Three days, three stories of alleged aggression by TriMet bus operators

Posted by on June 15th, 2010 at 4:30 pm

random shots need to edit

Photo © J. Maus)

In the past two days I’ve come across three stories of TriMet bus operators allegedly acting aggressively toward other road users. To make people aware of where and how they happened, I’ve pasted them below.

The first happened on Saturday night and is very similar to an incident that happened to a man yesterday on Hawthorne. It comes from a commenter named “beelnite”:

“Saturday night – about 11:50 p.m. Lots of bikes on the #14 Route [Hawthorne Blvd]. I have lights. I pass the #14. Twice! The third time he rolls up and passes and dives for his stop on 30th.

Yes I had to jump onto the sidewalk to avoid being crushed. Amazing because I really felt the driver and I were aware of each other since 7th Ave. I mean – I made eye contact a lot… Did I mention I had lights? Ah… I feel he did see me… and just wanted to teach me about cycling faster than a TriMet bus.

I rolled up to the doors and stood there until he’d look at me. He did. I held up two hands about 6 inches apart and said, “It was that close!”

Nothing from the driver. No expression. Just threw her in gear or whatever and drove off. I got the impression he felt I shouldn’t be there. Not sure but I think he said something to me over his loudspeaker – external. Just odd.

I kinda stood there for a minute, didn’t say anything else, just feeling kinda lonely and insignificant. I’m crushable. Not a person. An annoying cyclist in the way.”

A day later, Emily Dayton was run off the road by a #6 bus after coming off the Hawthorne Bridge (she has also filed a formal complaint with TriMet which they confirm receipt of):

I was biking on Sunday June 13th at 10:30 am near SW Main & 3rd coming off of the Hawthorne bridge and was pushed off the road by a Trimet bus #2725 line 6 that was honking at me and aggressively pursuing me. There was construction on the road and I was pushed into the construction area inside of the orange cones.

A construction worker saw and commented on the dangerous event. Luckily I am okay but I thought it was important to make a point to tell the bike community of Portland. I guess we have to be extremely cautious out there.

And just last night, reader Rick Norwood says a TriMet bus turned right on red dangerously close to him:

At 5:05pm I had been traveling by bike NW on N. Interstate Ave. when I had to stop in the bike lane of N. Interstate for a red light at the intersection with NE Multnomah. I was in the center of the bike lane, and this bike lane is unusually wide at this corner. I had been stopped in the bike lane, at the red light, at the painted stop line, for several seconds PRIOR to a TriMet bus (#2018) pulling up next to me in the traffic lane to my left. Bus 2018 also stopped for the red light. After stopping for several seconds Bus 2018 proceeded to make a right turn on red in front of me. Given the wide turning radius of a bus I immediately felt that I was in danger of being hit. I actually moved at least 5 feet to my right in order to avoid getting hit by the bus as it attempted its right turn on red. I was glad that I had, as the bus would have likely hit me if I had not moved!

Given the fact that I had been stopped at the intersection prior to the bus even getting to the intersection, there is no way that the driver could not have seen me. Yet, they proceeded to make this dangerous turn in front of me. As fate would have it, I was not alone in being put in danger by the actions of Bus 2018. At the time the bus attempted this right turn on red there were 3 pedestrians in the crosswalk (headed NW crossing NE Multnomah). One of the pedestrians actually had to run out of the way, as the bus driver had either not seen the pedestrians or cared that they were there. Granted these pedestrians were crossing illegally, but it was also clear to me that the bus driver had apparently not seen the pedestrians and immediately had to brake hard.

Given recent accidents involving Trimet buses, in particular at turns at intersections, I was quite alarmed by what Bus 2018 did. I believe that I read that since the accident downtown that one of the policy changes regarding buses was that they would no longer be making right turns on red. If so, Bus 2018 FAILED to follow that policy and in doing so very nearly injured (or worse) 4 individuals today.

Regardless of whether or not that policy change is in place, the driver of Bus 2018 showed incredibly poor judgment and awareness. Shame on TriMet.

I’m not sure if this is a trend or what, but I don’t remember hearing about this many incidents in such a short time-frame in the five years I’ve been doing this site. Are TriMet bus operators just extra stressed out lately due to the ongoing safety review following the tragic collision that killed two people back in April? Would love to hear your thoughts…

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BURR
Guest
BURR

Maybe Al the Rude Bus Driver wants to comment?

http://rantingsofatrimetbusdriver.blogspot.com/

Brian
Guest
Brian

Awhile back, on Hawthorne, a TriMet bus driver pinched me between his bus and the sidewalk. I called TriMet at least 5 times (I got the driver’s ID number- 4869), a manager called me back about 10 days later. He told me there was nothing he could do because the union would back up the driver.

brewcaster
Guest

I think this stuff happens daily and is not reported. When I am on the road, Trimet buses are the most dangerous thing on the road typically. Except for the occasional “Get off the road” neanderthals.

