I’ve recently had the pleasure of spending some time talking with the transit operators at CapMetro, the local transit company in Austin, Texas. It has been educational for me in many ways but mostly I was surprised at how much bus operators don’t like cyclists.
As part of a regularly scheduled safety training program, the local bus company invited me to spend about 20 minutes, out of a 90 minute program, talking about how to drive safely around cyclists. I got the call because I am the Education Director for the Austin Cycling Association. I put together a quick PowerPoint presentation and got ready to talk seven times over two weeks to all the transit bus operators. CapMetro also has a rail system and special transport but this is the bus operators.
My approach is that the operators are professionals and are in control. They have a duty to serve their passengers and to be safe, which can put them in a situation where they have to make hard decisions. The cyclists have a right to the road by law so at some point, the bus operators must just take it easy and do the best they can.
After just three sessions some things are becoming clear.
- Cyclists are their own worst enemy (hence the name of the article)
- Some cyclists pass buses on the right when the bus is pulling over for a stop.
A couple of “staged” videos about the problems of coming up on the right side of a bus.
- Some cyclists pull around buses on the left and then stop to put a bike on the bike rack forcing the driver to suddenly apply the brakes…not good for the passengers.
- Some cyclists filter forward at lights and make the bus operator pass them again.
- Some cyclists don’t obey the law on: signaling turns and stops, stopping at stop signs and red lights,
I am hearing lots of other complaints and will compile them and distribute to the various lists I post on.
Buses make cycling better in many ways. They take cars off the road, they allow cyclists to go part of the way by bus and the rest by bicycle and they allow us to build cities that don’t rely solely on the automobile for transportation.
When I finish these presentations I intend to sit down with the CapMetro safety team and investigate the options we have for working within the system to make a difference. Of course it would be good if we could do an advertising campaign about how cyclists can be safe around buses. I find it hard to believe that cyclists are passing on the right but maybe so…
I’ve found that most bus drivers are very attentive and courteous. In most cases, the driver will wait for me to pass the next stop before pulling over. Kind of a judgement call based on distance from stop and his overtake speed. In the cases where they don’t I just wait behind them so I don’t play leap frog.
My only complaint is the occasional honk I get. In your next session you might tell the drivers this is unnecessary as most cyclists know they bus is behind them. For those who might be oblivious it will only serve to startle.
and yes we are our own worst enemies…I’m getting very weary of watching the racers blow through the stop sign at Barton Creek and Wimberly (near St. Michaels).
Filtering to the front at a light is a tough one. I do it all the time, if there is a bike lane or if the right lane is wide enough to share. Do the bus drivers complain about those 2 scenarios? I can certainly understand motorist frustration if a cyclist filters to the front and then impedes the motorists they just passed. I have mixed feelings about filtering. On the one hand, I cannot imagine sitting on my bike in rush hour, waiting for 3-4 cycles of a light when I could filter on the right. On the other hand, I would not do it if the lane was too narrow to safely share. That’s a good way to tick off a motorist. I would get angry too if I was in my car and that happened to me.
When I do “filter” to the front at a light, I try to time it so that I pass through the light at or near the end of the cycle so that I am well down the road before the next cycle occurs. That way few, if any, have to pass me twice.
Most of the time, I just wait my turn with everyone else. It goes a long ways to building good relationships with the drivers.