Perspective is everything.
If I’ve learned anything in 10 years of blogging about bikes it’s that empathy for other people’s views is the key to quality discourse, policymaking, and reporting. Heck, I’d even say that walking, riding, and driving in someone else’s shoes might be the most powerful way for us to improve road culture in general.
That’s one reason I’m happy to have come across a new (to me) blog written by a TriMet bus operator.
For two and-a-half years now the From the driver’s side blog has offered what its author, The Deacon in Blue, calls, “Musings from a contemplative bus operator’s point of view.”
From what I’ve read so far, the blog offers important insights into what it’s like to operate a TriMet bus on Portland’s busy streets.
I first heard about it thanks to a reader who emailed us an excerpt from a post published yesterday titled, Blame sharing for tragic incidents. In that post The Deacon (I don’t know his/her real name) offers thoughts after a woman lost her leg following a collision with a MAX train on November 16th.
Here are The Deacon’s candid frustrations about how operators are often blamed, regardless of the circumstances of a collision:
“People just act as if the world around them is responsible for their safety, and if they wear earbuds it’s up to someone else to watch out for them. Bicyclists especially are guilty of taking foolish chances around transit vehicles. However, when we alert them of our presence with a firm “beep beep” of our horn, their idea of thanks is often an extended middle finger. Oh, how I’d love to bend those fingers back until I hear a “snap”, just to teach them a lesson! But no. Can’t do that. We’re not allowed to respond. At all.”
Frustration with people’s lack of caution while sharing roads with buses is a common theme of The Deacon’s posts:
“Yes, I get a bit testy when the public, or the media, questions our “safety training”. It’s quite adequate, thank you. The public’s, however, is severely lacking.”
While some of you might not appreciate that tone, The Deacon ends the post with some heartfelt words:
“Even though this post seems a bit hard-hearted toward the dear lady who lost her leg recently, I can safely say that all operators feel terrible this happened. Especially me. Whenever we hear about an injury, or a fatality, you can be assured that at least a thousand operator voices are raised in prayer for the victim and family. We’re human, we truly care about our riding public.
Pay attention folks. We sure do.”
After a fatal collision involving a TriMet bus on SE 82nd last year, The Deacon wrote:
Our operators are easily some of the most challenged, most maligned, and most safety-conscious, of any in the world. We safely transport nearly 350,000 people daily. Impatient motorists cut us off, oblivious of the danger. We share very narrow streets with pedestrians who dart out in front of our buses and light rail vehicles, and we manage to avoid hitting 99% of them. Skateboarders, bicyclists, people using mobility devices… we safely share the streets with them. We’re always on the lookout for those who either refuse, or don’t know how, to safeguard themselves.
I plan to read more of The Deacon’s posts because without actually driving a bus myself, it’s a great way to gain some perspective about what’s like to pilot a large bus on city streets.
And in case you were wondering, the Deacon is not the first TriMet bus operator we’ve heard from. There’s Dan Christensen, the very outspoken (and funny) operator who was placed on administrative leave in 2010 after writing blog post titled “Portland! Kill This Bicyclist!” There’s also the gonzo blogging of Al Margulies who writes Rantings of a TriMet Bus Driver.
All these voices help bring perspective to bike-bus relations. The more, the merrier I say.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org