Cyclist alleges TriMet bus rage

TriMet bus with rack

The Willamette Week reports that Southeast Portland resident Jake Gill was verbally accosted and then rammed with the front of a TriMet bus back on September 6th.

Here’s how it played out, according to the story in the Willy Week:

Gill’s problems began in downtown Portland a little before 8:45 am on Wednesday, Sept. 6. Riding west on Southwest Main Street, he became alarmed when he noticed a bus approaching quickly from behind. He says he made a push-back motion with his left hand, signaling the driver to get off his tail. Gill swears he didn’t make any other gestures.

The bus, he says, did not slow down. It sped up, and the driver motioned for him to get out of the way. So Gill pulled slightly to the side of Southwest Main Street near 4th Avenue, hopped off his bike and dialed 911. While on hold, he says, he realized the driver had also stopped and was coming down the bus steps to confront him.

Gill says the driver yelled, “Motherfucker, you better get the fuck out of my way.” Gill, standing in front of the bus, didn’t move.

He says the driver, whom he identified as a heavyset African-American man, climbed back into his seat and drove forward, straight into him. The bike rack pushed into Gill’s torso, he stepped back and the bus surged into him again, he says. He says he then hurried to get out of the way, hanging up on the 911 operator.

The story also reports that Gill called lawyer Mark Ginsberg but it’s not clear whether or not any formal suit has been filed. Mary Fetsch (photo here), TriMet’s PR person is quoted as saying the case is “under investigation.”

Hearing about a TriMet bus driver acting like this does not come as a surprise. From the stories I hear and read (there are numerous accounts of dangerous bus drivers and the “TriMet squeeze” in my Close Calls reports), it seems that even after the infamous Randy Albright lawsuit last January, TriMet’s drivers remain undertrained and many of them are not sensitive to bicycles on the road.

The good news is that TriMet is working to change this by doing “refresher training” with their drivers.

Kiran Limaye, TriMet's bike guy

[TriMet’s bike guy,
Kiran Limaye]

I asked TriMet’s bike coordinator Kiran Limaye for the latest on their driver training efforts. According to Limaye,

“It is an issue for us, especially for drivers that were hired 20 years ago when there really weren’t that many bikes on the road…so we’re working on it. We have shown our drivers a video from Lane Transit District in Eugene that is used nationally to educate drivers about the bicyclist’s perspective and about how to share the road. I think the refresher training that is going on right now is a good start. I’d also like to try and get more drivers on bikes, and also do an event where cyclists could operate a bus.”

That’s good news because I’m all for swapping roles in order to see different perspectives. Cops, the media, bus drivers, let’s get them all on bikes…and let’s not forget what things are like from their perspective.

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Ethan
Ethan
16 years ago

They should supeona the recordiing of the black box from the bus. I know they have GPS, and if the telemetry includes speed data also they would be able to verify the allegation that the bus was used in an assault at the location/time in question.

ben
ben
16 years ago

ugh.

trimet.
quite a few of us have multiple horror stories involving the busses especially.

back in april, i had an incident of a driver continously screaming at me and refused to carry my bike or let me board.
it was insanely unprofessional on her part.
i filed multiple formal complaints.
the saddest part is: when the driver’s supervisor spoke to her regarding the incident, she resorted to claiming that i called her a “bitch.” not only did the entire bus witness that i DIDN’T, but even if i HAD, it doesn’t matter and doesn’t excuse her lack of professionalism.

come on people, its the bus. we all know how many crazy people ride those things. trimet drivers NEED to have some sort of professionalism when it comes to dealing with all the portland crazies. if they can’t be remain calm in conflicts, then they should probably look for a new job. as a social worker who spends the majority of their week helping people learn healthy and safe ways of expressing themself, i was just embarassed for this lady.

anyways, i eventually found out that the driver did not follow proper protocol (radioing dispatch and asking how they would like to handle the situation). And i also found out that Trimet has no official policy related to stickers on bikes (big surprise). Therefore if it ever happens again, my bike will stay on the rack and she can call the police like she threatened to. I now walk around with a copy of each of the articles that was written up regarding my incident:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/portland_news/1145766309219900.xml&coll=7

http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3224/7453/

John Boyd
John Boyd
16 years ago

It would be safer to share the road with 254 cars whose entitlement and physical dimensions are both sized fit in a downtown lane than one bus that is rediculously oversized for downtown streets. More smaller busses please.