I am not shocked at all to hear these stories, as they have too happened to me in similar ways with Trimet buses.

anonymous
Guest
anonymous

I just found this number to report for an unsafe commercial vehicle or commercial driver in Oregon. If a bus driver has a commercial driver’s license, call even if you don’t know the driver’s name.

(800) 248-6782

BURR
Guest
BURR

TriMet Complaints:

http://www.trimet.org/mailforms/comments.html

Report them for unsafe passing, speeding, running red lights and anything else illegal you see them doing.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

You know, if I had a buck for every sketchy situtaion with a TriMet bus, I could have bought a sweet set of panniers by now.

Seriously TriMet, get it together! I get pushed out of the way on NE Weidler about once a week. I guess that their time schedule is just more important than a safe cyclist…

Deano
Guest
Deano

In the eight years I have been riding a bicycle around PDX, I have encountered more instances of aggression and poor judgment from Trimet drivers than any other type of vehicle operator. When I hear a bus behind me I almost expect to be run over. You would expect these supposedly professional drivers to know the law. Instead they abuse the power of driving a 12 ton vehicle.

Anne Hawley
Guest

I no way would I want this comment to be construed as excusing Tri-Met drivers, but I’ve noticed a distinct change in recent months. From encountering generally friendly, respectful, careful drivers who make a point of letting me get past them and out of their way, I’ve begun seeing more hints of the kind of aggression that these scary stories illustrate.

I can’t help thinking that job pressures inside Tri-Met–cutbacks, layoffs, etc.–are being reflected out there on the streets.

As I say, not an excuse. Possibly an explanation. I hope Tri-Met will take clear and publicly-visible action to correct it.

Dat
Guest
Dat

We all need to look in a mirror and chill.

I have been harassed by aggressive cyclist and wells trimet bus drivers.
Told to go run in the gym while crossing the Hawthorne Bridge by cyclist. Commuting into work and going home. This a a growing sign that portland is becoming a big city, it’s not going to get better.

chad
Guest
chad

Before we get on too big of a bus driver tear here, let’s remember honestly and objectively, the GOOD behavior we’ve seen from most bus drivers, most of the time.

That being said, about once every couple months I get the “dive” for the bus stop right after the bus passes me forcing me to take evasive action.

All in all I would have to say that, crappy driving by tri-met drivers is right on par with every other mode of transportation.

The major issue here is that they are run by the same city that wants to achieve a world class bicycling city (same as the police or other PDX workers). One would assume that they would be trained better and held up to greater scrutiny than the average road user. Unfortunately, the stories above, and what I’ve seen with my own eyes, seem to tell a different story.

In short, tri-met drivers should be the BEST drivers around bikes, pedestrians, or any other roadway user. The sound of a bus behind you should evoke confidence, not fear.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Dat,

when I look in the mirror I see about 180 pounds of human flesh and a 40 lb bicycle.

I also see something that is highly unlikely to seriously injure or kill another road user when they act aggressively.

Also, there are only about 50 or so people in the entire city paid to operate a bicycle (most all of them are downtown), so they are not professionals who are able to receive special training.

Also, no bicycle operators in the city of portland are unionized and work for an agency that is partially funded by taxpayers.

i could go on.

john
Guest

Imho, it is only going to get worse, as weather has improved and more cyclists are out there. Unfortunately the lowest common denominator gets even lower.

I have never had an issue with a bus. IMHO one should give them full right of way because they are hauling a lot of people that would otherwise be driving (or riding). And well I ride the bus quite often as well, and I am very grateful for tri-met.

The stories above show poor cycling judgement.(the middle story, I suspect isn’t the full story and there was also poor judgement ).

For example, poor judgement is passing a tri-met bus that is fully in-route dropping off and picking up. Just don’t do it. Stay Back! The driver is busy enough not to have to keep re-passing you and trying to guess what the hell your next action might be. Wait or take another street.

Poor judgement is setting yourself on the inside of turn that a bus is going to make. Be respectful and leave room. Better yet just stay back and don’t pass the bus in the first place. Even if there is a bike lane, Stay back. You should know the buses on your route by now and know what they are going to do. You’re out there, you might as well be aware as well !

If cyclists give the buses full right of way and respect I suspect there would be little to no issues. Whenever i can i try to take responsibility for my life out of others hands and keep it in my own. Stay behind the bus! Keep your head up and aware.

