E-Bicycles on Transit Vehicles
It is all about increasing cycling traffic. For each obstacle or perceived obstacle that is removed from the thinking process of potential cyclists, the greater will be the penetration of the potential cycling market. The greater will be the daily cycling traffic. Access to transit vehicles for cyclists with their e-bicycles will penetrate the potential cycling market even further and be another growth factor in cycling for transportation traffic.
For some, the ordinary bicycle, no matter the design, will not do for reasons that may range from personal energy levels to personal preferences. E-bicycles reduce some of the reasons for not cycling for part of the potential cycling market, the customers.
When it comes to discussions on e-bicycles, we should be clear to all as to which type we are discussing:
Type 1 – The type that have normal bicycle frames and have an electric motor and battery attached.
Type 2 – The type that looks like mopeds and have pedals, which qualifies them as e-bicycles providing the maximum speed does not exceed 32 kph in North America.
Over the past few years, TransLink, the local transportation authority in Metro Vancouver, has been approached a few times for allowing the bicycle-framed type of electrical bicycles on transit vehicles. During this period, ongoing discussions with TransLink were focussed on allowing bicycles on SkyTrains, the fully automated and driverless rapid transit system. The issue was not that TransLink was resistant to that. In fact, they were very supportive. It was a safety group in the provincial government that was creating the roadblock.
Now, when it came to buses, the local cycling advocacy group were after TransLink to place bicycle racks on buses with 3 spaces not 2 for bicycles. E-bicycles on bike racks were a secondary priority. The normal response from TransLink was that the e-bicycles were too heavy for the bike racks on buses.
From the Sportwork’s, the bike rack supplier, website, it appears that their latest design can handle:
Apex 3 bike racks – “Secures bicycles up to 25 kg (55 lbs.) per wheel tray while the vehicle is moving, and supports a 113 kg (250 lb. maximum) centrally located static load when it is deployed and the vehicle is not moving.”
“Accommodates up to three bicycles with wheel sizes from 40 cm (16 inches) to 73 cm (29 inches or 700 cm) and wheelbase dimensions of up to 122 cm (48 inches excluding tandems and recumbent bicycles).” Wheel width of 7.62 cm (3 inches) can be accommodated.
So, from Sportwork’s perspective, electrical bicycles up to 25 kg should not be an issue. Now, the question may be if most cyclists can lift a 25 kg bicycle onto a bike rack? A local cyclist’s approach to the situation is simply employing a practice of removing a battery when loading a bicycle onto a bike rack on a bus. This approach seems to be a good approach.
Really though, the transit authority should move forward and let people put e-bicycles on bus racks if they can lift the bicycle on and if the weight restriction is met.
With respect to the SeaBus, a passenger ferry, it should really be about an average person’s capability of manoeuvring an e-bicycle down loading ramps, onto the SeaBus, and controlling the e-bicycle during the voyage, all without interfering with other passengers. For most cyclists, this should not be an issue for the type 1 e-bicycles.
Similarly with respect to SkyTrain, the rapid transit system, it should also be about an average person’s capability of manoeuvring an e-bicycle from the street to the loading platform, onto train cars, and then controlling the e-bicycle through the journey, all without interfering with other passengers. Now, at most stations, the elevators are not of the size or configuration that the local cycling advocacy group recommended and in some cases are difficult to manoeuvre within.
If TransLink is serious about promoting cycling and combined mobility with cycling, then they need to address accommodating e-bicycles on transit vehicles. Recently, I read a piece on the escalating sales of e-bicycles and that about 10% of the Netherlands sales are now e-bicycles.
It seems reasonable to recommend to any transit authority that:
- Transit authorities should move to the 3-bike racks on buses and allow the type 1 e-bicycles with standard bike frames, if 25kg or less in weight with proviso that people can lift the bicycles onto racks with reasonable ease. This should hold for any bus size from articulating buses to standard buses to community buses.
- Transit authorities should permit e-bicycles onto ferries, such as SeaBus, officially, with proviso that cyclists can easily manoeuvre the e-bicycles.
- Transit authorities should add a bike car onto rapid transit and commuter trains, when they are buying new equipment to extend their trains. The bike cars could have collapsible seats along the walls only to open up the interior or not have any seats. The bike cars would be for use by cyclists, wheelchairs, and people with strollers, luggage, or grocery buggies. In peak rush hour times, this open-configured car could hold a lot of people standing.
- If transit car expansion is not in the works, then the transit authority should consider setting aside part of a car in each train set for bicycles, etc., possibly the section forward of the front set of doors by removing seats.
It would be desirable for transit authorities to allow tandems, bikes with trailers, tricycles, and electric-powered bicycles of type 1 e-bicycles.
For this to happen, elevator access improvements or runnels on stairs or escalators with flat floors, or escalators with moving bicycle belts, or other ways of conveying bicycles quickly to station platforms would be needed.
Some European escalators use the flat stair configuration. Some grocery stores use these as well as fully laden grocery carts can be taken on these. Some escalators come with runnel for bicycles.
What is in it for transit authorities?
Increased ridership, increased fare revenue, and greater customer satisfaction are the first rewards for transit authorities that come to mind. The catchment areas for bus routes, rapid transit, commuter trains, and ferries increase.
What is in it for the city?
As cycling and Combined Mobility trips with transit becomes more feasible for motorists and infrequent cyclists as an alternative to driving to work or for other trip purposes, more of that potential cycling market is penetrated. Improved access to taking their bicycles on transit vehicles is the key.
With drivers switching to cycling, all the other benefits, including reduced road congestion one car at a time, greenhouse gas reductions, health improvement, health care costs reduction, and others, comes along with each driver making the switch.
H-JEH Becker, Velo.Urbanism, Third Wave Cycling Group Inc., 2013
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted
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