Joe Planner
Joe Planner
16 years ago

Let’s not get too rash now.. One bus is certainly not as bad as 254 cars on the road, especially considering some of the people that the bus normally drives around! I’d like to think that the DMV wouldn’t issue licenses to some of those people, but considering who’s already on the road, I doubt it.

That said, I have noticed several instances of bus driver personalities getting in the way of professionalism on Trimet buses. I just don’t think that all of the bus drivers for Trimet buy into the regional vision for a multi-modal transportation network and understand the responsibility they have in contributing to our transportation system. Some cognizance of their role in our community could be achieved through more comprehensive training. Knowing how to drive a bus in an urban environment takes time and practice, but maintaining the motivation to apply those skills properly throughout their career is a whole different matter.

Conversely, back to some of the characters that ride the bus.. an encounter with just one of the thousands of such people (who are violent, loud-mouthed, socially inept, mentally disabled, or high on drugs) that inhabit our city and regularly ride our buses can put me in a bad mood. I can only imagine the experiences of a bus driver.

We should continue to press Trimet for improvements in training and discipline, but put ourselves in their shoes once in a while. We’re all in this together and adversarial behavior will only set our community (the bike community and the greater Portland community) back.

Scout
16 years ago

“I’d also like to try and get more drivers on bikes, and also do an event where cyclists could operate a bus.” Kiran Limaye

If this isn’t the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard this week, I don’t know what is. I’m sure it is difficult to navigate traffic and pedestrians and cyclists while driving a bus, but TriMet employees are supposed to be professionals trained to do so. I don’t think anyone needs to drive a mile in anyone’s shoes here. I don’t think it’s asking too much for a bus driver to know how to safely operate his or her vehicle and to understand the gravity of failing to do so.

Give me a break.

John Boyd
John Boyd
16 years ago

>One bus is certainly not as bad as 254 cars on
>the road, especially considering some of the
>people that the bus normally drives around!

True, and I resemble that remark!

jami
16 years ago

sounds like one bus driver was pretty consequence-challenged. he’s looking at prison time.

does anyone know a better route between the hawthorne bridge and broadway? i like trimet, but that route does suck, because you’re either blocking a bus or making quick lane changes three days out of five.

Dr. Mark Ross
Dr. Mark Ross
16 years ago

even if the incident is true, trimet isn’t gonna easily be able to fix the problem . . . there is a driver shortage industry-wide. driver standards are routinely lowered just to get warm bodies . . . for better drivers you’ll have to raise pay.

choices, choices . . .

ps: to the guy who made the “254” comment — fired trimet drivers will soon join the 254 crowd, no doubt targeting bikers. be careful what you wish for.

Carl
Carl
16 years ago

Kiran mentioned the “cyclists driving buses” idea to me the other night and I think my response was, “that’s probably one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.” I was shocked, because Kiran is usually right on target with his schemes (talk to him someday…you’ll see).

When he described his plan to me further, I saw that this scheme was no different. Key detail: He’s not talking about inviting random amateurs to drive bus ROUTES. He’s talking about inviting some key cyclists to drive a bus around the bus yard just to see what it’s like. Not on city streets. Not with passengers. Phew!

I’ll go on a bike ride with Portland’s bike advocates any day…but I don’t think Tri-Met would be doing anyone any favors by letting them take a bus route for the day. Way to go, Kiran. Keep up the good work.

Randy
Randy
16 years ago

Conversely, shouldn’t all bus drivers be required to spend a few weeks riding a bike along busy bus routes before they are allowed to operate a bus on public streets?

organic brian
organic brian
16 years ago

Dr. Mark Ross said:
“. . . there is a driver shortage industry-wide. driver standards are routinely lowered just to get warm bodies . . . for better drivers you’ll have to raise pay.”

Where does this info come from? I’m not doubting, just curious about the info. Last I heard, TriMet drivers earn about $20 per hour, this is more than many entry-level computer engineers and even many experienced computer-industry techs. It is one of the highest-paying jobs that doesn’t require college or months / years of apprenticeship. In my opinion, at this rate of pay any worker not able to muster the minimum professionalism should be sent packing immediately. Oh, yeah, the union… I’m not anti-union, but in this case the transit company seems to be held hostage.

Anyway, if they’re having trouble getting enough bus drivers maybe it’s a matter of poor outreach for employment.

Did Jake contact TriMet right away about this? The customer service person I talked to just now (I was calling to say I sure hope this driver isn’t still driving if this indeed happened as described) wasn’t even aware of the incident. I sure hope Jake would have called TriMet right away and asked them to preserve the video evidence, which would be overwritten after a specific amount of time since (I learned from a previous stolen-item incident) they don’t keep the video for more than a short time.

