Portland needs help getting more bikes on buses dude

I live in Portland Oregon and we have a major design issue on our buses. As many famous people know, Portland has a good amount of bike commuters, and bus commuters. Alot of those bike commuters like to ride the bike in and then take the bus back home after a hard days work. What a communist paradise.

Now heres the problem. The bus can only accomodate 2 bikes at a time. Thats not alot.

Can I ask this vibrant community to give ideas on how to fit more bikes on the bus? They won’t let you carry them on. And “Ride your bike home” is a fair response, but I won’t be impressed. I tried for two days to have a good idea but I am at zero.

Here is a link to the bike on bus instructions currently.


Your biggest fan.

They could put some racks on the back for some more bikes, but with a blind spot out of verbal range, there will be a lot of stranded cyclists watching the bus rumble away with their bike. It’d also be the most inconvenient spot for every reason.

Any bikes brought inside would need to be secured well to avoid (further) injury to people in an accident, this would take up space already at a premium. Perhaps if there are no strollers aboard, one more bike can come on, but what happens if the next stop has a person with a stroller, and another with a mobility scooter?

The only thing I can think of for this is to add a larger bike rack, for 3 or 4 bikes. The bike can’t really go on the sides, back, or top of the bus. Maybe above the front right wheel well they can build an enclosed area with hooks to hang some more bikes from, inside the bus?

Hang two staggered rows of bike vertically on the back of the bus. Suspend them from the wheels. If you use a hook for the top wheel and a belt that straps maybe through the frame and the front wheel that should be fine. I’d also have the top row be handle bars up and the bottom row be handle bars down. This does not add a lot to the back of the bus even with the bikes on it. Just use back-up sensors and a camera for reversing.
I was just in Portland, nice place, my sister lives there. (not that anyone else cares about that).

I’ll sketch this for you or something.

There’s more than one way to skin this cat…

You could change the bus to accommodate your bike, or you may also change your bike.

Perhaps this might solve your issue:

It’s a great deal smaller than a traditional bicycle, especially when folded, and can top out at 16mph. Also, you wouldn’t need to buy a lock for it since you can just bring it with and let it charge next to your desk where your cellphone might also be charging.

I think many of our transportation problems can be addressed by choosing something that fits your needs first. I would definitely get a Mantis, but that’s just me since from a cost perspective, my investment would save several thousands of dollars in modifying a bus to pack in more bicycles.

Except then you have another issue to deal with: You look like a dork. :wink:


Just what I was thinking…

Then again, if you’re too lazy to bike home, maybe you are a dork.

Except then you have another issue to deal with: You look like a dork. > :wink:

Then again, if you’re too lazy to bike home, maybe you are a dork.

What I look like is really 100% more your issue.

People who truly innovate novel ideals and have financial backing to manufacture their concepts probably share my sentiment of acknowledging feedback such as yours, and then to continue their journey hopefully making a positive change in the world.

When I compare these people to you, just to be fair, how exactly are you trying to do the same?

Or do you even consider the promotion of alternative methods of transport only if it appeals to some image standard?

Really, which side are you on?

Personally, I’m all for change regardless of what it looks like…

If you’re going to design a house that can withstand flash flooding, it should NOT look like how they do now. It would only look “normal” to appeal to people like you who have deep rooted beliefs of what “things” should look like. If you’re going to design transportation that saves space, time, and money, how much value can we still give the concept of “image”?

Designers, marketers, advertisers, and all manners of sales people have all profited on the “image” of SUV’s. The manufacturers of said SUV’s are now struggling their little Hummer hearts out just to sell one.

And say someone has an asthma condition and can’t bike home but wants to reduce his or her dependency on foreign oil.

What would you say about someone you saw who happened to be on a Mantis? While you’re at it talk about what they’re wearing, what skin color they are, their hairstyle, any prescription eye wear they may have on, gender, and marital status.

As a moderator, I’d appreciate that you refrain from using four letter words to sum your critique of people different from you. :wink:

Whoa, chill.

First off, my comment was not about you, personally. Perhaps should have been phrased, “If one rides that, one would look like a dork”.

Second, you are completely off base. While most of what you’ve said just doesn’t make any sense at all, I’ll address the heart of what I think you may be getting at; that solutions to real problems have no need to take into considerations of aesthetics, image or consumer perception.

