Cycling, Transit & Rules of the Road

Update, June 3: On further reflection, I think that I was too hard on the bus driver. Click here to see my Mea Culpa.

Update, June 11: On Wednesday, June 9, somebody from B.C. Transit’s customer service department called to follow up on my letter. I told him that, upon further reflection, I had realized that I had blown this issue out of proportion. He correctly pointed out that the most concerning aspect of the incident was that the driver had yelled at me as he drove past – undoing the politeness that he displayed by giving me the right of way. However, the B.C. Transit person that I talked to said they had still not identified the driver, since there were several in the area around that time.

I am about to go to the post office to mail a letter to B.C. Transit, because of an incident that happened this morning. Here is the text of my letter:

Manuel Achadinha, President and CEO
B.C. Transit
520 Gorge Road East
Victoria, BC, V8W 2P3

May 31, 2010

Dear Mr. Achadinha,

Thank you for leading such an excellent organization. I am consistently impressed by the transit services offered by B.C. Transit in the Victoria area: the routes cover the area well and are frequent and reliable. For the most part, drivers provide professional, courteous service, and work hard under difficult conditions. Everybody at B.C. Transit should be thanked and congratulated for contributing to such an excellent organization.

However, I am writing to bring something to your attention. It raises larger issues of driver training that I think you should be aware of and deal with.

As both a cyclist and a transit user, I feel that safe roads are very important. Part of maintaining safe roads is ensuring that all road users act safely and consistently, by following the rules of the road. Today, I noticed that one of your drivers failed to do so, causing inconvenience and a potentially unsafe environment.

At about 8:25 this morning, I was making a left hand turn from Craigflower Road on to Styles Street as illustrated here:

Your driver was coming north on Craigflower in the opposing lane, as illustrated by this diagram:

Following the normal rules of the road for vehicles, I “took the lane,” and waited by the centre line indicating my intention to turn with my left arm. One car in the opposing lane that was ahead of your bus passed me normally, then your bus came to a stop. This is unusual. Normally, vehicles in the opposing lane do not stop to allow other vehicles to make left turns. At least three cars stopped behind your bus. Meanwhile, cars were passing me on the right which, although dangerous, did not inconvenience anybody. I was confused by the bus driver’s behaviour, because I could not see any reason for him to stop. I assumed that he saw some unexpected reason to stop that was hidden from me, and since he had the right of way, I decided to wait until he moved his bus before making my left turn.

After about a minute, the bus started moving again. As he passed me, the driver opened the window and yelled, “Why didn’t you go? I was letting you go!!” He seemed very angry. I didn’t have enough time to explain to him that he had the right of way in that situation, and that the safest thing to do would have been for him to not stop to let me go. I was relatively safe next to the centre line, indicating my intention to turn and letting other drivers come around on my right side. It would have been less safe for me to take the right of way from him, when I was not sure why he had stopped. After the bus passed me, two of the drivers also yelled something at me, although I could not hear what they said. This indicates that they were frustrated by the driver’s actions too. If he had not stopped, they would not have been held up, and I would have completed my turn after they had gone past me. After those three cars passed, there was a long and safe gap for me to make my turn during, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the bus driver to try to help me do so.

The issue here is that all road users should follow the rules of the road consistently. As a cyclist, I need to know what to expect from other vehicles on the road. I do not want to be treated with special consideration; I want to be treated as any other road user would be treated. Doing so is safe and convenient for everybody. I’m sure your passengers and other road users do not appreciate being delayed because your driver wanted to give me special consideration, either.
I hope that this diagram and related description makes sense. Please let me know if you need clarification on any of these points. Please also let me know what you intend to do about this situation. Do your bus drivers need more training about how to deal with cyclists on the road? Or was this simply an errant bus driver who was unaware of or forgot the normal rules of the road? If so, will he be disciplined and/or retrained? Do your bus drivers, in general, receive any training about how to interact with cyclists? What could be done to make your service better by ensuring bus drivers know what do when they see cyclists, as cycling mode share increases?

