. Two more buses came by – without racks. By this time I was wet, cold and hungry and thinking how I would have been home by now if I’d just kept riding instead of thinking that the buses offered an option. Hunger got the better of me, so I jumped on the bike and started pedalling home. Needless to say I was overtaken by a bus with an empty bike rack about five minutes later!
BIKES ON BUSES IN PERTH
Passengers with fold up bicycles with small wheels that are belt driven are permitted to travel on Transperth buses at any time as long as the bicycles are contained within a carry bag exceeding no more than 86cm long x 68cm high x 36cm wide. Fold up bicycles must be kept out of the aisle. Chainless unicycles are accepted on all Transperth services, space permitting (thanks to Colin C!). Chainless unicycles must be kept out of the aisle and not take up a seat that another passenger may use.