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TriMet focuses on safety with close-call videos, bus/bike training bulletin

Posted by on July 12th, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Still from TriMet WES video.

TriMet is trying to get the word out about safety when it comes to WES Commuter Rail trains and conflicts between buses and bikes. As part of a summer safety campaign that kicked off Monday, the agency has released five videos showing close calls between people crossing tracks in front of WES trains. They have also sent out a new, in-depth training bulletin to all bus drivers that is focused specifically on bicycling.

One of the videos shows a person on a bicycle crossing the path of an 80-ton WES train that’s a mere 60 feet away. According to TriMet, WES trains traveling 55 mph take about a half-mile to come to a stop. The incident with the bicycle rider happened on September 15th near SW Scholls Ferry Road in Beaverton. Here’s the video:

TriMet’s safety campaign also includes “enforcement and awareness missions” from the Transit Police Division and railroad authorities throughout the summer, “to remind people to be aware of approaching trains, obey warning devices and stay safe near the tracks.”

TriMet is also reminding folks that you could be given a citation and a $242 fine for “failure to stop for a railroad signal.”

Detail from training bulletin.

In other TriMet safety news, today a reader emailed me a three-page TriMet document titled, Training Bulletin: Cyclist Awareness and Safety (PDF). The bulletin, that’s being sent out to all TriMet operators, is an in-depth look at cycling. It covers what behaviors bus operators should expect from people on bikes, a review of relevant traffic laws, how to deal with intersections, passing, and more.

Here’s a snip from the intro:

“Cycling is growing and will continue to grow… People cycle for pleasure and for transportation. Some cyclists belong to and ride with clubs. More and more however, people are cycling to commute to work, shopping or school… The cyclist you see every day may be a friend, neighbor, or one of your customers. They may even be a co-worker.”

Thankfully, the bulletin explains to bus operators that “cyclists are vulnerable” and that people encounter all sorts of “problems” out on the road while riding including:

  • Narrow and unfriendly roadways
  • Edge of the road is often in bad condition
  • Debris blows to side of the road.
  • Storm grates
  • Potholes
  • Parked cars

Here’s how the bulletin urges operators to deal with passing someone on a bike:

Passing – Be aware of your draft.

  • Scan far ahead to spot cyclists early.
  • Pass with at least a minimum of 4-feet of space.
  • Buses push air to the sides so reduce your speed if the cyclist is moving much slower than you.
  • Avoid passing unless necessary – the safest place is for them to be ahead of you.
  • Pass only at wide spots, or split or change lanes to create enough space to safely pass.
  • Confirm your clearances in the mirror as you pass.

And here’s the section on yielding to people in bike lanes:

Bike Lanes – Yield to cyclists

  • Anytime you cross or enter a bike lane to turn, to change lanes, to park, or to make a service stop, you do not have the right of way, you must yield to cyclists.
  • You may enter a bike lane to make a service stop, but yield to any approaching cyclists.
  • Be aware of the potential for cyclists to appear from behind your bus when you exit a stop.
  • Clearly signal your exit prior to exiting and if you moving out from the curb, use the Yield Light.

The bulletin shows an impressive amount of detail and understanding about how people ride bikes and the safety issues they present to bus operators. I think it’s safe to say that existing in America’s most bike-friendly city has had some positive impacts on TriMet management. I hope operators take the time to read it, absorb it, and then act accordingly. (And please don’t assume that last line means I don’t think people on bikes have any responsibility in this equation. They do. Obviously. Thank you.)

Download the bulletin here (PDF).

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9watts
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9watts

“Cycling is growing and will continue to grow… People cycle for pleasure and for transportation. […] More and more however, people are cycling to commute to work, shopping or school… The cyclist you see every day may be a friend, neighbor, or one of your customers. They may even be a co-worker.”

Hats off, TriMet. I think that kind of language should be in lots and lots of training manuals, starting with the Driver’s Manual.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Encouraging. Nice.

Paul Hanrahan
Guest
Paul Hanrahan

That biker in the video is just plain nuts!

Chad Berkley
Guest

“Anytime you cross or enter a bike lane to turn, to change lanes, to park, or to make a service stop, you do not have the right of way, you must yield to cyclists.”

The driver of the 14 who nearly ran over myself and 10 other people on bikes at Hawthorne and 6th yesterday around 4:00 must not have gotten the memo.

These memos are great, but I think many of these drivers need to have plain clothes check ride instructors riding with them to make sure they actually do it. I’ve been passed within inches by many a Trimet bus and I’ve seen horrible driving skills and lack of understanding (or caring) of the law by many drivers as well. Of course there are the good drivers too, and to them I say a hearty “Thank You”.

Will Vanlue (Contributor)
Member

The safety training is great but I’m still a little discouraging based on my recent experience with TriMet busses.

Just about every bus I’ve climbed on in the last month (usually traveling between downtown Portland and southern Washington County) has been driven by someone who was so agressive they were knocking people from their seats as they accelerated and braked. Off-hand I can think of only one trip on the bus in the last month where passengers were not having trouble staying upright.

I also regularly see bus drivers at the Beaverton Transit Center using their busses to push their way through crosswalks full of people. The busses have a stop sign and the people in the crosswalk have the right of way but the busses intimidate people by lurching forward, inches from the crosswalk.

I’ve reported descriptions of drivers and bus numbers for all the scenes I’ve witnessed and had the information for, and TriMet has responded with their generic complaint response message. However, I still see the drivers I’ve reported on the road, behaving the same way. Occasionally I’ll see a driver I reported transfered to another bus line.

