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.
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.