by Dina Winkel, Senior Engineer, Alta Planning + Design
Buses can be a great complement to bicycle trips around town (and beyond, although I don’t manage that too often!). I’ve put my bicycle on a bus when I had a flat, when I wanted a one-way ride instead of a round-trip, and occasionally when I’ve suddenly gotten lazy or longed for a warm and dry seat out of the rain. In Copenhagen, where I grew up, you just roll the bike onto the bus, barely having to lift it onto the floor, but in Seattle buses are outfitted with a rack mounted on the front and, while I’m not a huge fan, they do seem to get the job done and allow for more room for passengers inside.
My primary complaint with the racks is the difficulty of lifting a heavy steel bike up while at the same time aligning it and positioning it in the wheel slots. It also requires quite a bit of hand strength to squeeze the handle when opening the rack and to pull the arm out to place the hook over the front wheel. Another issue is the three adjacent racks—I know the capacity is needed, but I don’t look forward to being the third bike that has to squeeze in behind two other bikes. I’d be awfully tempted to wait for another bus!
I recently tested the Apex 3 Transit Rack from Sportworks, hoping it would address these issues with the current crop of bus mounted bike racks. I immediately noticed the smooth operation of the handles and hinges—what a pleasure not to struggle to pull out the handle while holding your bike. Clear, bright yellow labeling provided helpful instructions.
The stainless steel rack is heavy—not a problem when opening the rack—it falls into place without bouncing back. I lifted my bike and the front tire easily fit into the wide groove—no tenuous balancing act with a heavy bike at hip height! The handle for the front tire arm is large and ergonomically designed. It easily fit over the front tire, locking the bike into place. So far, so good. In my mind, I imagined taking a ride on the bus, enjoying the view, ringing the bell and preparing to get off…
Again, the telescoping front tire hook worked smoothly and retracted back into itself. I lifted my bike out of the rack, squeezed the yellow handle and with some effort, slowly lifted the rack up to the vertical position. Anyone able to lift their bicycle up to hip height has the power to lift the rack and it’s really just a question of doing it slowly and deliberately.
All in all, the Apex 3 Transit Rack appears to be of very high quality compared with Metro’s current light, plastic and metal racks. I can imagine the new Sportworks racks working well for years to come with minimal maintenance. Meanwhile, it’s a pleasure to use.
Update 4/11: As it turns out, Soundtransit is responding to some of the complaints about the current Metro racks and installing the Sportworks racks on their busses!