Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI)

CA: Report Recommends Methods to Facilitate Transit Ridership for Bicyclists

How can transit planners accurately address the needs of those who combine bicycling with transit riding?

Given that many bicyclists place a high value on the ability to blend these two modes, the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) has published a peer-reviewed report that provides policy recommendations to best address that need.  

"Perceptions of Bicycle-Friendly Policy Impacts on Accessibility to Transit Services: The First and Last Mile Bridge" is available for no-cost, no-registration. Authors are Bradley Flamm, PhD and Charles Rivasplata, PhD.  

In recent years, transit agencies have made it easier to combine bicycles and transit by installing bicycle racks on transit vehicles, implementing bicycles-on-trains policies, and developing other complementary programs. But is that effort really enlarging the geographic range of transit access? Further, do planners fully understand the profile of cycle-transit users (CTUs)?

“The research results show CTUs to be a diverse group, and the concept of transit catchment areas is complex and fluid when the access mode is a bicycle,” said Dr. Flamm. “The study documents the mutually reinforcing way in which bicycles and public transit serve as access modes for each other and includes policy recommendations that can improve cyclists’ use and accessibility to transit service.”

Who are CTUs, and how far do they travel?

This research project addresses two broad questions: Who are CTUs, and what distances do they travel on bicycles to access public transit? The project employed a literature review, a survey of bus operators, a survey of CTUs in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and follow-up telephone interviews with a subset of survey respondents. The survey addressed the motivations, practices, and challenges that CTUs face when combining bicycles and transit in single journeys.

Cycle-transit user respondents in both cities were predominantly male, white and well-educated, the research found. This is a profile that reflects the population of urban bicyclists found in most studies in the US. Most respondents combined transit and bicycling for work commute trips. The quantity and security of bicycle parking at transit stops and stations was the most frequently cited improvement CTUs would like to see addressed.

The modes complement each other.

Sample revelations from the research include:

  • Bicycles and transit serve as access modes for each other, enabling travelers to access transit and use bikes for transportation when they might not otherwise be able to.
  • CTUs reflect the larger population of US bicycle commuters, with low percentages of women and non-whites combining modes. They do, however, exhibit a degree of diversity that can be built upon as more is learned about the barriers to becoming a CTU.
  • CTUs value being able to travel farther and to avoid bicycle travel at inconvenient times, in inclement weather, at night, and in undesirable places.
  • Cycle-transit trips could be accomplished by other means but at greater costs, as respondents would have to rely on options that cost more time and money.
  • Many CTUs had clear ideas about how cycle-transit coordination could work better, identifying changes that could make cycling and transit more appealing.

The report also included advice for policy makers. Among the recommendations:

  • Make cycle-transit coordination a high and funded priority for local and regional planning organizations and transit agencies responsible for bicycle planning.
  • Plan for increased demand in cycle-transit use, providing more secure bicycle parking and higher-capacity bicycle facilities on transit vehicles.
  • Develop better orientation materials (publications, web pages, and videos accessible online) through which to promote cycle-transit travel.
  • Study strategies for further facilitating physical access by bicycles to, from and within transit stations and terminals.
  • Encourage the growth and expansion of bicycle share programs in US cities.