Yours truly,

Vincent Gornall

cc. Customer Complaints, B.C. Transit
520 Gorge Road East
Victoria, B.C. V8W 2P3

cc. Darren Marr, GVCC President
PO Box 8586 Stn. Central
Victoria, B.C. V8W 3S2

This entry was posted in Automobiles, Cars, Cycling, Public Transit, Vic West. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Cycling, Transit & Rules of the Road

  1. Jim G says:

    Have you ever had someone hold a door open for you because you were close by or had many shopping bags? It’s called “courtesy”; it’s ‘being polite’ from one human being to another.
    The bus driver was being polite to you as a courtesy because he recognised that you, as a cyclist, were a vulnerable road user.
    Next time someone attempts to be polite to you, for what ever reason, give a friendly wave and say “Thank you”. In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you enroll in one of the bicycle traffic skills courses presented by the Bike to Work Society; your cultural background appears to be other than local, caucasian, Canadian.

    • vincentgornall says:

      Umm… What does my “background” (“local, caucasian, Canadian”) have to do with any of this?!

      And in fact, I did take the VACC’s Commuting Cycling Skills course in 2008, in which they taught us that we should obey the regular rules of the road and expect other road users to do so. One of the exercises we did was to wait our turn, even if motorists tried to give us the right of way, in an effort to encourage them to follow the rules of the road too!

  2. Alan Philip says:

    I agree with Vincent. When traffic stops unexpectedly for me as a cyclist it causes confusion not only for me but also for others on the road. At the very least if the bus driver WAS stopping to let someone turn left the standard protocol is to flash the headlights so that the person knows that is why they are stopping. Opening the door for someone is obvious. Stopping in the middle of the road is not. If one is not sure why a vehicle has stopped it is very unsafe to proceed across their path. Perhaps he was being polite, but there are circumstances where that is not a practical thing to do. As to the comment on cultural background, that was entirely uncalled for and inappropriate.

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  4. Pingback: Cyclists & Pedestrians – Follow the Rules Too! « Vincent's Victoria

  5. John Laidlaw says:

    While, yes, technically, the bus driver DOES have the “right-of-way”, this does not mean that he MUST, at all times exercise it. (See the tale of the New York City cab driver: “Lady, Right-of-way ain’t something you’ve got, it’s something someone gives you – and if they don’t give it, Lady, you ain’t got it.”)
    In this case, I would guess, the bus driver judged that ceding right-of-way to turning traffic (and holding up the cars behind him) was something that it was a) in his power to do, safely, and b) would be likely to make traffic easier.
    As a cyclist, myself, I have often been where Vincent has been, waiting for a break to turn left into a side street, or my own driveway. Like him, I am not upset, or incommoded, by the traffic filtering past on my right.
    However, in cases like this, I’ll accept such a proffered right-of-way, as the polite thing to do. I CAN insist on waiting – and if the ROW offered is not to be safely accepted, I will – but it is churlish, at the least, to refuse a kindly offer that speeds me on my way, and does not incommode the other driver.

  6. cala says:

    Srsly? You’re complaining about the courtesy of a BC Transit bus driver?

    I have had many people stop their car for me unexpectedly while I was waiting to cross somewhere. I do feel uncomfortable having to go from a dead-stop to hustling across the road so as to not waste anyone’s time. For those crossings where I’d much rather wait until there is a safe break in traffic, I hang a little further back from the crossing so drivers won’t get the idea to stop for me.

    Back to your scenario: the bus driver probably thought it would be a quick stop to let you continue on your way than to hold up any more traffic behind you. But on the scale of things we have to complain about cycling in traffic in this city, I really don’t think we should be wasting BC Transit’s time on this. And c’mon, you’re not seriously suggesting it’s a training issue. He’s obviously a professional driver who knows the rules of the road, just that darn courtesy leaps out uncontrollably every once in a while.

    BC Transit drivers get enough negativity slapped down on them already. Adding a complaint about a driver who was courteous to you while not causing any safety problems is only spreading more unfound negativity.

  7. Pingback: Mea Culpa « Vincent's Victoria

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