Bicycling is a great way to get around. Most cyclists confine their trips to nearby destinations within a manageable biking distance. However, it is possible to expand the geographic area accessible to you by bike while maintaining that “manageable biking distance” by connecting different legs of your overall trip with other modes of transportation.
Whether you want to commute to work across town, need to cross the Intercoastal Waterway by ferry, or will fly to a far away destination, it’s easy to take your bicycle with you. And by planning your connections to other modes of transportation, you can make your commute to work or that amazing bicycling vacation a reality.
Amtrak Service in North Carolina connects 16 cities across the state daily as well as many destinations beyond. The Piedmont Train (73 and 76) between Raleigh and Charlotte is especially bicycle-friendly and provides a convenient way to connect a bicycling trip from one station to another along its route. This train offers a combination passenger/baggage car that can accommodate up to six unboxed bicycles, allowing cyclists to simply roll-aboard their bikes at no charge. Instructions on boarding the Piedmont Train with a bicycle are available through the NC Rail Division.
Bicycles can also be accommodated on other trains connecting North Carolina locations and destinations beyond. Once your destination is determined, check the luggage policy for bicycles for the specific train(s) offering service to that destination – bicycle luggage policies and fees vary by train. For trips within North Carolina, visit the Bytrain.org website to read about schedules, on-board services, and specific baggage policies are provided for each train serving the state. For trips outside North Carolina or for general information about how traveling with your bike by train can be accommodated on any Amtrak train, please see Amtrak’s Bring Your Bicycle Onboard information.
If you are planning on bicycling in North Carolina’s coastal region you may want (or need) to take advantage of North Carolina’s ferry system, which connects towns and cities on the mainland to those on the Outer Banks. There are few bridges that connect the Outer Banks to each other and to the mainland. The ferry is a perfect way to avoid these high traffic volume areas and enjoy a scenic rest; plus, all of North Carolina’s ferries are connected to a designated cross-state bicycling highway. Bicycle riders are allowed onboard all ferries, and one-way fares for service range from free to $3.00, depending on the route. To facilitate your water crossing, check out a route map, schedules and specific traveler information by route through the NCDOT Ferry Division
Planning on flying to (or within) North Carolina for your next bicycle ride? Most airlines allow you to take your bike along as checked baggage but the rules and regulations vary from carrier to carrier. You should check with the airline that you intend to use well before booking, since policies may vary on how bikes should be boxed and whether fees will apply. Surcharges may apply for bicycles that exceed specific sizes and/or weight standards – possibly as high as $150 round-trip.
Beware, many US carriers seem to have difficulty articulating their bicycle luggage policy; be sure to verify (and re-verify) the airline's policy and packing standards for bikes and to consider the additional baggage cost when shopping for airline tickets. The NCDOT Division of Aviation provides a map of Passenger Service and General Aviation Airports throughout North Carolina.
There are 103 local, urban and regional public transportation systems in North Carolina, and the state is served by two national intercity bus transportation services. Whether your trip involves traversing the city or the country, most bus services allow passengers to take their bicycles along, either as checked baggage or through the use of bike racks.
Connecting bicycling legs of a trip via the services of local bus transportation may be the best way to circumvent places that just are not safe, are too far, or simply aren’t possible to ride a bike. It allows for a convenient way to commute to work – bike to a bus stop, ride the bus, and bike from the stop to work! Several local transit systems allow bikes on their buses through the use of front-mounted bike racks on each bus. These racks carry two bicycles each, are secure, and are easy to use. A local bike commuter in Charlotte noted that "most of the folks I know who are bike commuters will use the bus one way and bike home. If it’s raining or it’s dark, the bike racks are really handy."
The DBPT began promoting and funding Bikes on Buses projects in 1994. Commuting cyclists report that the having the option to take the bus provides several advantages:
- They help cyclists bridge difficult areas where cycling is not safe or is unfeasible.
- They allow cyclists to ride the bus one way and cycle the other way. This is especially helpful in bad weather or when it’s dark.
- They connect cyclists with different parts of the community, allowing them to cover greater distances in less time.
As North Carolina’s metropolitan areas grow, light rail transportation alternatives are becoming another option to combine with bicycling legs to complete commuter trips. Charlotte’s LYNX light-rail service also allows up to four bicycles onboard each of their trains. For more on bicycles and light-rail, visit Bringing your Bike on the Charlotte Area Transit System site.
Greyhound and Southeastern Stages are the two intercity bus transportation service providers that connect North Carolina to other states. They and other regional bus lines may have different policies regarding checking a bicycle as luggage and will typically require the bicycle be boxed. Surcharges may apply for bicycles that exceed specific sizes and/or weight standards.
- Before the bus arrives at your stop, make sure that bike pumps and water bottles are secure so they do not fall off during the bus trip.
- Indicate to the driver that you will be loading your bicycle onto the rack. Remember to look before stepping off the curb to load and unload your bike.
- Release the rack by squeezing the center handle and slowly lower it. If the rack is already lowered and a bicycle is in position, use the other available bike wheel well. If the bike rack is full, you must wait for the next available bus.
- Lift our bicycle into the wheel well, making sure that the front wheel is placed on the side labeled “front wheel.” Use the position nearest the bus, unless that slot is already taken.
- Pull out and up on the support arm to hook the arm securely over the top of your front wheel. A spring pulls the arm back and holds the bicycle securely in place.
- When you reach your destination, notify the driver that you will be unloading your bicycle and use the front door to exit the bus. Raise the support arm up off the tire and return it to its original position.
- Lift your bicycle out of the rack. If your bicycle is the last to be removed and no one is waiting to load a bicycle on, return the rack to its upright position.
- Step away from the bus onto the curb with your bicycle and indicate to the driver that you are clear of the bus.