Bikers are gaining another set of wheels at their disposal when it comes to getting around the University of Georgia — UGA buses. The university’s transportation services has installed bike racks to the fronts of their buses, anyone can bring their bike along their trip to where they need to go.
“It’s really saved my ass because the ride from my house over to health sciences is really brutal,” Ryan Switzer said, a senior studying political science and international affairs from Atlanta, GA. Without a car, Switzer said he relies on his bike to get around, from buying groceries to attending tutoring.
Todd Berven, the Associate Director of Transportation and Parking at UGA, explained that feedback from UGA students was the cause for Transportation Services to consider adding bike racks on buses. Transportation Services began installing bike racks towards the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, and drivers were taught over the 2017 summer how to drive with the added two feet in front of the bus.
Berven pointed to infrastructure of certain roads as the biggest challenge in teaching bus drivers how to drive with two bikes added to the front of buses.
“If you’ve noticed at some of our stops, we’ve painted blue lines on the actual sidewalks where we pull in to keep people back so that they don’t get clipped by the bike racks.” Berven said.
Switzer explained that the addition of bike racks on UGA Health Sciences buses has made his commute around campus a lot easier.
“Before I couldn’t bring my bike on, and I’d kind of be trapped if I had to leave my bike somewhere,” Switzer said. “It certainly gives me more flexibility that I didn’t have before.”
Bike racks on public buses is nothing new for the Athens-Clarke County community. Butch McDuffie, the director of Athens Transit, explained that Athens Transit first installed bike racks to their bus fleet back in 2001. McDuffie said the bike racks were made possible with the collaboration and funding from the Federal Transit Administration, Georgia Department of Transportation, Local Government, and BikeAthens.
“Bike racks on the buses are a huge bonus. It makes both transit and biking much better alternatives.” – Tyler Dewey, Executive Director of BikeAthens
BikeAthens is a non-profit organization that envisions a comprehensive transportation system in Athens by promoting cycling, walking and transit through local service initiatives and public policy.
Tyler Dewey described how BikeAthens works as a liaison with UGA Transportation Services to advocate for greater transportation options for local residents.
“Bike racks on the buses are a huge bonus. It makes both transit and biking much better alternatives.”
McDuffie estimates Athens Transit passengers use the 3-slot bike racks about 100 times a day.
When it comes to recording the use of the bike racks on UGA buses, Berven said that bus drivers are still familiarizing themselves with the Automatic Vehicle Location, the tablet application equipped on every bus.
“Going forward, we will be able to have accurate counts on how many times the rack was used on every trip. Right now, we’re still getting that piece up to speed.” Berven said.
Equipping the entire UGA bus fleet cost about $60,000, with each bike rack costing approximately $1,000, according to Berven, with funding came from the Transportation Services budget.
Switzer explained that while he believes the bike racks are a step in the right direction, he has been caught waiting for buses without bike racks and hopes that all bus routes are equipped soon.
“I hope people start to use them more because they’re really great, and I wish I knew exactly which routes had them.” Switzer said.
About 45 to 48 of the 60 total UGA buses have the bike racks installed, according to Berven, and Transportation Services plans to have all buses equipped with the racks by the start of November.