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.