Multimodality: sometimes two modes of transit are better than one

April 15, 2015

Sarah Braker, communications manager

What mode of transportation can go across the sea, underground, and on land via roads and tracks? If you said, ‘bicycle,’ you’d be right! On its own, the bicycle is a convenient way to get around, but sometimes distance, weather or timing mean you need to pair your bicycle with other modes of transportation to get where you need to go. Thankfully, the trend of multimodal transportation has taken off, and there are some exciting combinations that make any trip one you can make, at least in part, by bike. As last weekend's Paris-Roubaix proved, there are some occassions when bikes and other modes of transit don't get along. But illegal train-crossings notwithstanding, here are some of the best and most convenient multimodal options.

Taxis and UBER

Image: Ben Lindbloom

In many cities it’s possible to call for a taxi and request a vehicle large enough to accommodate a bike. Having a taxi service number saved on your phone is a smart way to make sure that you’ve got a back-up plan if you get stuck somewhere unexpected. For those of you in Seattle, there’s also UberPEDAL. Uber, the mobile app-based transportation service, has partnered with bike rack manufacturer Saris to offer special vehicles with racks that can pick up riders and their bikes. You can use the service to get a ride to your favorite trailhead, without having to worry about parking, or to get you safely home if one of those Seattle rainstorms catches you without your raincoat. If successful in Seattle, Uber will likely expand UberPEDAL to other cities.


Image: Flickr

No, I'm not talking about finding a magical fairy to carry your bike over a body of water. Ferries are great alternatives to the traffic jams that you often face going to vacation destinations. They are efficient and afford riders some beautiful views. Just make sure you’ve got your biking legs and your sea legs ready. Ride through Boston’s ever-increasing network of bike lanes, hop on a ferry, and explore Cape Cod. Check out Oakland and San Francisco by bicycle and make the trip in-between via ferry with your bike in tow. You can even cross state lines if you bike around Lewes, Delaware and then take your bike on the ferry to Cape May, New Jersey.


Image: Flickr

“All aboard!” now includes bikes as well. Many Amtrak trains allow riders to bring their bikes with them, and some even have special cars equipped with bicycle racks. Different trains can hold different numbers of bikes, and some have fees, so plan ahead and check their website before rolling up with your wheels. If you’re bikepacking in Europe you have options there as well since most local Eurail trains allow bicycles on board. Of course, the greatest bike/train combo has yet to be invented: the train whistle bicycle bell. Can someone work on that one?

Buses and Subways

Image: Flickr

Buses are often equipped with bicycle storage either on front racks or in compartments underneath. These can be great options for commuters who live or work far from a bus stop or have a long commute they want to break up with a ride at the beginning or end. In addition to racks, Boulder, Colorado also has shelters at high-traffic stops that allow users access via a key card. These shelters are great if you just need to get to and from the bus stop, but want your bike out of the elements with a little added security. Most subway systems also allow bicycles, though some limit access to specific cars or hours. If the idea of a combo bike and subway ride really excites you, you can even buy a New York City subway branded folding bike.

Car Sharing

Image: car2go

In December 2014, the car sharing company car2go announced that 50% of their vehicles in Portland, Oregon would be equipped with bike racks. Their cars, which are small electric Smart Cars, can carry two bikes, proving that when it comes to multimodal transportation, size doesn’t matter. Another bike-friendly car-sharing option is Relay Rides. This service, where owners loan their personal cars, allows you to specifically look for search for cars with bike racks. Combine this with a rented bike on your next vacation and explore new cities by four wheels and two.

The fact that such a variety of multimodal transportation options exists means that people on bikes are important and numerous enough to be accommodated. These options can give you the confidence you need to adventure to places unknown, because there are so many ways to get home if the weather turns, you’re too tired for the ride back, or you had a mechanical failure. The availability of these multimodal possibilities means there are fewer limits to where your bike can take you or where you can take your bike.

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