This is obviously not true at all. I’m not saying that image is more important than real solutions to real problems, but the bottom line is that solutions will not be embraced (by the mainstream consumer) without these considerations. If not embraced, they will not be adopted. Period.

Case in point. Segway. Great engineering sure. Understanding of a consumer’s image values, not so much.


No offense intended, Jerry. I do doubt however that someone with asthma would bike to work in the first place, but maybe I’m not educated enough about asthma…? I grew up near Beaverton, so I like Portland just as you do. I just think there’s a limit to how much tax money should be spent because someone else is too tired to bike home. The Max/etc are nice though.

That’s the difficulty with the english language, “you” can mean “you” or it can mean “one”. We always the two different words in french, but whenever I say “one” in english, I sound like a dork.

In other words, Richard was saying, “One who rides a mantis looks like a dork”. Not you Jerry…unless you are riding a mantis, tapping these messages out on your iPhone.

I’m going to agree with Richard. The Mantis will repulse most males at the very least. This is a design problem. A product only has one chance to make a first impression!

Another problem is that it is a scooter. If my commute is longer than a few blocks, I want a real bike.

Good luck Portland!

I do have an issue with people who claim to be familiar with I.D. practices (i.e. brainstorming, storytelling, etc.) and yet, whenever I participate with my feedback to proposed solutions, they reply with things like people looking like dorks. From the moderators no less. Specifically, R.

For the record, dork is defined as:

1.) Slang A stupid, inept, or foolish person: “the stupid antics of America’s favorite teen-age cartoon dorks” (Joshua Mooney).

2.) Vulgar Slang The penis.

What gives?

Secondly, I still don’t buy the dork argument. Primarily because any good advertiser or successful marketing campaign can establish any image it wants for a product or service regardless of you what you may think about it. Throw enough money at it, have the right supply and demand, and timing can all prove to make something successful or not. It isn’t really ALL about design.

Also, I think the Mantis will only repulse the most vain and image conscious of males who may be outside of the Mantis’ target market i.e. you. So maybe it isn’t a design problem like you make it out to be. Unless you have access to their market research database, it would be difficult to prove otherwise.

NOBODY other than Electrolux, simon_four_fingers, and myself have contributed any solutions to this design problem. Everyone else is just Jerry bashing and basically not helping this topic at all.

In situations like this I like to think WWMD. What would MacGyver do?

One word: duct tape.

Just tape your bike to the side of the bus.

Ok, so that’s probably not a feasible solution but perhaps this is a good one hour design challenge?

I’m not calling you out at all. I just replied with my comments about the bike you posted. If anyone else had posted the same bike I would have said the same thing. It’s about the bike, not you. get over it.

I dunno, what gives? The bike looks silly. I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so. It’s just my opinion, and perhaps rather base in verbage, I still think it holds. You want another, more “informed” comment, how about-

“The mantis bike suffers from a poor balance of form and proportion. Specifically, the wheels, the most important physical element of a transportation device are very small compared to the frame and rider, which give it a weak visual presence and one of instability and toy-like qualities. Compared in size to the rider, these small wheels look slow, unstable and inefficient, all not good qualities. In addition the tiny handlebars (the main control interface for the bike) are also ill-proportioned and styled, looking like they came off a cheap 15 year old lady bike, which further adds to the odd and non-cohesive look of the design.”

…something like that better?

Of course marketing can help, but it can also only do so much. Again, see: Segway for proof. Putting lipstick on a pig only goes so far…

Again, I’m talking specifically about the design of the Mantis, not the solution in and of itself. The idea of a fold up scooter/bike. Awesome. Give this thing a bit of a restyle (next 1HDC?), and it could for sure be a winner!

As for the target market acceptance of this specific bike. Of course I don’t have any market research one way or the other- I doubt you do either. All I was making was a judgement call from my experience of knowing consumer markets and trends, based upon my own opinion. Still I’ll stick with my conjecture that this design as is would not likely find market wide acceptance. For kids/teens? perhaps…

OK, true. I only commented on the comment and didn’t address the OP. It’s still adding to the discussion, I believe.

Anyhow, you want further propositions? Just off the top of my head-

  1. Put a similar rack on the side of the bus. It shouldn’t stick out too far to make the width of the bus+ racks an issue, or a bus could be redesigned sacrificing some width to add the bikes. Side mounting makes it easy to load from the curb without going out into traffic.

