How do you use the bike rack on a Metro bus?

While it's true that I often ride the bus and often ride my bicycle, I do not often ride my bicycle onto a bus. This means that I forget how it's done and have to refresh my memory. Fortunately, Arlington Transit uses the same bike rack design as we do here in Metro King County, so I can refer to their detailed pictures instead of our diagrams which leave a bit to be desired.

It's not that hard, really. There are instructions on the rack itself for most of the steps. You squeeze the handle where it says "pull here", lower the rack, place the front tire where it says "front tire", the back tire where it says "back tire", and put the support arm into place.

Two details are omitted from the instruction on the rack: First, if you're the first bicycle on the rack, use the slot furthest away from the bus. And second, how do you use that support arm?

I'm always baffled by the support arm. It won't fit over the tire! Oh, wait, because it's on a spring. You have to pull outwards in order extend the clamp. Then it will fit over your tire, and then you let it retract and hold the tire in place.

Metro has other tips on how to prepare your bicycle and the protocol to follow with the bus driver. One bus driver mentioned that the rack was designed by "some guy in Bellevue, or maybe Kirkland". Following up on this information led me to bike rack trivia: The racks are manufactured by Sportworks in the nearby town of Woodinville. Here's the Sportworks version of the story.

(And another Metro Transit tip: If you want a series of options clustered around a particular time, you can use the commuter trip planner, handy if you don't know exactly what time you will be returning. There's also the point to point schedule maker if you want a custom bus schedule between two stops. And no discussion of Metro Transit planning tools is complete without a plug for Bus Monster.)

Comments (24)
  1. David Dunham says:

    > no discussion of Metro Transit planning tools is complete without a plug for Bus Monster. <<

    Spoken like a true Windows user — still not available for Safari on Mac OS X :-(

    [If you want Bus Monster to support Safari, then go ask the author of Bus Monster. I can’t believe I had to write that. -Raymond]
  2. Mark says:

    I didn’t know about Bus Monster – it’s frakkin’ cool!

  3. Ryan says:

    From the linked page at Sport Works…

    >>They applied for and received a $950M grant to outfit their entire public transit fleet with bike racks.<<

    >>It was awarded the contract to outfit the entire fleet of 1300 vehicles with its new bike rack. <<

    I never was great at math, but did each bike rack come with a free bus or two? Really hoping that’s a typo.

  4. Tim says:

    I believe communities invent certain devices and mechanisms purely to confuse newcomers and tourists :-)

    Case in point: the Toronto tram system.  This may be a gotcha for UK people only, and the US/Canada/everywhere else has no trouble with it, but:

    The exit doors are automatic.  You see people go to the exit, and the door opens, and they get out.  So when your stop comes (and good luck knowing that from the mumbling and strongly accented announcements that seem to be compulsory on public transport the world over), you go to the exit door.  It doesn’t open.

    That’s because there is a foot-switch under the first step on the stairs out of the bus.  The door only opens when you step on it, but you didn’t notice that when watching everyone else get off.  

    So if you don’t know about this, you won’t start going down the steps until the door opens, and so…deadlock.

    It’s a conspiracy, I’m sure of it.

  5. Cody says:

    I would imagine that in Toronto, if no one’s going for the door, it’s more useful to conserve heat and not open the door up unless required.

  6. Serge Wautier says:

    You guys have bike racks on busses!? I’ve never seen that anywhere in Belgium (or even France or the many other European countries that I have visited). Although I should check Dutch busses. These guys ride more bicycles than they drive cars!

  7. Kirupa says:

    I too had never heard of Bus Monster, even though I’ve been going back and forth between where I live and MS for the past month! This is definitely a lifesaver :)

  8. Francis says:

    True, our diagrams leave something to be desired, but then if you watch the video on that page, at about 0:33 you’ll see someone loading a bike.

  9. Tierce says:

    "if you’re the first bicycle on the rack, use the slot furthest away from the bus"

    We have a similar bike rack on AC Transit busses in the Bay Area.  The way I was told, and have since practiced, is to put ones bike in the slot <b>closest</b> to the bus, in order to make it easy for the next bike to be placed in front, rather than having to be squeezed in behind.

  10. Bec says:

    Wow, I’ve never heard of that. Here, I think you just take your bike on the bus and put it in the disabled section.

  11. Gabe says:

    My guess is that they got a grant for $0.950M to supply bike racks for their buses. Especially when you know there are just about 1300 buses and they mention that racks were expensive at $1000 when they originally came out.