I ride the WES maybe 6-8 times a week and I’ve seen just 2 or 3 people do dumb stuff near the train in the last 6 months or so, but that’s certainly still a problem that needs to be address.

In comparison, there hasn’t been a single trip I’ve taken on the bus in the last few months where the driver’s behavior did not cause me at least some concern. Consequently, I’ve been riding the WES and MAX more. (Maybe I just have bad luck with drivers on the few trips I still take on the bus?)

All I hope is that the new, improved bus safety training will help drivers understand that they’re sharing the road with actual, living human beings.

BURR
Guest
BURR

based on the comments above, it would appear that there is a disconnect between the training instructions and how TriMet driver performance is actually measured, which, as I understand it, is based almost entirely on maintaining their schedules (as long as they don’t actually hit anyone or anything while doing so).

Paul Souders
Guest

“You may enter a bike lane to make a service stop, but yield to any approaching cyclists.”

Whoa, really? For TEN YEARS I assumed the opposite, apparently because I seldom see the “correct” behavior.

Until about 5 minutes ago I thought Tri-Met buses had a special dispensation over bikes in the lane (kind of like their magic “yield” light, but without the light). On any given day I’m likely to be cut off at least once by a bus pulling to the curb, especially on Terwilliger, Barbur, or Capital Highway/Vermont.

Spiffy
Guest

I watched all the videos via Joseph Rose’s links on OregonLive yesterday… except the one where the kid is trying to catch up to their parent my thoughts were basically “so what? the problem will take care of itself!”

now I know that’s fairly callous if somebody gets killed by a train… it’s very inconvenient to the driver… but it’s the best lesson that can be taught… publicize the actual collisions, not the close-calls…

I only see the videos as glamorizing train racing, not as a deterrent… everyone makes it so “hey, I could totally beat that train if that guy did it”…

sorry, but let’s see some blood if you want people to stop…

Dan
Guest
Dan

This is an awesome bulletin – would be good for all drivers to read. Most of my interactions with buses have been in Washington Park, and nearly all have been good, with the exception of the time a bus needlessly passed me on a blind turn and then came back to the right too soon, at an angle that forced me off the shoulder of the road into a ditch. Kind of scary.

Travis
Guest
Travis

Must be nerve wracking driving a bus down Williams and Vancouver having to watch for people on bikes, especially with idiots like the one featured in this video. The drivers with the NE Williams route must be stoked on the new design.

are
Guest

it may be that a train moving at 55 mph would require a half mile to stop, but a train should not moving at 55 mph at a level crossing.

in fact, i will suppose that a train does not move at 55 mph at a level crossing, so the juxtaposition of this statement with the statement that the cyclist crossed at a distance of sixty feet would be [intentionally] misleading.

jim
Guest
jim

I watched the sheriff blast down Williams at about 50 today (a shooting incident was going on) as I watched I noticed from the whole string of bikes not one stopped, looked back, or anything, they rode right on through their intersections with no worries that whatever emergency vehicle was not going to turn where they were. If they did have to stop it would have meant they would have been one minute late getting home, and it’s so hard to start again after you do stop. The sound of a siren blaring, coming towards you at high speed means nothing.

Stretchy
Guest
Stretchy

Now if we can get a similar campaign for the Portland Police. I saw a police cruiser illegally pull into the bike box at Madison and Grand in an attempt to make an illegal right turn on red. If the cops aren’t going to obey the laws, how can we expect anyone else to obey them.

Perry Hunter
Guest
Perry Hunter

Spiffy
…sorry, but let’s see some blood if you want people to stop…

Wow. Having a bad day?

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Southbound Amtrak trains are rapidly accelerating and already near 55mph when they cross Milwaukie Ave near my house. Not a big deal if you have the sense to stop for the flashing lights.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Looking at this video and guessing the age of the kid pulling this stunt (maybe 13?) harkens me back to the day when I was about that age and thought it was fun to play chicken with cars on busy cross streets. Not sure I would have tried my luck with a train, but never know. I agree with some of the posters that showing this may just make some other young kid think it would be fun to get a rush like that and try it.

Hal9000
Guest

9watts

Hats off, TriMet. I think that kind of language should be in lots and lots of training manuals, starting with the Driver’s Manual.

Agreed, 9Watts.

Regular returns to that training should also be part of the policy.

When hired, most companies provide a safety manual. Many revisit it with their employees regularly, although most don’t unless an incident occurs.

While the costs of gathering employees over a period of time and venues may be considerable, like the large employer TriMet is, it is cheap in comparison to a multimillion $ lawsuit.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

Lots of good points here, and I get it that there are bus drivers who are too aggressive, angry, etc, to be safe. And there are people in other modes who make poor judgements or just travel like jackasses. Just want to remind everyone that, having been a bus driver, I can attest that it is a very stressful job, with many challenges, few rewards and almost no respect from other road users or passengers. Also remember that (regardless what you may think about Trimet benefits) transit drivers are keeping cars off the road, and they’re not getting rich doing it. Anyone who thinks a bus driver has it easy can try doing it for a year. I think there’s a design and culture problem where bus people and bike people are required to dice it out on the shoulder, while cars whizz by in the left lane(s). And those on the shoulder are blaming each other for making it an uncool scene, when it’s really everyone else putting them in that situation in the first place.

jim
Guest
jim

Maybe they could have a high power water canon on the front of the train that the conductor could blast somebody out of the way with at the last second right before impact