Bikes on the MBTA

In response to a constituent inquiry I recently learned that nearly all MBTA diesel buses have a front mounted bike rack.  Unfortunately for many of our Belmont and Watertown constituents, none of the electric buses (71,72,73) are equipped due to electrical safety concerns.

Have you taken a bike and bus trip?  How was it?

Let us know!

Andrew Bettinelli
Legislative Aide
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

10 replies on “Bikes on the MBTA”

  1. I ride bikes to Alewife T station daily. Occasionally, I loaded my bus onto Bus 62/78/84 due to inclement weathers.

    Being able to load my bike onto a bus is a nice back-up for my commute. It also provides a safer alternatives in case I have to ride through busy streets without much space for cyclist late at night( unfortunately, a lot streets are like this, for an example, brighton street.).

    I don’t understand why there is a electrical safety concern for adding a rack on electric buses. If there is a concern, I am almost sure that it can be addressed by modest modification in bus safety equipment.

    Otherwise, we cannot explain the wide adoption of electric powered bus and train around the world. We do not want to exaggerate a minor safety concern while electric bus itself has been operation for more than a century.

    This MBTA rule does not make sense in logic.

  2. Will–

    Please address the rack issue now for the sake of 71 Bus users. I have seen cyclists try to take a bike with them on the 71. Some drivers take pity and will let the bike on board if there is room, but mostly they just say, “My bus doesn’t have a rack, sorry.” So often a cyclist has to ride to Harvard in the rain, in the dark etc.

    Gang Zhao is correct, it seems beyond credence that the MBTA managers and engineer cannot come up with a fix to whatever problem exists with the racks on electric buses.

  3. I posed the following questions to the MBTA in response to the feedback that we received above:

    What are the safety concerns regarding bikes on electric buses?

    Are there any plans to put bike racks on electric buses?

    Here is the MBTA’s response:

    The small fleet of electric buses operate on Bus routes 71,72, and 73 in Cambridge, Watertown and Belmont, and on a portion of the Silver Line (Routes SL1&2) from South Station. If there is a malfunction with the bus 600 volt electrical system, it is possible that a bike rack user could get electrocuted. While it may be possible to modify the bike rack to prevent this from happening, it would require a reengineering exercise just to determine feasibility, and then a redesigned bike rack. At this time we have no plans to proceed with this costly exercise. When these buses are replaced in the future, we will be able to address the safety issues and bike rack installation will be feasible.

    Andrew Bettinelli
    Legislative Aide
    Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

  4. While I don’t have an engineering background, I do have a theory that the outer shell of the buses are uses to ground the bus for electrical safety, and a bike rack could become electrified if it was attached to it.

  5. San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver seem to have no problem with this on their trolleybuses. Of course, there’s also the fact that Seattle and San Francisco don’t have salty slush on the roads, and Boston does for significant parts of the year.

  6. Andrew and Will, thank you for your continued interest in this subject.
    I am not an engineer, but only a physicist who has routinely worked with several 100 thousands of volts, so maybe I don’t understand the issue enough.
    But here is my jist: There is malfunction of some sort that puts the bicycle rack under a 600 V voltage. (we only use 600 V because it is not considered immediately lethal, although certainly not pleasant). Wouldn’t that mean that the whole chassis of the bus is under that voltage? And would that mean that anyone who is leaving the bus and possibly touches the outside of the bus would be subjected to the same kind of voltage (similar to experiencing a discharge in your car sometimes when you are leaving it)? Would that mean that we are basically running around with a high-voltage bomb around all over the place? Or is this just a lame excuse not to mount bike racks. Physics would have it if you were mounting the racks with high-density nylon screws onto fortified rubber settings, the bike racks would be completely isolated.

    BTW: I would like to commend all bus drivers on busses with bike racks for their patients they have with us riders. This is really a useful service. I wished the express busses would have the racks, too.

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