Interested in loading your bike on a bus but nervous to give it a try? This weekend offers a great opportunity to practice without the eyes of a Metro bus driver and a bunch of rushed passengers on you.
Visit Cascade at Rainier Valley Summer Streets Seattle Saturday, Aug. 21, and try out the sample bike rack we have on our van. (And meanwhile, enjoy Rainier Ave S without all of the cars!)
For those of you who can’t attend Summer Streets and practice ahead of time, I still encourage you to brave the bus racks. That’s what I did this past Wednesday, with no prior preparation. And really, despite my fears, it wasn’t all that bad. I’ll admit, Metro’s new three-bike racks aren’t exactly “easy-to-use,” as the Metro website — with its handy guide and video — claims. I fumbled quite a bit while loading my bike, and the driver even said, “Ah, there’s my bike wrestler,” as I exited the bus. But everyone was friendly and patient, and a couple of folks even helped out when they saw me struggling.
Given my experience, I thought I’d add a few extra pointers to those that Metro offers to help smooth any bumps that newbies might encounter along the way:
(1) Relax. Unless you’re tall and very strong (and maybe even then), you’ll probably struggle with the rack, especially your first time. The arm you pull over your bike’s front wheel is tough to maneuver, and you need to give it a really good tug. Be willing to laugh at yourself!
(2) Don’t mind the big plastic hump. I was thrown off by a large plastic contraption covering the wheel slot near the front wheel. It felt like my wheel shouldn’t go over it, but there wasn’t sufficient space under it, either. Turns out, your bike DOES go over the plastic thingamabob and then slides down in place, with the tire extending beyond the edge of the wheel well.
(3) Keep your hands free. Think ahead and arrange your gear so that your hands are free while loading. I put my helmet back on and kept everything in my backpack. If you can’t hold everything, leave stuff on the curb, if it feels safe.
(4) Make sure the driver sees you! Here I’m reiterating something in Metro’s instructions, but it’s an important point. Stay safe and communicate with the driver before you step in front of the bus.
Metro’s new bike racks aren’t perfect. But apparently it also took them quite a while to come up with a light, sturdy design that would fit three bikes while retaining front-end clearance on the bus. So, give the racks a try. The three-bike racks are opening the door for more people to get around car-free — for work or for play — on routes not easily traveled by bike or transit alone.