Saturday, September 16, 2006

Busses & Bus Drivers...

Bus Drivers

In my experience I’ve found most bus drivers to be considerate, patient, and sensible on the roads. Which is to be expected, considering they are piloting a 10 or 20 tonne death-wagon if it were involved in even the smallest of accidents with a cyclist.

What I admire about bus drivers, is even though every day they face the constant flow of ignorant, thoughtless, and un-co-operative traffic. PLUS equally unpredictable customers inside the bus, (kids not paying their fare, unruly passengers, window scratchers & graffiti-chavs, etc). Bus drivers still drive professionally throughout their long shift.

How many times do you see busses indicating to pull out from bus-stops, while a belligerent stream of vehicles indifferently continue to overtake the bus?

All that hassle & skill for around £18,000 a year. Underpaid in my opinion. It's such a crucial public service. Considering tube drivers get £30,000+ for "driving" a highly automated tube train, on rails (reading the paper at the same time!), it is outrageous that bus driving which requires so much more skill and attention, does not currently receive the rewards this responsibility deserves.


Of course there are rare but memorable cases of bad driving. I recall an irate bus driver thrusting 20 tonnes of double-decker towards my rear wheel, attempting to intimidate me to go faster. What he forgot is that I don't have a 7.3 Litre turbocharged power-plant like him!

Bad bus drivers don't last too long in the job either, because the driver's employer has a brand image to maintain, and is in competition with other bus companies for future route franchises.

So any bad press, complaints, or reportable incidents should be taken very seriously by the bus company's HR department. And with many people owning camera-phones, a quick snap of the registration-plate / running number, and a letter to the bus company, will go against the bad driver under scrutiny.

Although there are a handful of bad bus drivers, over the thousands of urban miles I've ridden, 99.9% of all interactions I've had around buses have been fine, and despite their looming size, and sinister hiss of the air-brakes when they pull up behind me at the lights, I never feel intimidated by busses.

Bus & Bicycle, Vs Car

The routes I ride have many bus lanes, and since bikes are allowed in bus lanes, they provide a shared benefit. Making either the bus or bicycle more attractive than driving a car in these locations.

The other important benefit of course is environmental. This site cites greenhouse gases emissions per passenger km travelled: 25g for busses, 100g for an urban car.

So despite the larger, increased weight, and bigger engine of a bus which appears less-green than a car, the greater passenger occupancy means each bus user individually generates only 25% emissions of what a car-user will generate. Cycling of course ranks number 1 above all, producing zero emissions!

Busses also do wonders for congestion, because 50 people on a bus, can be 50 cars off the road, no longer wasting 10m2 of road space per car.

Put another way, the passengers on one bus would represent a traffic jam of cars, the length of an athletics track; just vanishing! Because the (ex-) car users are now all on a bus. They're probably whizzing down a priority bus lane too...


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kimbofo said...

Very good post! I totally agree. Despite their size, I never have trouble with buses.

Anonymous said...

Letter send to TFL today

To Whom it may concern,

I was cycling home last night at approx 18:40 over Blackfriars bridge away from the city, 3/4 over the bridge on the down hill section A bus driver going extremely fast (I was travelling at 22mph on my bike digital speed odometer) passed me just to the suddenly put on his breaks and pull over to the left to the bus stop on the bridge, pushing me into the gutter.

I have a rear ULTRA BRIGHT RED LED's on my bike with BRAND NEW BATTERIES, a flashing light on the rear of my back pack on it plus I was wearing a fully sleeved HI-VIS top plus my shoes are reflective.

Once I was able to get around the bus after being felt like I was almost about do be crushed, I stopped at the drivers window (it was open he could hear me perfectly) to ask why he has taken such action!, he refused to look my direction pretending he could not hear me. He then drove down to the lights, I cycled down and this time stopped in front of the bus to view the driver from the front window and shouted out something along the lines are you blind etc… he then with a smug look on this face a yawning open mouth and smiling… at this I was furious. 1. he could have killed me 2. to him it was no concern, just another person to aggravate.

I then removed my phone from my bag to take a photo of the bus route sign as I did not carry paper or pen, when retrieving my phone the driver put on a "ALARM SIREN" which was extremely loud and my ears today fell like they are still ringing. He could clearly could see this was my phone as I was using the key pad to activate the camera. Is this what the bus drivers a trained to do ??? Is this a procedure where they are told should someone try report them or call for help they activate the siren so its impossible to speak to anyone on the phone. I fell this was also extremely unprofessional and extremely dangerous as I could have been injured and calling for help as the driver did refuse to stop.

Ive attached a photo of the bus number and route plus it was time stamped 18:40.

This is not the first time this has happened with bus drivers and I am furious sick of how they think inside the bus they feel like they can do anything.

I hope action is taken against the driver. I am sure he would have done this before as he did not appear to be concerned in the slightest.

Well Ill be sending this letter to as many public posting as I can find and hopefully people will notice and also take the time to complain and take action or even speak out when this happens to them.

Urban Commuter said...

Dear Anonymous,

Sorry to hear about your experience with an inconsiderate and seemingly irresponsible driver.

As I wrote in the main post, (99.9%...) If you can get a record or picture of the registration plate, running number, route or something to identify the particular rouge driver, you are doing the right thing to write a letter with that information to the bus company.

There was some good advice being shared on previously, for example contact the bus company and also the bus depot from which the route runs, making the complaint a black-mark against the individual driver's employment record. Contacting the local council or TFL for their CCTV evidence, and other ideas.

There are so many resources on busses as a deterrent for bad driving (CCTV, road cameras, ID numbers, etc), that it is surprising to hear of this incident.

Personally I try to ride in the centre of the bus lane, which presents the driver with two options; to follow patiently, or do a "proper" overtake. Since there is usually a bus stop nearby, the first option is most popular with the many many many good bus drivers, and I've had no problems really.

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