  2. Have a bike lift system that uses a pneumatic swing arm system of sorts (I’ve seen it out there already, but manually operated… cant find pics though), that enables you to load the bike from the side of the bus, which then lifts them to the top of the bus. Could somehow make a multi-lift system so that your bike is individually numbered/keyed so only you can get it off. (ie. you put the bike in, get a key, then place the key back in the system to remove your bike). I dunno about the height of buses vs. bridges but if an issue could somehow place the bike flat on top of the bus.

  3. Have buses with under-comparments alongside the bottom of the bus, similar to a greyhound bus with storage that opens. The floor of the bus would then be higher to accomodate the bike height. Could either be one large compartment, or individual ones that show with a green/red light if occupied. Again, could have a key lock system like a coin op locker that gives you a key when in use, and keeps the key when used to open it again.


Well good – I was waiting for some of the drama to die down before offering anything up. Richard has some pretty good ideas there, though as someone who puts my bike on a Portland bus several times a week, I though I’d offer some perspective from the ground.

The current system has a fold-down rack in the front of the bus that holds two bikes. Each rests in a short track that accepts tires of varying widths, and is held in place by a spring-loaded arm that hooks over the front tire. This has several excellent things going for it:

  1. The user is clearly visible to the driver when she loads and unloads the bike. Crucial for safety.

  2. Only the tires ever come into contact with the rack, preventing damage to the bikes, even as the bus bumps up and down on rough pavement.

  3. Either bike can be accessed without moving the other (though the one closer to the bus is a slight pain to remove if the outer slot is in use).

  4. The bikes protrude off the front of the bus, making the driver keenly aware of their location relative to traffic.

    Right off the bat, this leads me to vote against any kind of side-mount system. Buses often drive right next to bike lanes, pulling back and forth through them to pick up passengers, so adding width to the bus, especially if it’s not visually apparent to the driver, is a scary accident waiting to happen. Portland streets are narrow compared to most Western US cities (part of what gives the city its “European feel”).

A rear-loading system offers some significant problems too, namely that nobody can see you when you load and unload, and the cyclist is standing in a cloud of exhaust while doing so. Could be addressed via rear-looking camera, but this involves considerable capital investment, and retraining an entire fleet of drivers. It also adds probably 30 seconds to the load process, which doesn’t sound like much until you multiply it by a dozen or more times in the course of a rush hour route. Keeping buses moving swiftly is a top priority for a viable transit system.

So, to my mind, three good options are left: on top of the bus, under the bus, or add to the front.

Richard’s pneumatic lift is interesting, and probably wouldn’t require a key in fact. The current system is unlocked, and relies on the driver (and bike owner) keeping an eye on the bikes – if the lift arm lowered to the front of the bus, the same preventative is in effect. But my experience with top-mount racks is that it takes 5+ minutes to securely fasten a bike on there; a viable bus top-mount would require a completely new kind of rack that loads in 15 seconds, or it’s a non-starter, IMO.

Under the bus is interesting, but requires a new fleet of buses. You can’t retrofit that sort of thing. Good to keep in mind for future use.

What about a better front rack? The current rack has two slots, because it folds down from the front grill – anything longer would be too heavy or unwieldy.

But what if it didn’t fold? I’m imagining a rack that stores underneath the front of the bus, and slides forward when pulled by the cyclist. Orienting the bikes forward instead of sideways, I bet you could fit four or five of them in the width of a bus. Each would be independently accessible, as it rolls forward off the track without interfering with the others. It protrudes further off the front of the bus, but no further – if you think about it – than the hood of a '62 Buick, and people have been driving those forever.

I’m sure there are some problems with this solution, so I’d love to hear some critique. Might make a fun little sketch up.

Ok Jerry, let’s disregard looks, because as designers we all know clearly no one cares about looks. At all.

How about user experience? The Mantis is a poor replacement for a bicycle. Aside from helping the environment and cutting down on traffic, most people commute to work by bike because they love to ride their bikes and they love the exercise. The Mantis doesn’t provide either of those things, and it can’t possibly be comfortable to ride. Plus you could argue that it is worse for the environment because it actually requires electricity to move. My legs do not.

Your suggestion was interesting and valuable, but don’t take it so personal when others disagree. Come on, one would look pretty ridiculous riding that thing down the street in their work clothes. Perhaps suggesting an electric bike that isn’t so extremely small, and wouldn’t look so shockingly different from a regular bicycle.

