Buses and coaches

A bus advertising its bicycle carriage facility

Buses and coaches

Headline Message 
  • More households live near a bus stop than they do a train station, so for anyone needing to combine a cycle journey with public tranpsort, a bus service may be a particularly useful option.
  • In rural areas where public transport services are limited, cycling to a bus stop might make using a bus service more feasible.
  • By attracting cyclists and not just people on foot, a bus stop's cachement area becomes more extensive, growing its customer base and revenue. 
Policy Key Facts 
  • The vast majority of UK households are within ten minutes’ walk of a bus stop. This is much better coverage than rail – only around a fifth of UK households are within a ten minute walk of a station.  
  • A surprising number of bus services, in fact, now allow people to take their cycles with them, although it is usually at the driver's discretion.
  • Cycles can be carried on buses/coaches in five ways:
    • Inside the bus itself either in a separate compartment or in areas of 'shared' space
    • In the luggage hold (boot)
    • On the exterior of a bus on a rear-mounted cycle rack
    • In a trailer fitted with cycle racks and towed behind a bus or coach.
  • Folding bikes: several bus operators allow compact folding bikes (or packed down bikes) as hand luggage. Cycling UK has approached major bus groups to persuade them to adopt this as common basic practice, at least where the space is available. Some companies ask for the bike to be enclosed in a bag.
  • Parking at bus stops: for people who don't want to take their cycle with them on the bus service, they'll be much more likely to ride to the bus stop/station if they know that they can take advantage of secure cycle parking. 
  • Coaches: many Express coach services carry bikes packed down into a suitable bag or box. The National Express Conditions of Carriage (Clause 7.1) state that a folded down or dismantled bike in suitable protective packaging may be carried with a passenger. Cycling UK has established with other operators that, generally speaking, they will work to similar conditions.
  • The potential carrying capacity of some coaches is significant. We know, for example, that at least 35 bicycles have been fitted onto a commuter coach chartered to take a group to and from a cycling event. Some high floor tour coaches may be able to take even more.
  • A good example of a coach service that is popular with commuting cyclists is the Oxford Tube, which operates between Oxford and London.


Road safety: bus drivers and cyclists

It's important for bus drivers and cyclists to interact as harmoniously as possible, particularly in busy urban areas where road-space is limited. A good way of doing this is to make sure that drivers and cyclists understand each other's needs and act accordingly.

Courses for bus drivers, with practical cycle training, and on-road training for cyclists are amongst the best ways of promoting a good relationship. Leaflets, aimed at both drivers and cyclists, with straightforward, practical advice are also very helpful -  a good example comes from Warrington.

Cycling UK View 

 There are few, if any, technical or legal barriers to carrying cycles by bus and coach.

  • Cycle carriage can bring new revenue to bus and coach operators.
  • For cyclists to contribute to the viability of services, operators need to advertise that they welcome passengers with cycles, and should clearly indicate this in their Conditions of Carriage.
  • Cycling UK is keen to promote the services of those operators who provide cycle carriage facilities.
  • Cycle carriage facilities can contribute to sustainable countryside access and social inclusion objectives.
  • 'Through' ticketing for passengers and cycles between different operators and between bus and train should be available.
  • Overseas experience suggests that there is potential for many more companies to carry cycles. Over 50% of the USA bus fleet carries cycles on front-mounted bike racks.*

*Note: The very different operating conditions and the laws relating to vehicle safety makes the use of some US bike racks both illegal and dangerous in the UK, but alternative options are working.

When you're travelling somewhere on your bike, either for an everyday journey or for leisure, there are times when it's useful to link up with a bus or a coach service.