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Miami Dade Transit Bus Bike Racks

Today was the first time I used one of the bike racks mounted on the MDT buses, as I did a bike-bus commute from South Beach to FIU Biscayne Bay. I boarded the 93 bus at Omni station and loaded my bike onto the rack closest to the driver. I should note that I ride a steel city bike with a pair of panniers - this is a heavy bike with an even heavier rear wheel area. But I got it on and locked it into place following the instructions on the MDT website. It still felt wobbly so I asked the driver if I’d done it correctly, to which she responded with a non-committal sound I took to mean yes.

Long story short (the longer version was posted to my blog), the locking mechanism slipped off the front wheel and the bike fell off the rack at my stop on 135 St & Biscayne Blvd, being hit by the bus into the next lane. It wasn’t run over, thankfully, but it was damaged so I couldn’t ride it. The driver reported it but did nothing else, shifting the blame entirely onto me and then leaving without even saying sorry. I filed a complaint via the MDT website but I fully expect them to blow their nose with it. I accept it was partly my fault because I may not have locked it properly, but I also asked for confirmation from the driver and received none. The driver also obviously was not paying attention to the bike otherwise she would have noticed when the locking arm slipped off.

I see bikes on the bus racks every day and I assume these reach their destination fine and dandy. But while I realize my case may be out of the ordinary, I cannot be the only person who has used these racks for the first time and did not know if they were used correctly. The buses should have better signage explaining the proper operation of the locking mechanism, and the drivers should be trained (and frankly required) to make sure that bikes are properly secured, especially when people ask them explicitly. While MDT may not make itself responsible for every single bike that goes on one of their bus bike racks, it cannot be good for business (to appeal to the basest denominator) if cases like mine happen more often.

Has anyone else out there had a problem with the MDT bus bike racks?

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8 Comments

  1. Edwin says:

    I did one day. I was on some bus heading northbound to Dadeland station south. The bus was bouncing so much it ALMOST fell off. There were several problems. The rack itself was damaged, bent so the bike didn’t fit in well enough. The other problem is that I have a 29er so the wheels don’t fit anyways. They are too big. Thankfully the bus driver stopped and let me re-adjust the damned thing.

    Budget cuts has made maintenance harder to do on the extras when they can’t afford the core.

  2. I’m still waiting to hear from MDT regarding my formal complaint, so we’ll see what they say.

    The more I think about it, the more I feel there was an issue with the locking mechanism on the bike rack I used. I’m an intelligent person that can follow instructions, and I did precisely what the website says I should do (there is no signage on the bus itself explaining how to secure the bike to the rack). Yes, I probably did not lock it right, maybe, but I recall that the locking arm just did not lock in any discernible way. The only way for me to check would be to track down the same bus (#2070) and inspect it.

    The bike has been dropped at the shop, so we’ll see what the damage really was.

  3. Ellen says:

    I took a few minutes with a parked Metro bus to fully familiarize myself with the bike rack and locking mechanisms before I ever loaded my bicycle on to it. My opinion is if you did not do it correctly due to equipment failure or your lack of familiarity with the proper use of the equipment, the liability is yours, not the driver’s or the transit authority.

  4. Prem says:

    Ellen,
    If you’ve ever used the bike rack (either of the two kinds available) it would be obvious to you that improper use of the locking mechanisms after reading MDT’s instructions is near impossible, especially with the specific mechanism Daniel was using.
    You put your bike in the wheel valleys, then rotate the red locking mechanism until it surrounds your wheel.
    I cannot imagine how Daniel could possibly have misused this system.

    But even aside from that he specifically asked the bus driver if he did it correctly, and the fact that his bicycle did not fall off until the end of his ride suggests that it was, in fact, on correctly, and that the mechanism failed.

  5. Prem says:

    and because i love my own handiwork, i’m reposting a comment I made on Daniel’s blog that addresses some of the specifics based on my own experiences.

