Front of Bus Cycle Racks, the DVSA says no.

[Foreword 8th of June 2015: There are moves afoot to try and create a working group of Local Authorities, MPs, the DfT, Bus Companies, and hopefully a co-operative DVSA. Should you wish to be involved, please contact Ben Howlett, the MP for Bath.]

Before I get into the details of this, I have to thank First Group for their immense support and effort throughout this process. They have been exceptional. It is almost solely down to their partnership with bikesonbuses.com that we got to where we did. I also have to stress that at no point did the bus with the rack leave the workshop. So on with the bad news.

My last mail made it clear we do not on principle accept cycle racks on the front of British PSVs. If a VTP5 was submitted for this vehicle modification it would be refused because of the large number of sharp projections from the rack itself as well as any cycles carried increasing the risk of injury in a pedestrian impact. As a secondary issue I consider the view to the front will be seriously compromised towards the nearside pavement where we want drivers to have a clear view of any relatively short people including children at the kerbside.


I am sorry but you have wasted your time and money creating this example. 

Driver and Vehicle Safety Agency – Email sent to First Group 3rd of June 2015

The Bath pilot for front cycle racks on buses cannot now go ahead. There is much that can be said about the above but it is also important to state that the DVSA did not physically inspect the rack. They were sent the following photos.

The mounting point at the front without the bumper in place.
The mounting point at the front without the bumper in place.
Bumper in place with mounting points. Note that this is a refurbished old bus.
Bumper in place with mounting points. Note that this is a refurbished old bus.
The attaching point for the removable cycle rack.
The attaching point for the removable cycle rack.
The cycle rack mounting point.
The cycle rack mounting point.
Cycle Rack installed in the down position.
Cycle Rack installed in the down position.
Cycle rack in the down position from the front.
Cycle rack in the down position from the front.
Cycle rack in the up position.
Cycle rack in the up position.
Cycle rack in the up position.
Cycle rack in the up position.
Cycle rack with one bike in place.
Cycle rack with one bike in place.
Cycle rack with one bike in place.
Cycle rack with one bike in place.
Cycle rack with one bike in place. Note distance of handlebar from glass.
Cycle rack with one bike in place. Note distance of handlebar from glass.
Two bikes in situ.
Two bikes in situ.
Two bikes installed.
Two bikes installed.
View from the front. Note lights possibly blocked by wheels.
View from the front. Note lights possibly blocked by wheels.
Note closeness to boarding point. Cyclist should be able to load bike and pay for ticket in under 20 seconds.
Note closeness to boarding point. Cyclist should be able to load bike and pay for ticket in under 20 seconds.
The view looking from the inside of the bus.
The view looking from the inside of the bus.
Note height of the stand.
Note height of the stand.

Thoughts

The DVSA are in principle against the idea of cycle racks on the front of buses. I’m of the opinion that a working group consisting of the DfT, councils, interested bus companies, parliament and a cooperative DVSA could get an acceptable designed rack on the front of buses.

I do not accept the DVSA’s arguments when other countries have been using these for over 20+ years. When there is concern over the visibility issues the bikes may cause (even though there was no shot from the drivers seat) but the DVSA allow HGVs on our roads.

People need to realise that the security, dwell times (key for bus companies), cleanliness, and the good interaction possible between the cyclist and the driver are key aspects of why I have campaigned for cycle racks on the front of buses. Cycle racks on the back of buses just do not work as well.

Cycle racks extend the range of the “last mile” to the “last three miles”.

Now what?

For now I have engaged my MP, Ben Howlett to take this further. For the councils watching this space, particularly Belfast, I suggest you engage your MPs and councillors to take this further. If people want to contact me, email me at awjreynolds @ gmail dot com

We need a cross government working group to take this seriously. To study what other countries have done. To scientifically look at the available evidence. To come up with a good acceptable UK design.

The most significant change to public transport in the UK this century (:D) has now stalled. If you want this to happen, you need to write to your MP.

Lastly it is important to again stress that the next step in the process was to have a pilot running in Bath. This was not a national release.

Locally, I’ll now focus on getting rear cycle racks on all buses.

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19 thoughts on “Front of Bus Cycle Racks, the DVSA says no.”

  1. I am just coming into cyclebath so may have missed years of discussion. But why would you want to put the rack on the front rather than on the back?

    1. 1) Security :- Driver and owner of bike can see the bike at all times and can quickly get to the bike should somebody try and steal it. Bikes are never locked to the rack.
      2) Dwell time:- Many bus companies have punctuality performance targets. Loading/Unloading a bike at the front can take 10 seconds. At the back 50+ seconds.
      3) Dirtyness :- The rear of the bus gets extremely dirty.
      4) Unloading/loading bus driver/cyclist interaction is a lot clearer. When can a driver drive off? Cyclist at the back of the bus.

      Hope that helps explain why the front cycle racks are so much better and wanted by bus companies.

