Video shows TriMet bus operator intentionally drove through group of bike riders

Posted by on January 4th, 2022 at 10:20 am


(Video edits by BikePortland, footage shot by Shawne Martinez)

An otherwise wonderful New Year’s Day Ride was marred when a TriMet bus operator drove through a group of bike riders at a downtown Portland intersection.

“What’s shown in the video is troubling.”
— Tyler Graf, TriMet

I was on the ride and was in direct contact with the driver as he intentionally endangered other road users. Another rider, Shawne Martinez, captured video of the incident. TriMet has seen the video above and calls it “troubling”.

It happened at 1:00 pm Saturday as we approached SW 5th Avenue while riding eastbound on SW Harvey Milk Street. A large group of about 70 bike riders was strung out across two blocks of Harvey Milk between 6th and 4th. Most of the riders at the front of the group went through the 5th Ave intersection on a green signal and there was an attempt to hold back the bus and one other vehicle in order to let the entire group get through the signal as it turned red. This is known as “corking” and is standard operating procedure on large group rides.

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(Note: Yes, corking is done to let people go illegally through a red signal, but overall it is much safer to keep everyone together than have everyone split into small groups when lights are short and closely spaced. And I hope everyone understands this is not just about the color of signals. Read on…)

Bus, truck and bikes in an intersection.

Still from video.

I was working this event and happened to be the one who tried to cork the intersection. I assumed the bus operator would understand the situation. In my experience, TriMet drivers are usually nice and they “get” Portland street culture enough to know this is a bike-oriented city where group rides are common. This being the case, I didn’t place my bike and body directly in front of the bus driver. To my surprise, he began rolling forward — directly into human bodies in front of his bus!

I could tell he was mad, so I engaged him through the open driver’s side window (I’m the one in black with a blue bike in the video and the still image at right) and implored him to wait. He was visibly angry and said, “I have a green light!” (or something to that effect) as he nudged his bus through the crowd. By this time, his signal had actually turned red (as you can see in the video) as remaining bike riders passed in front of the bus on a green “WALK” signal. But the driver’s anger seemed to overtake him and he was determined to drive through the intersection.

With his face turned toward me, he accelerated and almost hit a rider who was in the intersection. I yelled as he went through and snapped a photo of his bus (to remember the number) as he drove south on 5th Ave. Thankfully another rider captured it all on video.

I sent the video to TriMet Monday afternoon and gave them an opportunity to respond. Here’s the statement shared this morning by Public Information Officer Tyler Graf:

“What’s shown in the video is troubling, and we appreciate it being brought to our attention. Safety is TriMet’s core value, and we train our operators on how to safely share the road with cyclists, pedestrians and autos to keep everyone safe. While we are investigating this to determine if additional training is needed, we do apologize to those bicyclists involved, as this interrupted what appeared to be part of the fun, long-standing tradition where cyclists from around the Portland area actively kick-off the new year. We appreciate and support the vibrancy they brought to Downtown over the weekend.”

UPDATE, 1/20: We made a public records request for the on-board video of this bus. Today TriMet said the data has been corrupted and is not available.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Cathy Tuttle
Guest

I was on this joyful New Year’s Day ride that included many children and elders. The video does not fully capture the inappropriate bus driver actions. This bus driver not only used his bus to act with aggression, deliberately placing vulnerable road users in danger, this young man backed up his aggression with loud, angry words.

My experience with people who drive buses has been positive. Bus drivers are professionals who are alert, predictable, and safe as they negotiate streets with people driving cars who are distracted and unpredictable, all while dealing with a mix of unpredictable passengers on their buses. Bus drivers are truly my heroes. In my opinion, this driver has anger management issues that are not compatible with the safe operation of a large public transportation vehicle.

Evan
Guest
Evan

If somebody working for me was shown behaving like that, I wouldn’t limit possible action to “additional training”. Firing would be on the table for sure.