  12. Maarten says:

    SportWorks also made excellent consumer bike racks for your car, based on the same idea, though the consumer division was acquired by Thule recently. They’re now sold as Thule models and may not be made here anymore. SporkWorks still makes the bus racks.

  13. GregM says:

    These look like the same racks added to the WRTA buses in Worcester, MA several years ago.

  14. louis says:

    Wow, I’ve never seen tire spelled with an ‘i’ before.  Is it an Americanism?


  15. Mark Wan says:

    Yea, Bus Monster is cool.  Compare this with the trip planner here in Vancouver with the bus stop numbers that are not even on the bus stops themselves.

    And yes I use the bus only when I have a flat.  Gets me out of trouble when I’m caught with a flat tyre and a time crunch.

  16. Cody says:

    >Wow, I’ve never seen tire spelled with an ‘i’ before.  Is it an Americanism?


  17. Jonathan says:

    > Tierce:

    >>"if you’re the first bicycle on the rack, use the slot furthest away from the bus"

    I would guess that putting the bike in the farthest slot helps the bus driver remember that he has a 3 foot long battering ram sticking out the front of his bus.  

    The bike would be in his field of vision, and would be as close to the front of the rack as possible, thus serving as a better visual indicator of where the rack ends that a bike in the closest slot to the bus would be.


    >>Wow, I’ve never seen tire spelled with an ‘i’ before.  Is it an Americanism?

    Yes, tire is the correct spelling in the US.

    Blame Noah Webster. :)

  18. Wesley says:

    The funny thing is I can write almost the exact same post as you did… The Metro bus system in Washington uses the same bike racks as Arlington Transit. The only difference being my Washington is the one that borders Arlington. (DC and Arlington, VA).

    Tragically, our Metro doesn’t even offer a confusing diagram on their site ( — a page that seems to only be accessible by search…not linked to anywhere on the site ) but just a link to a page that’s nowhere as good as the one from Arlington County.

    Tragically, it seems par for the course that Arlington County makes better Metrobus pages ( ) than Metro does! ( )

  19. Aaargh! says:

    Why would you want to take your bike on the bus ?

    Why not just use the bike to get where you’re going, it’s usually a lot faster.

    I usually take the bike to work, it’s a 15 minute ride from my house to the bicycle storage @ work.

    If I take the bus (like I had to today because of a flat tire) it takes 20 minutes, excluding the time it takes to walk to and from the busstops.

  20. GregM says:

    When your goal is to bike a trail that’s on the other side of town (as opposed to biking to work and back), then you don’t necessarily want to bike all the way across town before biking the trail, and then all the way back across town when you’re done.

    Also, if you have a flat tire or other mechanical problem after biking to work, you can take the bus home.

  21. Aaargh! says:

    “When your goal is to bike a trail that’s on the other side of town (as opposed to biking to work and back)”

    Reminds me of all the people who use the car to go to the gym and then spend an hour on a stationary bike. Or people who use the elevator at work all day and then spend their free time on a stairmaster. :-)
    Besides, is going to the other side of town by bus faster than cycling ? Over here it isn’t (and I don’t live in a particularly crowded part of the country)

    Where I live (the Netherlands) a bike is primarily a transportation device and not sporting equipment, and it’s the main form of transportation for a lot of people. That’s probably the reason why taking your bike on the bus seems so weird to me. Why take the bus when you’ve got a perfecly good bicycle at hand ? It’s faster, more convenient and less annoying than sitting in a bus between a smelly person and a woman with a crying baby.

    [Unlike the Netherlands, it is not practical to bicycle everywhere in the Seattle area. The terrain is very hilly (one hill in Issaquah is taller than the maximum elevation gain in all of the Netherlands), and bike lanes are not ubiquitous. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t go 90kph on my bicycle. -Raymond]
  22. Aaargh! says:

    Ofcourse the US is a bit different than .nl , cities over here are usually more compact and roads for cars where added as an afterthought.

    > And I don’t know about you, but I can’t go 90kph on my bicycle.

    But within the city, you can’t do 90 kph in your car either, and with all the congestions a bike is a LOT faster.

    [Our cities are so big, we have highways within them. (And certainly we have highways for going from city to city.) Even if you avoid the highway, you can easily go 65kph on major surface streets. -Raymond]
  23. Father Fungus Face says:

    Here in Grand Rapids, MI, the transit authority says the first bike should load closest to the bus.

    My question is where does the third bike go?

  24. GregM says:

    The third bike goes on the next bus.  ;)

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