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UK’s honest attempt at bike shuttle

written by andy on

These days, many major transportation structure like tunnels and bridges have bicycle and pedestrian paths built in to provide access to active transportation modes, whether it is for transportation or recreational purposes. But in previous decades, planners didn’t include them because they weren’t considered to be serious transportation.

While it is relatively inexpensive to include bike/ped path to new construction, it is rather cost prohibitive to add a path alongside an existing structure. It is estimated to cost up to $300 million to put a path on the western span of the Bay Bridge.

Either as an alternative to building a path, or as an interim measure until the path is built, could there be a dedicated bike shuttle service to bridge the gap? As the case of the Bay Bridge, Caltrans already operates a peak hour van with a bike trailer that carries 14 bicycles and riders. It runs 4 peak trips so the peak capacity is total of 56 bikes, far less than what Caltrain could carry on a single train on the Peninsula.

In the 1960s, Dartford Tunnel was opened east of London. It didn’t provide a bike path but there was a desire to provide bicycle access through the tunnel with a shuttle. The transportation authority procured special buses and platforms to shuttle bikes for free.

Dartford Tunnel Cycle Bus

The design of the buses was unique and bizarre. The lower deck comprised two cycle racks capable of taking 23 bicycles, accessible from either side of the bus. At the rear of the bus was a large space to accommodate tricycles, tandems, perambulators and sidecars. The upper deck of the bus provided seating for 33 passengers and was accessible via a series of steps built into the side of the bus. The cost of the whole fleet was a little over £12,000, and they were heralded as the first of this type of bus in the world.

Because the level of the bike rack and steps to the door are well above the ground, platforms (loading docks) were built to provide level access.

Despite the incredible level of investment provided, usage remained low (both sides of the crossings are suburbs). The buses were eventually replaced by SUVs equipped with bike racks. Today cyclists can request for a pick up at the entrance and service is provided on demand. Interestingly, when they added a second parallel tube and a parallel bridge to increase corridor capacity in the 80s and 90s, neither structures have bike paths.

If Caltrans had provided this level of investment and capacity for the Bay Bridge, I think it would be very well utilized. It would also attract cyclists who wouldn’t have used the bike path (if built) because of the distance and grade involved.

Caltrans could consider using double deck buses with interior racks on the lower level, stacked the same way as on Caltrain. They could consider very tall single level coaches with bike racks located where the baggage area normally is supposed to be. They could use a shuttle size bus and high capacity bike trailers. Some can take up to 24 bikes.

It seems like that we should consider these ideas seriously.

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