There should probably by a cyclist’s training guide made up. Ie not legal rights for cyclists but common sense for how to act around buses (ie respect buses).

q'Tzal
Guest
q'Tzal

I have filed phone 2 reports of agressive and illegal manuvers by Trimet drivers directly to the Trimet staff that are designated to handle these issues. They ask for your phone number so the assumption is that you might get a call back. I can not recall if they assign a case number to each complaint and then let you know what that number is so you can follow up.
I also filed a report of a Trimet driver having a screaming tantrum, with profanity, because he didn’t want a bike on the front of his bus.
Of these 3 different issues I have never received any communication from Trimet after the incidents and when I call to question them I get ignorance or stonewalling.
There seems to be an organizational attitude that, when dealing with cyclists, we are guilty until proven innocent.

peejay
Guest
peejay

I too have experienced both considerate and friendly drivers, and aggressive and churlish ones. I’d like to hope that the former outnumber the latter, but of course I remember my encounters with the latter more vividly. I don’t know how hard it is to do the job they do; but I do know that dangerous behavior can never be excused.

Consider the Madison light before the East end of the Hawthorne Bridge. If there’s a bus there at the red, it’s been fairly typical for about three riders to go up to the line, and the rest of them to wait behind the bus. It’s a great compromise, because the bus can’t even get started before the bikes are on their way, and then the driver can merge with auto traffic unimpeded. Sometimes, the bus deliberately sticks out into the bike lane and blocks off the bikes, in an effort to get a head start, which puts the bus in a position that prevents the cyclists from going around the right side of the bus in the event that no cars yield to the bus (a common occurrence).

It seems that sometimes bus drivers take their frustrations with motorists out on cyclists. Which makes as much sense as someone taking their frustration with one cyclist out on another.

BURR
Guest
BURR

john #12 – no way am I deliberately staying in back of a TriMet bus and breathing their diesel exhaust, my preference will always be to be breathing cleaner air in front of the bus.

peejay
Guest
peejay

John:

I don’t believe we have to give right of way to anything in the bike lane. The bike lane is for bikes. It’s already a flimsy protection for cyclists — just a legal notion. Now, you say it’s fair that we should expect buses to routinely cross into it when they choose, whether or not anyone’s in it? That’s not going to inspire any cautious but curious cyclist to get out on the road any more often. Sounds like a recipe for permanent single-digit mode share!

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

why people ride down Hawthorne between 12th and 50th is beyond me….tight road, busy traffic, bus traffic, pedestrians….let the mob destroy itself, take the quieter roads and enjoy the ride.

Dat
Guest
Dat

bicycle operators in the city of portland are unionized
You could be in DCTU or AFSCME or COPPEA..

BikeRanger
Guest
BikeRanger

My commute is early, when TriMet seems pretty mellow but garbage trucks are rampaging.

I’ve begun recording some trips with a small helmet-mounted video camera.

Busses record us every day — let’s return the favor.

sparewheel
Guest
sparewheel

Stops should never require buses to cut through bike lanes. I always preemptively take the lane to the left of a bus in these situations. If a bus load of passengers has to wait for me to pass them then so be it.

chad
Guest
chad

Stay behind the bus, bike lane or not?

Get on a different street?????

sounds like every ride John wants us to take should be on bike path stopping every ten minutes to make sure our tires are properly inflated.

can never be too careful!

Respectfully, bicycle commuters are trying to get somewhere fast (but not recklessly fast) just like everybody else. If I was to “stay behind the bus” or “take a different street” I would get to work and/or home 15 minutes late every time.

Yes, common sense always, but please temper that with the reality of moving your body, what-ever the mode, from point A to B in a reasonable amount of time.

Be careful, but don’t let irrational fear cripple your ability to calculate reasonable risk.

David
Guest
David

John (#12):

Really? It shows “poor cycling judgement” to stop at a red light and later have a bus pull up behind you (after you’d already been stopped) and make a questionable turn?

Are you actually arguing that bikes should never pass busses because it’s too dangerous? Maybe we shouldn’t pass cars either. Or other bikes. Well, to be fair, the safest thing we could all do is buy Walk-a-Bikes and push them around on the sidewalk.

chad
Guest
chad

@ John again:

“The stories above show poor cycling judgement”

True, the first two stories can be construed differently and seen differently from different points of view (or bias) but please explain how “poor cycling judgment” played into the last story of the bus taking a right on red.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Dat,
Working cyclists in portland are in no way unionized.

This is a fact…

You are saying I think that they could be.

In fact they do not want to be.

Unionizing the small messenger industry in Portland would effectively kill most of the jobs….