  2. I’m not as bothered by their refusal as much as the fact that they’re so dismissive. I’m certain that, for example, an attachment for emptying bins into trucks from the front would get constructive suggestions for how to get it approved.

    There’s no doubt that it’s possible to make bike racks with similar pedestrian protection performance to the best bus available, for one thing.

  3. Hi Adam,

    Firstly – a huge well done to you for driving this initiative forward and showing considerable determination in doing so. If there ever was such a thing as ‘the Big Society’, people taking on public bodies to secure small but important practical changes like this must surely be it.

    I think the attitude of the DVSA in their response below is nothing short of disgusting. To tell a member of the public who is campaigning for anything, that they have ‘wasted their time’ reveals a dismissive and sneering attitude to both ordinary citizens and their concerns. Sadly, I think they are right about you having wasted your time.  But only because of their attitude. 

    I think the only way to get this tackled now will be through political reason and pressure, so you’re right to engage the MP. Please keep up the pressure, & keep us all posted.

    Thanks again for your work on this,

    Steve

    Sent from Samsung Mobile

  4. I’m a keen cyclist clocking up over 5,000 miles a year, but I’m glad the DVSA have seen sense. That looks like a death trap for pedestrians.

    1. These “death traps” have been used throughout the world successfully for over 20+ years. Please note that this was the lead up to a pilot, not a full blown nationwide release. However you are right that they do look spiky. A differently designed rack, with a guard panel could have overcome the “it looks like a death trap”. The fact the DVSA are opposed to front cycle racks on principle is the worrying thing here.

    2. A quick thought on the “I’m a cyclist and…”. Cycle Racks are primarily aimed at people that do not everyday cycle. They are there to “enable” non-cyclists living on the top of hills, who choose not to ride down into Bath’s centre, because a two mile climb back home is not something they want to do. It enables people that may want to arrive fresh to work, but don’t mind a 12 mile cycle home. It’s there for people who choose to drive to work because the nearest bus stop means a long walk or where using a bus to get to work might mean using multiple buses. Cycle racks are aimed primarily at getting people out of cars and onto public services. Hope that makes sense.

  5. Might also be worth copying in a certain Mr Cameron and pointing out that DVSA aren’t exactly co-operating with his “cycling revolution” and copying in the local meda of course.

  6. Well done for getting it so far. I think it’ll take political intervention to get the DVSA to look at this fairly. Even if there is some theoretical risk (and presumably there must be statistics from the US and elsewhere detailing the actual risk) it has to be set against the health benefits of increased cycle use and lower vehicle emissions.

  7. Adam, out of interest what do you think the likely usage would be? I’d be concerned that on the uni bus that the two racks would quickly fill up and therefore it could be unreliable for users. However perhaps on most other routes it would be more plausible. Then again, I suppose we want these (and other) measures to increase usage, so maybe we can celebrate that issue if it arises?!

    Of course, this doesn’t stop the trial, and wouldn’t stop delivery, I’m just curious about the practicalities (as irrelevant as they currently are) and what your expectations are. Well done on pressuring this far.

  8. An idea I’ve had is about putting more cycle racks next to key bus stops. If I ever go to Bath Uni campus (which is relatively rare) I leave my bike at the bottom of Bathwick Hill having quickly cycled from Twerton, much quicker than I could do so by pubic transport or even by car in busy traffic. With covered racks and CCTV perhaps more people would do this, and the bus companies could run more shuttle buses from the bottom of the hill, rather than winding their way through traffic from Oldfield Park through town.

    Similarly, I’ve started work in Keynsham and to save time in the morning I thought I’d cycle from Twerton to Newbridge to catch the bus rather than walk there. I then realised how hard it is to find somewhere to park a bike. Now, I could walk fairly easily from mine, but what of those living in Weston or Southdown or in Twerton further from the river. Not to mention those in the eastern part of the city, who have long walks to the bus station or who might have to get another bus into town which adds to the commute time (and increases potential for missing connections) and therefore puts people off using buses.

    If every major ‘neighbourhood hub’ (Moorland Rd, Chelsea Rd, Twerton High Street, etc.) had a decent quantity of bike racks, preferably covered and possibly with CCTV, and in particular similar was done at key points on major bus corridors, then public transport opens up as a possibility for more people who aren’t on these major bus routes. Alongside the racks on buses (and I realise that you personally are too stretched to do both) perhaps Cycle Bath could look into this as a possible option?

    1. The key phrase is “of the type tested”. In theory, a better designed rack could overcome the safety issues. The problem with the DVSA response is that they are opposed to racks on the front of buses on principle. Hope that makes sense.

  9. It may be easier to design an up and over bike rack (bin lorry type) than design a crash safe front mounted rack.

    I think you are underestimating how difficult it would be to make a front rack pedestrian safe. In the US they have precident on their side.

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