King County Metro swaps out faulty bike racks on buses

Let's hope you weren't standing at a bus stop with your trusty bicycle Monday morning and discovered you had no place to mount it on the bus.

King County Metro (Seattle) determined that its three-bike carrier racks aren't secure and tried swapping them out with two-bike carriers over the weekend. Unfortunately, the other carriers are in short supply and buses on more than a dozen routes ran without the racks.

The following routes don't have bicycle racks, which will be replaced as they become available: Routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 12, 13, 14, 49 and 70, and some trips on routes 7, 36, 43 and 44.

Local manufacturer

Metro uses bicycle racks manufactured by Sportworks in Woodinville, Washington.

The transit agency upgraded to the Veloporter 3 early in 2007. Although the racks restrain bicycles with a single-sided spring loaded support arm that can be operated by one hand, commuters lately were asked to use straps that were supplied to keep the bikes from falling off.

Sportsworks has several two- and three-bicycle bus racks on the market. It has sold racks to more than 500 agencies and municpalities in all 50 states, according to its website.

BikePortland reported in December that TriMet, the local bus agency, was looking at the Veloporter 3 for its transit buses. The problem of the falling bikes was a known issue at that time.

Rack concerns

Here's the press release posted at King County Metro. Check that link for updates:

Starting Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008, bike racks will not be available on some Metro Transit routes and trips.

Some bike racks are being removed due to rack-operating concerns, and will be replaced in the coming weeks as they become available.

This change affects all bus trips on routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 12, 13, 14, 49 and 70, and some trips on routes 7, 36, 43 and 44.

The concerns regard bikes remaining tightly secured to the 3-position bike racks. Metro is working with the manufacturer to resolve the issues. In the meantime, all 3-bike racks are being removed. The goal is to temporarily replace them with 2-bike racks, but there are currently not enough of the 2-bike racks to equip every vehicle in Metro’s fleet.

During the transition, it is possible that some buses may or may not have racks when or where cyclists expect them. It is not possible for Metro staff to know ahead of time if a bus has a rack. Cyclists are reminded that rack use is first come, first served, and, with the exception of bikes that fold safely, bicycles may not be carried inside buses.

Metro appreciates your patience while this issue is being resolved. Please check this site for updates.

Entire fleet

King County Metro's entire bus fleet has been equipped with bike racks since 1994 and many bicyclists have come to depend upon them in making their commutes, especially across the 520 bridge, which doesn't allow bicycle traffic.

The three-bike racks starting going on buses this spring, but recently a few commuters have reported problems with the securing systems and suffered bike damage.

The Seattle Times reports that Metro still needs about 150-200 bike racks to replace the problematic ones.

Bicycle racks on buses were rare until the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Act (ISTEA) in 1991. It allowed federal funding for bicycle-related projects. King County Metro, among others, saw the possibility for funding the racks on buses and applied for grants.

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