Open Letter to Grant Shapps

Along with my Sustrans Ranger colleague John Kirkwood, we wrote to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, to ask him to trial the carriage of bikes on buses. The text of the message we sent him is below

Dear Grant

Congratulations on your re-election.

At a recent Active Travel conference in Chelmsford, not far from your constituency, we made a presentation that highlighted some of the successes that the USA has made in promoting Active Travel. You can view this presentation here:-

One of the key points we highlighted was the carriage of bikes on buses. In a country where bike-carrying commuter rail is sparse, the carriage of bikes using racks fitted to the front of buses has become ubiquitous. We urge you to trial this in the UK. 

Who would use such a service? Let us take the example of your constituency of Welwyn Garden City. I mentioned that Chelmsford is not far away from Welwyn and indeed the county town of Hertford is even closer. Should I wish to leave my car at home and go there by public transport, I could take the 724 bus. Should I wish to take my bike with me, so I can use it to travel the last mile to my final destination,  however, I would need to travel in and out of London being careful to avoid peak hours, a journey of about 2 hours which few people would undertake. I’m sure you see my point. 

We are told that carrying bikes on the front of buses is not possible in the UK because (i) it is dangerous (ii) EU Regulations don’t allow it (iii) the Bus Commissioners won’t allow it. In response to point (i) how is it that US buses have travelled millions of miles with bike racks fitted with no known casualties, on (ii) as we are on the verge of leaving the EU it is time to leave unnecessarily restrictive EU regulations behind and on (iii) given points (i) & (ii) perhaps it is time to over-rule the Bus Commissioners. 

We urge you therefore to set up a trial of bike carriage using the Sportsworks carriers used in the US. The type of bus service for which this would be ideal are the longer-distance services such as the 724 Heathrow  – Harlow Bus Station, or the 59 Harlow – Chelmsford – services that run for longer distances for which no alternative rail service is available, or that run into National Parks. Providing this service on intensive inner-city bus services where the distance travelled can easily be cycled would not be appropriate, except perhaps in our hillier towns and cities such as Sheffield. 

We are told that in the wake of Brexit we will be able to scrap unnecessary regulation and the overly bureaucratic approach of the EU and it seems to us that this would be an excellent opportunity to put this into practice. 

More importantly however it would drive up bus usage, assist towards the UK’s air quality and carbon footprint goals and provide new journey opportunities for people who don’t have, or choose not to use cars. We urge you to consider this request. 

Simon Geller

John Kirkwood. 

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