The city is set to roll out its new bike racks for buses today thanks in part to a St. Albert cyclist.
As of May 1, all regular St. Albert Transit buses will be equipped with free bike racks. Handibuses will not have them. Council approved the $75,000 project earlier this year during budget debates.
Staff started installing the racks on 55 buses earlier this month, said transit spokesperson Dawn Fedorvich. "By tomorrow," she said, speaking on Thursday, "the entire fleet will be fitted with them."
Alexa Pendzich says she plans to use the racks every day. The St. Albert cyclist spent two years convincing the city to get the racks and now stars in a St. Albert Transit video demonstrating their use.
"It was surreal," she says, recalling the moment she learned of the city's decision. "It made me think you can have an idea, pursue and stick by it and it can actually happen."
These racks reinforce the city's commitments to accessibility and reduced car use, says Mayor Nolan Crouse. "I've always believed we'd eventually do this," he says, noting that St. Albert is now one of the few cities around Edmonton to have racks on all its buses. "We're leading the pack."
Pendzich, a 23-year-old public relations student at Grant MacEwan University, says she first got the idea to put racks on buses after seeing them in San Francisco. "I just saw people really committing themselves to living a really eco-friendly lifestyle," she says and thought St. Albert could do the same.
A lot of people would like to bike into Edmonton from St. Albert, says Andrew Phelps, owner of Cranky's Bike Shop, but don't have a safe route to use. Some customers take St. Albert Trail, but it's very dangerous. "I do have a customer that was actually hit by a car."
Bikes are not allowed inside St. Albert buses, so Pendzich, who does not drive, has been stashing an old bike in Edmonton for use there. "I was kind of beating the system!" she laughs.
Starting in 2008, Pendzich and other bike enthusiasts started writing to council lobbying for bike racks. She did media interviews, wrote letters to the editor and even started writing "Bike racks for transit" on sidewalks around town.
It was a simple, no-budget plan that got the job done, Pendzich says, one that got her a Gold Quill Award from the International Association of Business Communicators in April. "I think it's a fantastic recognition for all the work in this little project that hopefully grows into a big green monster."
Rack ‘em up
The racks themselves are simple to use, Pendzich says. "You just pull the handle and load your bike."
The racks hold two bikes and are on a first-come, first-served basis, Fedorvich says. You pull the handle to flip them open, put your bike in the wheel-wells, and flip the lock arm over the front tire. The whole procedure takes less than a minute. There will be a practice rack available for use at the Village Landing transit station.
All drivers are trained to use the rack, Fedorvich says, but won't be able to leave the bus to help passengers. Transit is not responsible for any bikes damaged during transport, but will hold on to any forgotten ones.
Phelps says he's used a similar rack on his truck for years without any trouble, and that his customers are excited to see them on buses.
These racks should help riders commit to the environment and drive less, Pendzich says. "Whether you're commuting to work or riding for fun, it's really great to have your bike on you."
For an instructional video on how to use the racks, visit ridestat.ca.