Phillips
Guest
Phillips

I get that we’re supposed to be universally against other forms of transportation but just because you are in a small group doesn’t automatically make you immune to all the laws. Bus waited a whole cycle and they still didn’t let him through. A little courtesy would have been nice. Instead we get a bunch of people provoking a viral incident. People are still out here trying to get to work and/or doing the thankless job of shuttling the myriad homeless around this city.

Cory P
Guest
Cory P

Corking is the established practice it was actually worked out over years of communication with PBOT and Portland Police.
If large group rides obeyed all traffic lights and stop signs they would stretch out for miles along major roads. Corking allows for the ride to stay together and impacts traffic less.
This was a relatively small ride the bus would have had to wait through perhaps one additional light cycle.
I also find it interesting that motorists get so enraged by cyclists blocking traffic but happily sit in gridlock as cars clog our roads every day.

squareman
Subscriber

I also find it interesting that motorists get so enraged by cyclists blocking traffic but happily sit in gridlock as cars clog our roads every day.

This. Exactly this.

Watts
Guest
Watts

I also find it interesting that motorists get so enraged by cyclists blocking traffic but happily sit in gridlock as cars clog our roads every day.

If you deliberately (or even not) block an intersection with your car, other drivers will get pretty pissed if they lose their green light.

It’s not about bikes, it’s about blocking.

soren (sorin)
Guest
soren (sorin)

Corking is “established practice” but it’s also established practice to not cork buses or light rail. The drivers subsequent actions are inexcusable, regardless of what is “established practice”.

Serenity Ebert
Guest
Serenity Ebert

Sure, the Bus may have waited a whole cycle already. And? At that moment, the bus had a red light. No getting around that one.

PS
Guest
PS

Bus was in the intersection, regardless of light color it has the legal responsibility to clear the intersection. An amorphous blob of cyclists is not considered a single vehicle for the laws the govern the road, so at the point the light turned red, regardless of the illegal corking maneuver of street culture, they had the legal responsibility to stop and let the bus pass. So, yeah, there is getting around it through the legal rights of those using the streets.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

What does the housing status of passengers have to do with ANYTHING, and how would you even know, is there a requirement for a badge to where I live?

Matt
Guest
Matt

Yeah, the bus driver was definitely in the wrong, but cyclists blocking a bus full of people with a green light on the transit mall of all places is super super lame. Call it standard operating procedures and defend it all you want, but it is super lame and just antagonizing people using transit. Just have a plan to pull aside and wait for the group if you get separated while crossing the one street in Portland that is dedicated for public transit.

janos
Guest
janos

A quick review of the video shows the bus basically empty.

Trike Guy
Guest
Trike Guy

I was on a bus last spring that got corked for 3 cycles of the lights – about 5 minutes. Thanks to that I missed my connection and lost half an hour of my day. That bus had only 5 people on it – but I guess if my bike is on the rack and I’m not riding it I don’t count.

We as cyclists expect drivers to respect us and be courteous. Too bad so many don’t offer the same in return.

Serenity
Guest
Serenity

A quick review of the video shows the bus did not have a green light.

FullLaneFemme
Guest

Surely you can use a better word than the ableist slur “lame”

Watts
Guest
Watts

What would you suggest? I’m always looking for better slurs!

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Keep in mind there is a serious national bus driver shortage, so TriMet is likely to be reluctant to fire this driver.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Exactly. I hope they don’t fire this driver. It will means cancelled bus runs and hundreds of people being late in the coming months.

Fred King
Guest

Yikes! But I get the driver’s point of view. Factor in having to work on New Years Day . . .

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

Did you do a freedom of info request for the buses video?

rh
Guest
rh

Maybe the driver is new and isn’t familiar with the unwritten rule of corking? Maybe there should have been 2 corkers so the bus driver couldn’t go through?

Mike
Guest
Mike

I’m with most of the other commenters…it appears the cyclists are the provocateurs here (no…I wasn’t on the ride). The bus was clearly already into the intersection (assuming he started moving forward when he got the green?). To anyone besides a seasoned cyclist, it appears the cyclists are trying to run a red light and blocking a bus. Maybe spend a day trying to navigate a bus through the city before crying foul.