    “First, this is of course terribly sad news, but alas not surprising to me.
    I also ride on 700 sized wheels so I’ll try to give you some insight from my own experiences with MDT’s bus racks. I wonder if your wheels did in fact fit properly onto the rack because I have never found this to be the case. To fit my front wheel into the rack so that I can get the locking mechanism on it requires that the back wheel only be partly within the valley for it. Regardless of this, both wheels are at least partly within the wheel valley (i don’t know what this part of the rack should be called, but it’s where the wheels fit!) when the front wheel is locked.
    There are two type of bike locking mechanisms in use on MDT buses, although you will only find one type on any given bus.
    There is a red locking mechanism which looks a bit like an arched doorway, which locks onto the front wheel via a pressure mechanism which keeps it from loosening. I personally prefer this mechanism of the two because I find that the pressure is very strong, and imagine it would not loosen under most circumstances.
    The other mechanism is the original, older system–an upside down J shaped arm, composed of one hollow, black, square shaped piece connected to the rack itself, which houses the actual locking mechanism, a silver/metallic J arm, (usually with a black synthetic cover where the J meets the wheel) which locks the wheel by a spring inside the black hollow piece.
    Which system were you dealing with?
    In this older system, which is still more common in NE Dade county, the hollow piece, which is connected to the rack, if often connected very loosely! It moves forward and backward (traffic direction, not bicycle position), very easily. I have noticed that of the two rack spaces, the one closer to the bus (which is mostly used) is much weaker and shakes much more violently than the other rack space’s arm. I NEVER use this rack space unless there is a bike already occupying the front space.
    I have observed my own bicycle leaning as far forward as 45 degrees from the normal position.
    I don’t know if this space’s arm moves as such due to years of use, or because of its design. The outer rack space, while still shaky, is not as dangerous a bet because the “locking” arm is attached to the inner side of the rack (facing the bus) so that any shaking is in the direction of the bus and not the street.
    I have also, on many ocassions, found that the spring locking mechanism is broken. Usually only one of the two arms will be broken, but it’s no unheard of to find BOTH springs broken making both rack spaces unusable.
    Most bus drivers will NOT allow you to take the bike on the bus in these extreme circumstances.
    If the system available to you was the red, pressure locking mechanism, I don’t really have much to say, I’ve never had any trouble with this system, and my best guess would be that maybe you had the back tire in place, but not the front tire (again, my experience (and perhaps the space between my wheels is greater than yours) is that the wheels cannot both fit properly) which would prevent the an appropriate lock on to your wheel.
    MDT will not take any responsibility for this, as I think is indicated by how dismissive the bus driver was to this. The bike racks are an “at your own risk” option for bike riders, and it’s rather pathetic. Once you get your bike fixed I would recommend locking the bike to the rack itself, so that in the event of it coming loose of the locking mechanism, it will not fall off the rack, just fall onto the rack. That is no guarantee, of course, that the bus driver would then bother to inform you that the bike fell because many of them are very lazy and lack compassion.”

  6. MrSunshine561 says:

    I’ve never used the bike racks on a bus as I’ve never used a bus in Dade County. However, I did read the instructions on the MDT site just in case. I normally go car-bike-car when I go intermodal, and I’m looking at the metrorail as I find myself doing more bike-related things on the east side.

    One of the things that strikes me the most about this, is the disclaimer by MDT practically washing their hands off of any issue that may arise from taking your bike with you on a metrobus. The driver was not obligated to assist you or do anything other than what she did, as unsympathetic as that may sound. This policy is clearly stated on their site. I suspect she may even be prevented from saying “sorry” by policy, as that would imply liability.

    I honestly don’t see how a bus driver could be required to assist anyone when the service already runs inefficiently, from what I hear. Having the driver step out of the bus to help every bike rider (because eventually it would become an expectation) would delay everyone’s trip. I also think having the driver keep an eye on the bike racks would be unsafe. They need to focus on their job.

    As Prem said, the racks and pretty much all the facilities provided by the county -even bike lanes- are provided to use “at your own risk.” Pathetic, yeah, but true. So aside from having them fix bus #2070, I don’t see you having any other recourse.

    Good luck, regardless.

  7. Prem says:

    Daniel, I’ve done a little behind the scenes research and someone told me that you may want to get in contact with GSA Risk Management and file a formal complaint with them.
    My source tells me this issue may not even fall under MDT jurisdiction, as strange as that sounds.

  8. I’m not getting email updates of comments left so I’m behind.

    Was I at fault? I assume part of the fault, yes, inasmuch as I “probably” did not lock the bike correctly. I say “probably” because as far as I know, I did, following the information presented on MDT’s website. I still fail to see where in the Bike & Ride pages does it state that it is done at the rider’s own risk.
    http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/bikes.asp
    http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/bike1.asp

    I received a call from someone at MDT and she told me to contact MD Risk Management (as Prem mentions above) if I wish to purse a claim. I just might.

    I did get the bike fixed at a cost of $107. It now has a new back wheel rim and I still have the original all bent out of shape as a souvenir.

    I also suggested (and will continue to suggest) to MDT that they install plaques explaining the proper procedure for putting bikes on the bus racks. These can be installed right on the chassis of the bus, underneath the windshield, so you see them clearly when standing in front of the bus bike racks. If MDT wants to claim no responsibility, they need to have the info as clearly stated as possible so anyone, even those without access to the website or the brochure, can properly follow the instructions.

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