Being able to take a cycle with you on buses or coaches is important for both leisure and everyday transport journeys. In rural areas, the facility is particularly useful and can help boost passenger numbers.
Over 90% of UK households are within ten minutes’ walk of a bus stop, and cycling puts even more people within reasonable reach. This is much better coverage than rail – only 19% of UK households are within a 10 minute walk of a station. Making it easy to combine a cycle with a bus journey, therefore, makes using the services a much more feasible option.
A surprising number of services, in fact, now allow people to take their cycles with them, although it is usually at the driver's discretion.
Cycles can be carried on buses/coaches in five ways:
Inside the bus itself either in a separate compartment or in areas of 'shared' space
In the luggage hold (boot)
On the exterior of a bus on a rear-mounted cycle rack
In a trailer fitted with cycle racks and towed behind a bus or coach.
Several bus operators allow compact folding bikes (or packed down bikes) as hand luggage and CTC has approached major bus groups to persuade them to get this adopted as common basic practice, at least where the space is available. Some companies ask for the bike to be enclosed in a bag.
Parking at bus stops
For people who don't want to take their cycle with them on the bus service, they'll be much more likely to ride to the bus stop/station if they know that they can take advantage of secure cycle parking.
Many Express coach services carry bikes packed down into a suitable bag or box. The National Express Conditions of Carriage (Clause 7.1) state that a folded down or dismantled bike in a purpose-made bag or case may be carried with you, and generally CTC has established with other operators that they will work to similar conditions.
The potential carrying capacity of some coaches is significant - we know, for example, that at least 35 bicycles have been fitted onto a commuter coach chartered to take a group to and from a cycling event. Some high floor tour coaches may be able to take even more.
A good example of a coach service that is popular with cyclists is the Oxford Tube - many London commuters take a cycle with them.
Road safety - bus drivers and cyclists
It's important that bus drivers and cyclists interact as harmoniously as possible, particularly in busy urban areas where road-space is limited. A good way of doing this is to make sure that both road users understand each other's needs and adopt the sort of behaviour that avoids conflict.
Courses for bus drivers and on-road training for cyclists are amongst the best ways of promoting a good relationship. Leaflets, aimed at both drivers and cyclists, with straightforward, practical advice are also very helpful - good example comes from Warrington.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy):
There are few, if any, technical or legal barriers to carrying cycles by bus and coach.
Cycle carriage can bring new revenue to bus and coach operators.
For cyclists to contribute to the viability of services, operators need to advertise that they welcome passengers with cycles, and should clearly indicate this in their Conditions of Carriage.
CTC is keen to promote the services of those operators who provide cycle carriage facilities.
Cycle carriage facilities can contribute to sustainable countryside access and social inclusion objectives.
'Through' ticketing for passengers and cycles between different operators and between bus and train should be available.
Overseas experience suggests that there is potential for many more companies to carry cycles. Over 50% of the USA bus fleet carries cycles on front-mounted bike racks.*
*Note: The very different operating conditions and the laws relating to vehicle safety makes the use of some US bike racks both illegal and dangerous in the UK, but alternative options are working.