Call it “corking” or “standard practice”, but the end result is cyclists looking like jerks. As a cyclist, I don’t like when other cyclists perpetuate that stereotype.

qqq
Guest
qqq

This reminds me very much of the Portland Spirit plowing through a crowd of boaters watching the Flugtag event downtown. The boats were in the navigation channel, where normally you shouldn’t anchor, but they’d been directed there by the Coast Guard. The captain honked to claim right-of-way, then plowed through the crowd without concern for their safety. He later claimed he had legal right-of-way. The Marine Board punished him, pointing out that there’s a basic maritime law that you have an obligation to captain your vessel in a way that is safe and avoids collisions, that overrides other regulations.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxm7PpqZXY4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HihFYvEyGy4

It seems directly parallel to this case. And the bus driver did it twice–the first time he rolled forward on his green light before the intersection was clear, and the second time when he accelerated forward on his own red light right at the rider in front of him.

Here’s the captain’s punishment and Marine Board’s reasoning for punishing him:
https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2017/08/portland_spirit_captain_suspen.html

PS
Guest
PS

And in this case, which federal authority told the cyclists to be stopping in the middle of the intersection in an attempt to exert control over the flow of traffic to their benefit?

qqq
Guest
qqq

None. But in the Flugtag case, that wasn’t relevant to the decision to punish the captain. In fact, the Coast Guard cited the event organizers for not keeping the channel clear. The judge’s decision to punish the captain was based on his decision to proceed unsafely even given the fact that the event organizers shouldn’t have let the boats moor there.

That’s how I see this ride situation also. People can debate whether or not the riders should have been there, or whether corking is reasonable or legal. But if you go ahead and assume they shouldn’t have been there, and corking is illegal, should the driver have proceeded into their midst? I don’t believe so, because it wasn’t the safe decision, and a TriMet driver should prioritize safety even if that means yielding the right of way. In the marine case, the judge ruled that proceeding even when the boaters shouldn’t have been in his path wasn’t just wrong, it was illegal to the point the captain deserved to have is license suspended.

Shuppatsu
Guest
Shuppatsu

Corking is the reason I haven’t participated in an informal ride since the ride to commemorate Mark Angeles’ death in 2015. I just couldn’t believe we were marking his death caused by a traffic violation by… committing more traffic violations, specifically in a way that engenders anger from drivers towards cyclists.

I’m not against scofflawism per se. I break traffic rules all the time on my bike, for instance by going through a red light after having made a full stop and finding no cars in any direction. But when I do, it puts me at the back of the line in terms of whether I ought to have the right of way and whether my safety trumps others’ convenience. Corking is a terrible solution to a real problem, and should by no means be dismissed as “SOP.”

Tom Howe (Contributor)
Guest
Tom Howe (Contributor)

My perception prior to seeing this video was that the bus was at a complete stop, the cyclists had a green light, and then the bus suddenly accelerated forward. Note at the 23-second mark the bus driver, while moving forward, is looking out his side window rather than looking at what is in front of the bus.

Christopher of Portland
Guest
Christopher of Portland

It’s disturbing how many commenters on this seem okay with what the bus driver did. I’ve always felt weird about the whole corking thing but trying to drive into people is much worse than blocking an intersection for a couple light cycles.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

We cannot discern if he was “trying to drive into people” from the video above. If he was actually trying to hit people, he didn’t do a very good job of it. It looks like he drove his bus forward and didn’t come close to hitting anyone.

I was riding the Marine Drive bike path next to the Airport on Saturday and I had to get off my bike and scramble up the embankment to the “safety” of the main roadway after a car full of junkies passed me, forcing me off the path, then turned around and came back up behind me at high speed. We have bigger issues regarding bike safety in this city.

PS
Guest
PS

Ever notice how there isn’t a “Bike Portland Productions” video on the conditions of our multiuse paths?