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Cyclists… unions.

The bike cops are probably the only ones.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

I always have a problem with the second guessing people do when discussing incident such as these.

It’s nice to think that there are a set of guidelines that will keep us out of harms way, but the people involved in these stories are in a dynamic changing environment that they have to read and react to in real time.

We can’t say after the fact that, well.. they should have done thus and such or I would have done this. The facts of the events aren’t known before hand; this isn’t a video game where you get to see the pattern then go to the last Save and play it again.

You see what you see when you’re riding, and you respond to it. You don’t get to respond to the final result by knowing it in advance.

Kevin Wagoner
Guest

Do we know what Trimet does with the reports?

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

Trimet buses are the worst and have been for years. This is what cracks me up about you Sam lovers. All the bike lanes, all the boulevards, stuff that takes time and money to do and fix. Here is a simple problem. TriMet bus drivers I think are the worst and biggest dangers on my commute and I commute 13 miles each way across the city.
This could be easily addressed, lay down the law as far as their interaction with cyclists is concerned. They are public employees that out elected officials actually have some control over. It doesn’t require a sewer fee increase, just a bit of leadership. Sam and TriMet fails completely.

suburban
Guest

What is the unofficial term for driving a bus through a yellow light on purpose? Heck, if I drove truck, I’d do that too. It seems to be a very standard TriMet move.

BURR
Guest
BURR

It would be nice if TriMet communicated back to people who file complaints, with an acknowledgment of the problem and a description of the actions they took to prevent the same problem from happening again in the future, and whatever discipline and/or training the driver received.

The driver’s union probably hates that idea though, just like most of them already don’t like cyclists.

bus drivers should be the best drivers in town, and not the worst…

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

I had an incident with a Tulsa bus today too. Driver couldn’t stop laughing fo’ sum reason, while I wuz rollin’ next to him, wit my tongue stuck out. I caught da dude at da red. I asked him fo’ a dolla, so I kin git on da bus. Dude totally lost it right there.

john
Guest
john

How about addressing unsafe bike riding. Of course that will never happen.

Ron
Guest
Ron

I was in a fender bender on Burnside downtown a couple of weeks ago, and a police cruiser behind me who witnessed the whole thing pulled both of us over into a bus stop and determined that there was no fault, and that we could stay in the bus space to exchange our information. As soon as he left, a bus pulled up behind us, the driver leaned on his horn for a loooong time, then got out and came towards us like he was going to beat the crap out of us. Stressful! Guy seriously seemed kinda off balance. Maybe he was just having a real bad night; it was a madhouse down there that night…Still, dude was a little unhinged.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Some drivers are very considerate and aware of the bicyclists on the road.

However, I have had many many incidents similar to the ones above, and not reported them because I know just where that will go. No where. On nearly a daily basis the bus going up Vancouver will nearly run me off the road as we play hopscotch, or on Terwilliger a bus will come within inches of me because they somehow forget that their 50 foot long bus somehow turns wider. Uh….hello…..

David
Guest
David

@john (#32):

“How about addressing unsafe bike riding. Of course that will never happen.”

How about you address it now? Or better yet, since this is an article about Trimet busses, address it it the forums?

Blah Blah Blah
Guest
Blah Blah Blah

My experience with buses is about 50/50. You can clearly tell the nice drivers from the a-holes.

I once got buzzed by a Trimet bus and caught up with him at the next light, I pulled along side the drivers side and blasted him in the face with my HID headlamp for what seemed a pretty long time, he opened the window and told me if I didn’t stop shining the light in his face, he would shove the light up my ass. I felt I accomplished my mission.

Elvislives
Guest
Elvislives

I suspect there are hundreds, if not thousands of professional, positive interactions between people driving buses and people riding bicycles every day that never make the news.

Three incidents reported via blog comments, inherently one-sided and difficult to confirm, does not a trend make.

By all means make complaints if individuals feel it justified and necessary, but let’s not jump to broader conclusions without evidence of overall trends.

scott
Guest
scott

I was ‘pinched’, ‘squeezed’, run off the road earlier this year (on a bright sunny Sunday in March) while riding along lower SE Belmont on a tandem with my nine-year-old daughter. No traffic congestion, no urgent need to move faster! In fact, I was in a designated bicycle lane. The bus crossed the bicycle lane to the extent that we were forced to stop our progress and assume as much as possible the validity of a parked car.
My detailed report to Tri-Met concerning this act of aggression eventually elicited a response notifying me that the bus driver involved would perhaps be given more training to ‘Share the Road.’

Tri-Met is not paying attention to complaints.

Tri-Met is not paying attention to complaints.