BTW, the TriMet customer service # is 503-238-7433 (choose option 4), and their email is customerservice.org .

As a note to everyone for future incidents with drivers, you should always get the bus #, the time, the location, and if possible get contact info for any witness at the scene, even if you have to board the bus and ride it to the next stop.

Patrick
Patrick
16 years ago

Let’s see the tape.

This feels like a dumb question but is Tri met a private company or under umbrella of the city?

Natron Bomb
Natron Bomb
16 years ago

Lets face it there are a lot of cyclist out there these days that do not understand what riding on the side of the road even looks like. We(cyclist)on a whole also need to be stewards of shared routes.By no means does bad behavior warrant assault but look in the mirror and stop for red lights ect….

Matt Picio
16 years ago

Patrick – it’s a municipal corporation, run by a 7-person board of directors appointed by the state governor.

Dog
Dog
16 years ago

I have no doubt that the actual bad, or close, encounters with Tri-Met buses is easily triple the reported number – I know I’ve had several encounters that I didn’t follow up on. I believe each bus has a 4-digit number that identifies it and links the driver to it, but I think the only place you can see it is inside, up high, above the fare machine.
I’ve had a bus driver go right next to me when no cars were around and it could easily have given me tons of space (as a car driver would’ve). The main problem though is that they pass too close when you’re in a bike lane. But I also think too many bicyclists don’t yield to the flashing triangles. Personally, I don’t like it when rude bikers fly by without yielding where it’s the law.
Re: an earlier comment about the Hawthorne connection (after going over the bridge) to downtown. Yeah, it’s a mess. You’d think an engineer could fix it – make one lane just for bikes, especially aroud the traffic circle heading west. Bikes could move a lot faster through there if the cars weren’t in the way. The car-zombies should be parking on the eastside and walking over the bridge – oh, wait – walk? What? Someone they know might see them!
On a remotely related matter, the new bus mall should be another huge mess for us bikers. Never once have I seen “bicyclists” or “bikes” mentioned in any of the articles about the mall in the O or the Tribune. Makes me wonder what the heck we have in store for us – MAX rails, streetcar rails, buses, cars, one ways… sounds like fun!!! Can’t wait!

Dr. Mark Ross
Dr. Mark Ross
16 years ago

organic sez: “Last I heard, TriMet drivers earn about $20 per hour”

teamster truckers make upwards of $25/hr yet you see ads in the Oregonian for union openings all the time (reddaway, yellow, darigold, safeway, fred meyer et al). Then the non union openings totals nearly a hundred every sunday.

Unfortunately the best drivers would prefer NOT to have to deal with passingers and pick other outfits to work at, while poor drivers would LOVE to get a high paying crappy job like tri-met.

A driver shortage has existed for years. trucking firms usually have several parked trucks because of a lack of warm bodies. Flatbed driver shortage is driving the price of pipe, steel and other fabricated products up.

Do a bit of research and you might find yourself considering getting out of the office and into the driver’s seat — trimet perhaps? 🙂

Matt Picio
16 years ago

Dog – the 4-digit number is also on the outside of the bus, on the left and right sides along the top at the front. It’s also on the back of the bus at top right or sometimes centered, depending on the bus.

I’ve had good response from Tri-Met with all my complaints, and I think a large part of that is the information I give them. You’ll generally get a prompt response if you give them the following info:

1. Date
2. Approximate Time
3. Bus Route
4. Bus Number (4-digit)
5. Approximate Location (street and nearest cross-street. If at a bus stop, try to get the actual stop number (printed inside the shelter)
6. A Short Summary of What Happened (be professional, don’t curse, stick as much to fact and as little to opinion as possible)

It’s much easier to do this via email than on the phone (for me, anyway)

Matt Picio
16 years ago

Oh, and if the bus stop doesn’t have a shelter, you can get the number by going online and looking at their Interactive System Map:

http://www.trimet.org/interactivemap/tmMap.jsp

Zoom in on the area where you were, and then select “Get info on: Bus Stops” (you have to be zoomed in far enough to see the actual dot of the stop on the map)

Dog
Dog
16 years ago

I was last a Teamster in 1997 and was making $19.08/hr in Portland. The reason there is a shortage of drivers is because finding one with a clean driving and substance use record is near impossible. There are a lot of driving jobs out there if women want them. However, it’d be great if we returned to shipping freight by rail, but then we’d have more drunken engineers ha ha.