This Saturday (1/13) will mark the one-year anniversary of when we all first heard about Randy Albright’s lawsuit against TriMet.
That lawsuit — which was spurred by Albright being buzzed by a bus on the Hawthorne Bridge — has had a lasting impact on our community in many ways.
It led to an “I Share the Road” campaign at PDOT, it started an important (and sometimes ugly) community dialogue about the need to be considerate of all roadway users (including giving donuts and thanks to TriMet drivers), and it led to a mountain of media coverage.
But unfortunately, even after an arbitrator found TriMet partially at fault, we have heard little about what TriMet has done to make amends.
That’s why I was happy to hear from an inside source that TriMet has added a new section to their Bus Operator Manual titled, “Sharing the Road with Cyclists.” According to my source, this new section (which was added in a recent revision) came as a direct result of the Albright lawsuit.
I obtained a copy of the manual and here is the new section that pertains to cyclists (Note: Emphasis to text is mine):
8.3.4 Sharing the Road with Cyclists
Many people ride bicycles to get to work, to run errands, to get excercise, or just to have fun. Bicycles are ridden by people of all walks of life, age, and experience.
Because of the great difference in bulk between a bus and a bicyclist, it is critical that TriMet operators use extreme caution when operating around cyclists.
When operating near cyclists, practice the following defensive driving techniques:
- Provide a wide berth for bicyclists. Allow for at least four feet of clearance when you pass a cyclist. The draft created by a moving bus can destabilize the rider if the bus passes too close
- Travel at a safe distance at all times. Always allow enough clearance that, if the bicyclist fell over, the bus is far enough away to avoid injury to the rider
Operating Near Bicycle Lanes:
- Bike lanes are for the exclusive use of cyclists. Travel in the vehicle lane when operating on a road with a bike lane or bike path
- If you need to cross a bike lane to service a stop, give cyclists the right of way. Wait for any cyclists to ride through and out of your path of travel before signaling and moving over to the stop
- When preparing to pull back into the vehicle lane, yield right of way to cyclists merging from bike lanes
NOTE: Contact station management if you need additional training on operating near cyclists.
I’m very happy to see TriMet add this language to their manual. The opening paragraph is especially important because it reminds drivers that cyclists are actual human beings and are much more than just obstacles in the road.
When I heard about the “allow four feet” part I asked TriMet PR lady Mary Fetsch about it. Here was her reply,
“In reality, 4 feet is often hard to get and maintain with Portland’s narrow street system. It is hoped the cycling community will do their part to respect the space that transit buses need to safely operate.
In the recent training campaign that all bus operators attended, we stressed the idea that both cycling and transit are highly important to the growth and future of our region. Mutual respect and cooperation between both groups is vital.”
I agree with Mary that we should be realistic and that we cannot expect 100% compliance at all times…but it’s still good to know that the official manual requires four feet.
The section about waiting for cyclists to clear the bike lane before swinging over to a stop is a big one. But remember, if you go up against a bus, you will lose, regardless of what the manual says.
This revision to the Bus Operator’s Manual is a step in the right direction but I think the ultimate community relations move would be to do get a few operators on bikes and allow some cyclists to get a perspective from behind the wheel.