Enhancing the bike-on-transit experience: How a simple technology upgrade can forge the link between cycling and transit ridership

Nov. 23, 2021
When bicycles can be transported on-board transit vehicles, riders have a great option for their first and last mile.

Over the past few years, bicycles have increased in popularity and become a more prominent aspect of mobility ecosystems. Bicycling, however, is not always an end-to-end method of transportation. When bicycles can be transported on-board transit vehicles, riders have a great option for their first and last mile.

Additionally, dedicated bike commuters have the confidence of knowing there is a back-up plan for inclement weather, bike mechanical issues, unexpected time constraints or an emergency. With an increase in both bike rack usage and the demand from passengers for real-time information and data, an opportunity arises to improve service and harmonize the use of these mobility options.

Supplying real-time availability of bike rack spaces before the bus or train arrives enables riders to better plan their journey. This technology addition is analogous to widely deployed passenger counting systems that include apps to inform passengers if seats are available. If rack spaces are full, riders may choose to wait for the next bus or train, ride to another stop or route, extend their bike ride to complete their journey or park their bicycle at a nearby station.

In addition to increasing customer satisfaction and ridership, transit operators can benefit from a range of increased efficiencies by accessing bike rack usage information, including:

  • Historical data assists with scheduling, so that buses with higher bicycle capacity can be used for high-demand routes.
  • Dispatchers can make real-time adjustments to support transport of more bicycles when needed.
  • Delays can be minimized due to over-crowding, particularly when interior racks are used as there is no need to physically board the vehicle to determine availability.
  • Transit operators can use the occupancy data to provide better service, increasing transit use and promoting cycling as a first and last-mile solution.

Bicycle counting sensors can be retrofit for use on existing bike racks or purchased with new equipment. The hardware is identical to sensors already widely deployed for signaling rack deployment status to operators, and the output can be integrated into a variety of passenger counting, CAD/AVL and rider app solutions.

Increasing the availability of information is the first step to promote compatibility between mobility modes and harmonize the transport of bicycles on-board transit vehicles. Adding bicycle rack status to existing passenger information and dispatch systems is an affordable and simple step towards a seamless bike-on-transit journey. 


Eric Rayl is president of Sportworks where he oversees the strategic direction of the company that supplies bicycle racks for transit vehicles and bike parking products for public and private sector facilities.