Tri-Met is not paying attention to complaints.

elle
Guest
elle

Here’s where politics and representation come in. Jonathan, who do you or someone else have to talk to to get someone else to talk to someone who can get some accountability from Trimet?

Pursue the corridors of power. Just hoping Trimet will reform itself without being forced is wishful thinking. The drivers are not reading this thread. They could care less. Same drill as police department.

Get someone focused on this now before the tragedy. These are clear warning signals.

Mike
Guest
Mike

You might as well say you were bitten by a snake, mauled by a dog, eaten by a bear. How many road miles per accident occurs. Is this a normal occurance or is this complaining?

Paul Souders
Guest

I ride the bus a lot and IME most drivers are conscientious and courteous but that just underlines how unnecessary the bad behavior is. It’s not like it’s necessary to pinch bikes to the curb or turn blind across the bike lane, otherwise it would happen 100% of the time right?

I’m kind of inclined to believe what’s changed isn’t TriMet driver behavior due to layoffs or pressure but everyone else’s reaction to it. Maybe TriMet drivers aren’t suddenly driving any worse, it’s just the rest of us are more sensitive to it now that people are actually getting killed.

Like John (#12), I’ve kind of internalized the “appropriate” behavior around buses (“stay half a block back”, “respect buses” etc.). It’s a reflex. I don’t think I give any other class of driver this much leeway. Well I’m more conscious of that reflex now. Where did it come from? Why do I put up with it? It’s like a strategy for not ticking off the class bully.

Parting thought. Years ago I was standing near the driver on a crowded #4 eastbound just before the Hawthorne. The driver narrowly avoided pinching some bikes to the curb. It was like 50% unintentional, 50% accidentally-on-purpose. He made a heh heh comment like “bikers are the worst. Some day I’m gonna kill one of them.” Not in a “going to murder them” sense, but in a “stuff happens” sense. That was chilling & it really stuck with me. If I felt that in the course of doing my job I might kill someone — well that would make me take my job REALLY SERIOUSLY, pretty much the opposite tone this fellow projected. If you think something is inevitable, how likely are you to try to avert it?

A year or so ago I recall a TriMet driver leading a petition against the new bike lanes in the Rose Quarter. The petition, which several drivers signed, said something like “this situation will lead to cyclists getting killed.” And it reminded me of that driver on the #4.

Jacob
Guest
Jacob

To be entirely honest, I’ve had nothing but good interactions with Trimet employees, be they bus drivers or fare inspectors, they have always been fair and courteous. I have played leapfrog with buses on division, while somewhat frustrating the driver has always given me the right of way.

Waffle Stomper
Guest
Waffle Stomper

This is just typical of government maggots. They think they are above the law, and their union, and usually the courts will show that they are right in that belief. Doesn’t matter if it is a Tri-met Driver, a policeman, a TSA screener, a Democrat Senator, a Democrat President, a Democrat Mayor, or whatever – they can do ANYTHING they want and get away with it. But if YOU do the same thing you will be convicted, labeled a felon and put in prison. This is just one symptom of a totally corrupt government that is totally out of control. November IS coming.

al m
Guest

I have every intention of commenting.

I have comments from REAL LIVE bicyclists and REAL LIVE bus drivers!

I’ll cross post my videos here.

dojo mouse
Guest
dojo mouse

Not gonna condemn all bus drivers in Portland. Not going to avoid supporting the sentiment to call out the aggressive ones either. Anyone remember a couple of years ago on the Hawthorne Bridge when a driver let that guy off to beat the crap out of a cyclist and then let him back on? Some drivers are just not fit for the job. Sad that Tri-met is either unwilling or unable to do anything about it.

AL M
Guest

I’m not going to comment on the comments but I talked to drivers, passengers, and bicyclists to get their point of view on “aggresiveness”, here is part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItHG9K04F-A

AL M
Guest
AL M
Guest
K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

Add one more complaint to the list… This time for a MAX operator.

Last Sunday, 4:14pm(ish)at the Skidmore Fountain stop. The EB MAX comes FLYING down the rail, blaring it’s horn, and nearly mows down over a half a dozen people.

I can understand that operating a MAX train can be frustrating, but the operator should not endanger the lives of the guests of Portland for a stupid schedual.

I’ve complained to Tri-Met about this, but had to wait until MONDAY to do it, as they have NOBODY on duty on Sunday’s, nor any voice mail.

I’ll add that this is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of behavior at PSM, and I’ll call it in EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

So it’s bad when the public lumps all cyclists into a group based on the bad actions of a few, but it’s okay for cyclists to labels all bus drivers as dangerous based on the actions of a few?