Orig JF
Guest
Orig JF

Even though what the driver of the bus did was dangerous, the people riding bikes are just as much to blame in this situation. I feel the group should have reviewed the BP article on ‘corking’ from years past. A lot of good tidbits in there. Especially this word of advice: “It’s important to understand that corking can be abused.”

https://bikeportland.org/2012/06/13/man-cited-for-impeding-traffic-during-pedalpalooza-ride-73178

qqq
Guest
qqq

Every day, hundreds of delivery drivers double park, moving van crews stop traffic so their truck can back out of a driveway, etc.–hundreds or thousands of times people do standard things that aren’t legal. Yet it all works because people have some courtesy.

Corking to me falls in the category of those standard things. The bus driver’s having to wait a bit longer for everyone to get through to me is comparable to having to wait a few seconds for the double-parked UPS guy to stop blocking the lane.

I certainly can’t believe the driver was under time pressure to meet his route schedule. Their were hardly any vehicles on the road at the time. He not only decided to pull forward, he did even though it wasn’t safe.

SolarEclipse
Guest
SolarEclipse

Too bad we can’t downvote anymore. It’d be interesting to see how many downvotes some of the commenters would have received.
It is rather telling how surprised some are at the general consensus being voiced here. It’s actually refreshing in so many ways.

Me personally, I think both sides were in the wrong. The cyclists for presuming they could just block an intersection (I never heard of corking before, wonder if the driver had), and the driver for losing their cool when they should have just ignored the cyclists and proceeded through the intersection (safely of course) if it was no longer blocked.

joan
Subscriber

I’m not a huge fan of corking buses and the max, to be honest. Seems like it might be better to split the ride a bit, especially crossing the transit mall. Having said that, yeah, this was really bad, a poor and dangerous decision by the driver. I agree with Cathy that my experience with Trimet drivers has been incredibly positive overall. I’d rather ride near buses than cars, if those were my two choices. But this isn’t an example of that at all. Thanks to you and Shawne for sharing this.

It also occurs to me that “standard corking practice” might not feel the same for Trimet drivers. Might be some opportunity for education here?

Mark
Guest
Mark

Instead of corking, why don’t the first group of riders just wait on the other side? Everyone just goes through (bikes & vehicles) when they have a green light and wait when it’s red. Everyone follows the law and neither is inconvenienced too much

Serenity
Guest
Serenity

There are some rides that do that. It would not be practical for all rides.

Serenity
Guest
Serenity

Yes. Don’t cork buses.

soren (sorin)
Guest
soren (sorin)

It was SOP to not cork buses and transit in the past. I have no idea if this is still the case because I stopped participating in group rides several years ago.

Matthew Groener
Guest
Matthew Groener

“I assumed…” is not a reasonable thing to say when dealing with a multi ton vehicle.

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

It occurred to me today when thinking about the dangerous behavior of the driver of the bus today that Oregon has a law in place for corking with motor vehicles that would have made what he did a class D traffic violation punishable by a fine. That law is ORS 811.802, and requires that all road users yield the right of way to motor vehicle funeral processions. The two may not seem that similar at first but when you think about it both represent infrequent events when it is safer and more efficient to keep the main group together and delay cross traffic for a brief period. It is my belief that a law legalizing corking for group rides with a minimum number of riders, maybe ~30-40, based on the language of the existing funeral procession law would be a good idea.

J_R
Guest
J_R

The “corking” that is allowed for a funeral procession is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

It took a couple decades to get the Oregon stop law passed through the legislature. I doubt you can even find a legislator who would be willing to sponsor the legislation to allow bicyclists to fundamentally override the standard right-of-way prescribed by the existing law.

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

I’m pretty familiar with the timeline of the Idaho Stop, I think this would be a similar level of effort to get passed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea. I’ve been stopped by more funeral processions in my life than corking for group rides, and I feel confident in saying there are far more funeral processions than group rides of more than 40 people, likely by several orders of magnitude.

