When we first launched our Bikes on Buses program back in March of 1998, we had no idea it would be so successful. That first month we carried 2,000 bikes.
In 2005, the National Center for Transit Research named PSTA the highest ridership Bikes on Buses program in Florida with 17,000 per month, or more than 200,000 rides per year. Last year we carried 360,000 bikes!
We've come a long way! When the program first launched, bikers were required to get a Bikes on Buses permit. PSTA partnered with several local bike shops who showed a short how-to video and sold the permits for $2. Over the years, we realized that the rack is so easy to use, hardly any instruction was really necessary. In June of 2006, we got rid of the permits and opened up the rack to anyone who could lift their bike into the slots.
The program continued to grow in popularity, so when it became obvious that 2-bike racks just weren't going to cut it, we installed 3-bike racks on most of our buses. Unfortunately, the 3-bike racks had a little problem: when fully loaded, the criss-crossing spokes of three bikes blocked the bus headlights. Our plan to expand access to the Bikes on Buses program had become a serious safety hazard. We take safety pretty seriously around here, so the 3-bike racks had to go.
But, I'm pleased to tell you that our Maintenance Department has been working diligently with several rack manufacturers in an attempt to develop a new rack that can hold three bikes, while also meeting our safety standards. We'll let you know when we find the right solution.
In the mean time, if the racks are full (which they often are) we want you to have a safe place to lock your bike, so we've been installing bike storage racks at our bus stops and transfer stations like crazy. Thanks to a partnership with the Pinellas County Health Department we were recently able to add almost 100 more racks than we had planned.
Bike riding is a great way to improve your health, and the Health Department is about that! They purchased racks that we're currently working to install at 50 of our busiest bus stops around the county. We also have additional bike racks in our bus stop amenity plan for the coming years - if you know of a high bike traffic bus stop that could use a rack, please let us know and we'll check it out.
Should you happen to have a folding bike (these are really cool!) we're happy to announce that you can now bring it inside the bus - no need to place it on the rack! We do ask that you have it already folded before you board the bus. After you find your seat, please tuck your bike out of the aisle so no one trips on it.
So, are you ready to bring your bike along for a ride? Before you head out, I encourage you to visit the Bikes on Buses page of our website where you can see a video about how to use the rack on the bus. We look forward to welcoming you - and your bike - aboard soon!
~Cyndi Raskin-Schmitt, RidePSTA Blog Editor