New bus bike racks are coming to Bay Ridge. Here’s what you need to know.

Beginning this month, you will be able to take bicycles over the Verrazano Bridge with the MTA bus. (Main photo by Hey Ridge, inset photo by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority)
Beginning this month, you will be able to take bicycles over the Verrazano Bridge with the MTA bus. (Main photo by Hey Ridge, inset photo by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

The MTA is finally catching up to Portland. And not just Hipster Portland, folks, I’m talking about the one in Maine.

This Sunday, September 6, you can take your bicycle across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge using the S53 and S93 buses, courtesy of the MTA’s new bus bike racks.

It’s kind of a big deal, especially for Bay Ridgians.

This is good news for bicyclists anywhere in the city – this transit option has been available in a number of other cities for quite some time now, including Washington, San Francisco, Hipster Portland, Non-Hipster Portland, and Pittsburgh. That’s right, folks, a city whose major professional baseball team has people in pierogi costumes run around the ballpark got bus bike racks before we did. So this year-long pilot program is a signal that New York plans on catching up with the rest of the country on this front.

But it’s a really big f’ing deal for bicyclists in Bay Ridge and the surrounding neighborhoods, for two important reasons:

  • Without a pedestrian and bicycle walkway across the Verrazano Bridge, the only way to get to Staten Island and its network of parks and relatives that sought out cheaper housing by bicycle is via the ferry at Whitehall Street, which is a huge waste of time and not exactly the safest bike route to boot.
  • Mass transit options between Staten Island and Brooklyn are really kinda horrible, since none of the three bus routes that connect the boroughs come any deeper into Brooklyn than 86th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, so this creates another way to connect to the Staten Island buses that doesn’t involve taking the N to the R, or being left at the mercy of the B8.

How is this gonna work?

The MTA press release promised more information later this week on their web site and YouTube channel, but screw that! Portland is still way ahead of the curve, and posted this helpful video seven years ago. (It’s safe to skip the first 40 seconds.)

Note that the MTA is experimenting with three different rack systems, but the steps are essentially the same (and it appears that one of the MTA rack systems is the exact kind shown in the Portland video).

  • Once the bus is stopped, step in front and lower the bike rack by squeezing the top handle and swinging down.
  • Lift up your bike and slide it into one of the two racks. The front tire goes in on the same side as the hook.
  • Pull the spring-loaded hook out and swing it over the top of the front tire, up against the front fork of the frame. Release the hook to allow it to hold the tire into place.
  • Get on the bus and pay your fare.

When you get off, just remind the driver that you’re taking your bike off the rack. Remove the hook from the front tire and lift the bike out of the rack. If there isn’t another bike besides yours, lift the empty rack into its upright position when you are done.

Other useful tips and facts

  • Use of the racks come at no extra charge. Just pay your normal fare.
  • The racks are first-come, first-serve, and each one can hold only two bikes. So at peak weekday times, there will be room for up to twenty bikes an hour, and six bikes an hour during evenings, but if you and a couple of friends plan on heading over the bridge with your bikes, at least one of you will have to wait for the next bus.
  • Take note that there will be no bike racks on the S79 (or any other bus route) at this time. The MTA will be basing further expansion plans on the results of this pilot study. Although future expansion is almost certain at this point, barring a 2010-level financial crisis (not inconceivable, given increasing debt payments over the next few years – fingers crossed!).

Update (Sep 5, 2015) – The MTA has released their own version of the how-to video. I want to call special attention to the 1:42 mark in the video, when the one rack system with the tire hook that is most dissimilar to the other two is shown.

  • Ted General

    Bay Ridgians!! Really Brian. First time ever I saw that term used for us local inhabitants. The more popular terms are Bay Ridgeites or Bay Ridgers. If YOUR new term was meant to grab attention, I’m sure it will.

    • Brian

      I’ve heard one other person use that term before. One. (Lifelong Brooklynite, not all in Bay Ridge.) I’m still partial to it because residents of Cambridge are Cantabrigians, and I kinda feel like that sets the precedent for the other Ridges and Bridges.

      Just so long as we’re all agreed which part of Brooklyn those Ridgeites / Ridgers / Ridgians are in.

      • Ted General

        Hi Brian, “Bay Ridgians” sounds kind of elitist or high brow, but to each its own! The piece you did on the bus bike racks was splendid.

  • Chuck Otey

    Actually, it’s Bay Ridgeites, Ted, as I’m sure you know. As to bike racks on buses the idea was put forth about 16 years ago by Assemblyman Jules Polenetsky and MTa folk–it was shot down as to dangerous, too clumsy, will wither in disuse. A mere diversion from the true cause–the Verrazano Lifeway! We have thousands of signatures and wide political support(Schumer, Golden & MORE) for the VERRAZANO LIFEWAY–so named to include, walkers, joggers, bikers,the wheel-chair users in its scope and purpose.. Don’t call it a ‘bikepath’ or it will be doomed at inception. Lifeway means just that–it enhances LIFE! Something we all share in common(which is best way to share.)