Trike Guy
Guest
Trike Guy

As a person who hasn’t owned a car for 35 years, who cycles thousands of miles a year for all purposes and is very much in favor of laws that make driving way less convenient and punish dangerous behavior severely – I would oppose that law to the end.

As a utility cyclist I don’t get to limit my riding to big group rides and bike paths. I ride in traffic (I *am* traffic) and I rely on the operators of those multi-ton machines to not have simmering rage towards cyclists because a bunch of yahoos decided they have the right to stop others in there tracks for several minutes at a time.

It’s rude. It’s unsafe. I makes *me* less safe out there.

Just bloody well wait at a red light if there’s traffic. It’s really not hard. Any thing else *reeks* of entitlement and privilege.

Blanche
Guest
Blanche

Are you really comparing a funeral to a fun ride?

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

No I am not comparing the funeral, I am comparing the methodology used to keep a funeral procession together to how a mid-sized group ride can be safely kept together. One thing that seems clear from the responses is that people can be broken down into 2 groups, people who have led rides of 40-100 people and people who have not. It is a pretty stressful experience to be responsible for that many people’s safety and corking is one way to improve the safety of a ride like that.

Jorgensen
Guest
Jorgensen

Unfortunately, this video contributes to a bias informed assessment.
What event was this, was it an “event” or was it a meetup? Was it permitted event such as the Portland Century or Bridge Pedal, or was it just a casual group of riders? That’s important because if it’s just a casual group, then corking is … ambitious.

Whether your 7 or 70 riders, if it’s just a meetup, then you must – must obey traffic laws wherever safe to do so. Preventing the group from getting separated does not register as a safety issue for me, so that’s a no from me.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but then again neither does one wrong.

Fred
Guest
Fred

I’m coming to this discussion a day late and I see there are 67 comments, but about half of them are by JM. 😉

I’ve been cycling for many years but the concept – as well as the term – “corking” is new to me, though I now realize I witnessed corking many years ago on a street corner in San Francisco on a Friday evening when HUNDREDS of cyclists flew through the intersection over 3-4 light cycles. My reaction was, “Holy s**t – these people are crazy.”

I agree with the other commenters who say that you really shouldn’t have invoked “corking privilege” in this situation: the ride was small and unofficial. But I also agree that once you decided to cork, the bus driver should not have acted so aggressively. I’m a frequent transit user as well as a cyclist, and I’ve complained about bus drivers who drive aggressively. If you drive aggressively, you should NOT be driving a 70,000-lb bus – the stakes are just too high. In my experience, women make the best bus drivers b/c they are more patient.

I hope everyone learns from this experience, including you, JM. It’s a privilege to get so much feedback from your readers.

Tom
Guest
Tom

I share the same thoughts. Legality aside, corking makes some sense in heavy traffic like rush hour when you’re trying to get a large group through together. That’s been my experience from critical mass and group rides at least.

New Year’s day in downtown Portland during the pandemic has…almost no traffic. Seems to me there’s really no need to cork. Just let the one bus through and you have all the streets to yourself.

squareman
Subscriber

You may not have heard the term, but you are familiar with the practice any time you’ve ever encountered a funeral procession that you are not part of. And in the case of a funeral procession, it is not done for safety but for convenience of the procession, but the effect is the exact same for the cross traffic: they temporarily have to wait just a little bit longer to proceed. The only difference is that funeral processions stopping traffic are legally defined and protected in most (all?) states and bicycle or motorcycle group corkings are not. s

SD
Guest
SD

There are at least two separate issues here that are being inappropriately conflated. One, the benefit or harm of corking on group rides and two, the dangerous behavior of a professional bus driver. I see them as very separate discussions, but I also think that dangerous driving is only justified in extremely rare circumstances. This discussion would be more productive if the two were addressed individually. Otherwise, the infinite loop of Next Door pedestrian/ bike shaming could just be pasted here.

The third issue, which is worth considering, is the value of group rides in a city. Many commenters seem to think of group rides as a selfish pleasure. I see them as a public good and key to revitalizing active transportation and positive/ fun uses of public spaces in Portland.