This is the main reason I’m trying to think up a new name, but you use domain for 6+ years and you get used to it. :slight_smile:

As for solutions where the bike is taken into the bus, there are fold-up bikes as well…

And putting the bikes on a sliding rail… might interfere with the existing hydraulic ramps that unfold from the floor to pick up wheelchairs. (I’m assuming busses there are like the ones in Vancouver, and I bet they’re fairly close, if not the same manufacturer)

And finally, if all else fails, stick some ropes on the back, along with waivers! No need to get off the bike…

thank you R for your poignant and worthy commentary…that’s why u get paid the big bucks.

I’ve been in the I.D. business for a little over 7 years now and I do look forward to reading critiques even I don’t always agree with what people have to share. However, I do have very little patience for vague and ambiguous feedback which does little to promote good design discussions.

But, now that we’re all on the same bus…

The problem in question lies with the rider, the type of bike used, and available real estate on the bus.

How long does this process take of loading/unloading a bicycle?

1. Have your bike ready to load—always approach the bus from the curbside. Remove water bottles or other loose items.

2. Make eye contact with the driver to alert him/her to your presence.

3.If the rack is empty, lift the metal handle and pull the folded bike rack down flat.

4. Load the bike in the space nearest the bus.

If another bike is on the rack, load your bike in the open position. You are responsible for loading and securing your bike on the rack. Drivers are not allowed to load or unload bicycles.

5. Lift the support arm and hook it over the front tire.

Make sure the support arm clamps the tire and not the fender or frame. Your bike now is securely fastened in the rack.

6. Hop on and pay your fare.

7. When you reach your stop, tell the driver before you exit the bus that you’ll be removing your bike.

Raise the support arm, lower it into place and lift your bike off the rack.

Fold up the rack if it is empty, and step onto the sidewalk with your bike.

NEVER cross in front of the bus—wait until the bus has left the stop.

If the rack is full, please wait for the next bus.


I thought I’d share some images gathered from the internet to create a virtual mood board:

















Here’s Minneapolis MetroTransit’s approach to bikes on trains.

Perhaps you could use this approach inside the busses, in addition to the front racks. Granted, this takes away from seats on the bus, but rarely are busses full to capacity outside of rush hours/bad weather days. Since Portland touts so much tolerance toward bad weather, the former shouldn’t be a problem.

The biggest problem I have is not being run over by the bus. I’ve even said, “Hey, I’m going to get my bike off the bus now.” and still get hassled. Perhaps I need to speak clearer. Who knows.

To add to the Mantis fire, I certainly don’t think the solution is to buy a new bike to solve the problem. I know people do it, but riding those little wheel’d folding bikes when you’re 6’5" is ridiculous to say the least.

First, my bad to ElectroFlux…

To add to the Mantis fire, I certainly don’t think the solution is to buy a new bike to solve the problem.
I know people do it, but riding those little wheel’d folding bikes
when you’re 6’5" is ridiculous to say the least.

okay, okay…the Mantis is all mine. But if you are all being chased by rabid
wolverines, I can only give one of u a lift.
Your image will be instantly compromised but at least you won’t get rabies.

But, I really underestimated how seriously people view their bicycles.
Cars, yeah, maybe I can relate to that but wow,
bicycles are just as subject to some very stringent aesthetic
standards it seems.

Personally, I like funky objects. I can remember being the only kid with a
Green Machine when the other kids had Big Wheels. Obviously, I can’t
speak for the general public and as a designer, I can totally understand
they are the ones who typically pay my bills.

On the contrary, when it comes to the topic at hand, I think a design
overhaul of the whole public transit system would be most suitable to
coming up with a solution that’s pleasing to they eye, functional, and, of
course, cost-effective. More than 50% (technically 50.1% would count as a
majority) of the decision-makers would have to concede to any design
solution. As it stands now, everything has been designed separately (bus
shelters, bike racks on and off the bus, buses, bikes, and bike shelters).

It would really take more than a one-hour design challenge to give it any
justice. Maybe this is where the one-month design challenge steps up to the

Are we the ones that made this topic too serious?

Not wanting to look like a clown is too stringent? Bicycles do not have stringent aesthetic standards, especially commuting bikes. In fact, it’s just the opposite- bikes have stringent functional standards. As I said before, the Mantis doesn’t meet any of them. It’s not even a bicycle.

A folding bicycle is probably the easiest solution, but I would rather just keep riding my bike and skip the bus.