MTA Tests Bike Racks on Bus Across Verrazano

An anonymously-sourced New York Post story yesterday might leave readers with the impression that new bike racks on the front of Staten Island buses will lead to late trips and a liability nightmare for the MTA. The MTA, however, says it’s still studying the racks — a tried-and-true amenity in every other big American city — on a route crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which currently has no bike path.

Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr
Bus racks on the front of a bus in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo: Stephen Rees/Flickr

Here’s the Post story, in full:

City buses on Staten Island will soon sport bike racks as part of a New York City Transit program that bus drivers are already slamming as a surefire way to slow down commuters.

Drivers on the S53 bus line, which runs between Port Richmond and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, will be required under the pilot plan to wait for passengers to load their wheels.

“The consensus right now — no one’s crazy about it,” said a transit source who works at Staten Island’s Castleton depot. “If the bike falls off, it’s on us. If it gets damaged, it’s on us.”

Bike racks on buses are common in less congested cities.

New York is the only major city in the country without bike racks on its buses, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking, with cities as large and congested as Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco outfitting their entire bus fleets with bike racks — all without major liability or on-time performance problems.

So will Staten Island residents get to make multi-modal trips to Brooklyn? Not in the immediate future, according to the MTA. “It was a test, not a pilot program,” said MTA spokesperson Amanda Kwan. The test occurred on March 3, she said, and consisted of “one run, on the S53 route with a non-revenue bus. The rack equipment itself was also being tested.”

The MTA would not reveal further information about the test. “It is simply too early to have or release any more details,” Kwan said.

The S53 runs from Port Richmond to Bay Ridge and is one of three non-express routes over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. (The others are the S93 and the S79 Select Bus Service.) Bike racks on those buses would be a stopgap measure until a walking and biking path is added to bridge, a goal that that’s gained support recently from local elected officials thanks to the advocacy of the Harbor Ring committee. A study of the path by Parsons Brinckerhoff is due to the MTA later this year.

Bike racks on buses would also dovetail with NYC DOT’s goal to improve bicycle access to and across the city’s bridges. Last November, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT had begun working with the MTA on a pilot program to add bike racks to buses, with a focus on routes that cross bridges. At the time, the MTA was noncommittal about its intentions.

Advocates for a path across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge welcomed the move and pushed the MTA to do right by New Yorkers looking to get between Staten Island and Brooklyn with their bikes.

“The Harbor Ring commends the MTA for testing bicycle racks on the S53 bus route that crosses the Verrazano Bridge. This is a significant development that could expand multi-modal transportation options for residents of Brooklyn and Staten Island,” the committee said in a statement. “However, bike racks alone are not a replacement for the fully accessible bicycle and pedestrian pathways across the Verrazano Bridge. The Harbor Ring hopes these racks are just a first step toward the construction of pathways that would allow non-scheduled, non-motorized bridge crossings by runners, pedestrians, and cyclists.”