Something about this post and comments more than anything I’ve read on Bike Portland has made me feel that Portland bike culture has diminished in this comment section and maybe more broadly. Maybe, it’s just the lack of familiarity with group rides, which have been a staple. I totally understand why Jonathan is trying his best to convey the context of this event.

squareman
Subscriber

Comment of the week.

Watts
Guest
Watts

This discussion would be more productive if the two were addressed individually.

I agree. It would also be more productive if the conversation were based on the available evidence.

The dangerous behavior of a professional bus driver.

What was shown in the video does not support your characterization. It does, however, support contentions of poorly behaved cyclists, so perhaps we can move on to that part of the conversation.

SD
Guest
SD

I believe the people who were there, are very trustworthy and have years of experience biking in these situations. I have multiple videos of near-misses and aggressive dangerous driving that look like nothing unusual happened.

Characterizing the cyclists as poorly behaved does nothing to move the conversation about corking forward.

Watts
Guest
Watts

Characterizing the cyclists as poorly behaved does nothing to move the conversation about corking forward.

Did I mischaracterize the behavior shown in the video? Or is even an accurate report of what is shown somehow damaging to the conversation?

Steve
Guest
Steve

Also, why are some commentators doing what what some motorists do, lumping all cyclists together so all are responsible for some? If some cyclists went through a red light, why are trailing cyclists going through a green light at fault and subject to retaliation?

buildwithjoe
Member

The real question is what is the complaint and citation record on this driver at trimet and before Trimet Can we find that in any way. I would like the name and records of the Trimet driver who nearly killed me on video. These are not accidents.
https://youtu.be/4r1fGWeASfE

Fred
Guest
Fred

Great video. “Sorry – I didn’t see you there” = “I am not qualified to drive a 70,000-lb bus.”

buildwithjoe
Member

It is worth double posting. Look at the PDF data report cyclists and pedestrian victims can request for free. In my case the driver killed me, almost, because at Albina and Killingsworth he became 2 minutes late, then went well over the speed limit to make up time. I was going 25 down a hill on my standard bike. He passed me going well over 30 and then right hooked me into the curb South of Missisippi and Skidmore.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/19BWS2pD11SnSUdIm_cqTqZbLm2t8SFkd/view?usp=sharing

data report above,

Watts
Guest
Watts

A point no one else has raised is that the headline photo clearly shows there were no other vehicles behind the bus. Watch the video again and ask how disruptive to the flow of cyclists it would have been to let the bus proceed and have the ride continue behind it. I’m betting very few riders even would have had to slow down.

The corking here seems so pointless.

Kimberly Kinchen
Guest

I get corking in general and have been on some bike rides where I’ve seen some full-on homocidal inexcusable behavior on the part of drivers.

But it’s disappointing that so few folks here make a distinction between the consequences of corking a bus and a private vehicle for the people inside those vehicles.

People who *can’t* drive (I am one of them) day in and out so often deal with missed connections, bad transit timing, and subpar street infrastructure that messes with their basic ability to get around. Those of us who bike could consider that we have more in common with people on the bus than with an individual behind the wheel of a car. They are on average more likely to belong to marginalized communities that already put up with a lot. Even a short 5-minute delay for a person on a bus could mean a missed connection and being 30 minutes late to work or a doctor appointment or their only window to grab some groceries. Whereas most of the time a 5-minute delay for a solo driver doesn’t multply their delay by the same factor. Set aside the bus driver’s behavior here – which was really crappy, without a doubt. What of even a handful of people on the bus who have no other reasonable or viable way of getting to work or to conduct their lives? I would love to see the default for corking allow for this, and for corkers and riders to expect to stop for transit vehicles. Faster riders on such a ride can wait up for slower riders with rides organized to recognize that short delays of transit have much worse effects on transit riders than they do on people driving their private cars.

Sorry Watts, I meant to post to the thread in general rather than @ you.