On a warm, summer morning my partner and I prepared to set out on our bicycles. Our destination was nearly 62 miles (100 km) away. As we unlocked our bikes, a neighbor asked where we were headed. He told us that we didn’t look like the kind of people who would ride that far. He was right. We had no intention of cycling the entire way. We’d ride the first 2 miles (3.2 km) to a commuter rail station, hop on a train with our bicycles and complete our trip with a short bike ride from a train station to our destination.
Combining bicycles with transit for trips both short and long is a growing trend in North America. Public transit systems are installing bike racks on buses and at popular transit stops and some are including secure bike storage facilities, with lockers and repair stands, at transit stations. By making it easier to combine bikes with transit, cities can help alleviate rush hour congestion and provide a stepping stone toward motivating people to use their bicycles more often.
Most public transit systems provide an excellent way to cover longer distances at a much lower cost than by personal car. However, it’s very difficult for a transit system to provide stations or bus stops close to all destinations. Since many destinations are only a few miles away from a transit station, bicycles provide a low-cost, efficient and often faster way to start and finish your trip.
Take Your Bike with You
• On longer trips, I often look for ways that I can take my bicycle along with me. The commuter rail service that connects Toronto to cities throughout Southern Ontario offers limited access for bicycles. On weekends and outside of rush hours bicycles are permitted on most rail cars. Local and regional bus services here also have limited space for bicycles, often just a front-mounted rack that can carry at most two bikes.
• Taking a bike with you will often mean traveling outside of peak times. If space is limited for your bike and knowing there are a lot of people intending to travel with theirs it can throw a wrench in your travel plans, so be sure to check your local transit regulations beforehand.
Lock It and Leave It
• Many transit systems encourage commuters to leave their bicycles at transit stations. Sheltered bike racks and indoor storage facilities are sometimes available. You may be required to pay a fee or obtain a membership for some storage facilities, though outdoor racks are often provided free.
• When leaving your bicycle at a transit station be sure to take anything with you that could be easily stolen. Make sure you use a secure lock, remove your lights and cover your saddle to protect it from the weather.
Travel By Bike Share
• Bike share systems are rapidly expanding and are a perfect complement to public transit. New York, Chicago, Vancouver, and Los Angeles among others are all expected to launch bike share systems in 2013. In cities where bike share systems already exist, like Montreal, Washington, DC and Boston, bike share stations are often located alongside transit stops. This makes the transition from train to bike simple. By using bike share you never have to worry about locking your bike or theft.
North Americans are embracing bicycles as their preferred transportation choice in ever-growing numbers. By allowing people to choose how they travel, and offering ways to combine walking, cycling, transit and even driving, cities can help address our diverse transportation needs.
Find out how walkable or bikable your destination is at Walk Score.
Photo By Fotolia/Ilan Amith