I remember making a return journey between Charleville and Cork in Ireland when a passenger just popped a bicycle into one of the coach’s side lockers and it was carried without further ado. When I had the idea of doing the same on an outing from Edinburgh to Fort William, I was thwarted because carriage of bicycles on buses and coaches is not the norm. The phrase that lingers in my memory, regardless of whether it actually was said that way or not was “This is not a train”. Undeterred, I secured my bicycle and left it after me to enjoy a wonderful day out. The change of plan was no spoiler though the it did alter how I spent the day.
There are some who might say that the above contrast between Irish easygoing helpfulness, the same type that allows the carriage of forgotten luggage on a service coach from Galway to Dublin without charge or facilitating the retrieval of a case left on Dublin’s LUAS tram system by myself and I half-asleep after an early morning flight from Manchester, and British adherence to process and procedure. While I cannot doubt Irish helpfulness, I am more inclined to attribute the differences in outcome to differences in legal systems.
Whatever the cause, non-carriage of bikes by buses and the paucity of accommodation for them on trains (a story for another time) has fostered the growth of my interest in hillwalking at the expense of cycling. Ironically, it is in the types of places where I go walking that there have been innovations when it comes to carriage of bicycles by buses. In the Yorkshire Dales, trailers have been attached to Dennis Darts for the purpose. In other places, you see the use of racks mounted on the back for the same purpose and the X94 that goes between Chester/Wrexham and Barmouth comes to mind but there are others. Having bicycle pens within the buses themselves is another way of achieving the same and I have vague recollections of this being done in Snowdonia and the northwest of Scotland. On the subject of vague recollections, I have another one of seeing a photo in Buses magazine where seats have been replaced by a place to put bikes on what appeared to be a double-decker.
Though none of those ways to carry bikes on buses are widely available, there is an argument in favour of making that happen. After all, having a bicycle in a wheelchair or buggy space on a low floor bus is likely to cause a nuisance and you couldn’t even get one on the older step entrance vehicles. Then, there’s the prospect of breaking up a bike to carry it on a National Express coach service and that sounds like something that you would do if you were carrying one on an airplane. Of course, there are those folding bikes that people sneak onto commuter trains at peak times as luggage but is that really ideal for that day out in the countryside exploring its quieter roads? All in all, it’s a state of affairs that encourages car use but remains a tough nut to crack whichever way you go about it.