Another Cyclist Has an Incident with a Metro Bus

It’s starting to seem that barely a week goes by without a prominent member of the Los Angeles cycling community having a run in with a Metro bus.

The problem with Metro buses endangering cyclists seems to be becoming a trend rather than a rare occurrence.  A couple of months ago Enci Box and Eric Richardson both had incidents in the same day, and at the end of Bike to Work week Enci had a second run-in.  These reports shouldn’t just be brushed aside.  Enci, Eric, and now Patricia are strong cyclists that know the rules of the road and follow them. If they’re all experiencing dangerous situations, there’s a real problem.

The good news, Metro seems to be getting better at handling the problem.  After the jump read a first-hand report of last week’s incident from Urban Hippie:

This morning when i was crossing the 110 in the right lane with a row
of cars parked along my right side, the 704 decided it wanted to be
where i was. it began to quickly move in to the right lane despite the
fact that there was no room for it and it would have to merge back into
the left lane before stopping at Figueroa. I have never had a bus brush by me so close as though i was not even
there. It scared the crap out of me. The first chance it got to block
my way completely it did, making me have to go into the left lanes in
order to continue east. I managed to pull ahead of while it stopped but
when it caught up he again pulled the bus incredibly close. I really wish i had my lock, because at that point i felt threatened and would have used it.
thankfully I turned up grand as the murderous 704 rumbled down Cesear Chavez.

 

But my adventure was not over.

I was as far to the right as i could possibly be as I crossed the 101 on grand.  Out of nowhere a gold honda’s side mirror grazed my elbow. I look over and the idiot driver is texting and running me over.  He realized what was happening most likely from hearing me screaming obscenities at him and proceeded to gun it and turn down temple before I could catch up to him and throw my bike at him.

This
is the first time in almost a year that I have had this kind of
commute. What more can we do as cyclists, citizens, taxpayers,
activists, humans to make the streets safe for all types of
transportation? how can I be more visible on the streets DURING THE
DAY??

Later, at the end of the post she gives an update:

I was able to get the number from the back of the bus so that i could
tell Metro what a fine job their drivers are doing at running riders
over.  I sent in a complaint through the mta’s customer comment form as
well as an email to Tom Horne and Lynne Goldsmith at Metro.  Tom got
back to me within 5 minutes of sending the email, which was a nicer
more professional version of the above post.  Both his and the mta
customer comments response told me that the incident will be looked
into, the driver delt with accordingly, and both apologized for what
had happend to me.  Stephen Box was also made aware of what happend
because He and Enci are hoping to bring attention to the lack of
attention that the bus drivers pay to cyclists. It’s really important
that we as riders in this city make note of when we are bullied by
these beasts otherwise how can we make change?  As long as we are silent
about how cyclists are treated on the roads nothing will get done to
change that. thanks to everyone who told me that they’re glad i’m ok
and who helped me get this information to the right people (that means
you rhombus).

 Photo: Kworth30/Flickr
  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    In San Francisco, Muni drivers have a policy of not leap-frogging bicyclists or trying to “beat” them to the stop. This works in San Francisco because Muni’s average speed is well below bicyclist speeds. Could such a policy help LA MTA?

  • from my experience, the only think you can do is send in your complaints. due to labor/union laws, we’ll NEVER hear what happens to the complaint once it gets to the bus operator/bus operations.

    so… that makes for a really rewarding, satisfying experience. as far as we know… it could be sent into some vortex. there’s no way cyclists have any idea what their comments can do.

    metro should do something about that.

  • Wad

    The public disclosure of personnel matters is a state law. It is a confidentiality matter, but one that can surface if it is brought to the courts.

    Keep in mind, though, that there is an accident protocol Metro follows. The driver is required to report an accident and must remain on the scene until a supervisor and/or police and fire arrive on scene. The driver must write a written report and try to get passenger testimonies as witnesses. The supervisor and police can also gather their own witness testimonies, in case riders give different accounts. The driver must then submit to a mandatory drug test.

    Metro is self-insured, but its risk management must follow other government and industry insurance standards. So it performs a formal investigation and fault-finding.

    Should the driver be at fault, it’s a point on their driving record. Only a couple of violations can result in automatic termination, and if drugs are found in the system, the license can be suspended.

  • wad, that is very informative, but there is definitely a difference between an “accident” and a filing a report from a crappy driver.

    there is a disparity between the responses, and metro has done very little to show that it cares about people sending complaints.

  • Bus_Fan

    I suspect the Muni policy mentioned in the first comment is at least partially responsible for the abysmal on-time performance of Muni buses. Buses and bicyclists don’t mix, because the bus has to move into the adjacent lane to pass due to the width of the bus. As a former bus driver I’ve had numerous incidents with bicycles. It’s incredibly dangerous for bicycles to drive between the bus and the curb; whenever I stopped at a red light I made sure to park right next to the curb to prevent that from happening.

  • Wad

    David, Metro must deal with thousands of complaints daily. Metro also has a very large fleet, so it takes a long time to investgate a complaint. Also, if the information is too vague, Metro will not pursue the matter any further.

    For instance, if you call and say “I saw a driver do such-and-such on Wilshire Boulevard …”, the customer agent will press the caller for more details. There are more than 100 buses running on Wilshire. It takes a long time to track down which driver did what.

    Also, hyperbole will get your complaint in the trash can. If you call and say your bus was an hour late — riders do this all the time because they think they’ll get results — Metro can easily verify if a bus is very late. The complaint-takers can quickly tell if a customer is BSing.

    If you want to know how to file a good complaint against Metro, remember this information when calling or writing the agency. First, be factual, not histrionic. Metro looks at the facts of a complaint, not the emotional stress a customer suffers.

    Then, to make sure the complaint is filed quickly, give as much information as you can. Include:
    1. Date and time. (required)
    2. Location of incident. (required)
    3. Four-digit bus number. (required)
    4. Line number. (required)
    5. Badge number of driver.
    6. Direction bus is traveling.
    7. Division number.

    Virtually no customer knows about number 7, but it is the most helpful for routing routing complaints. Division number is the yard from where the bus operates. The division number is typically found on the windshield in a circle, or placed near the four-digit bus number. It will say something like GC-1, WSC-7 or SFV-15.

  • Give me a break! You want US to provide YOU with the division number? I’ll do that right after I pick my smashed bike and splint by broken leg. I’ll just saunter around to the front of the bus that smashed me, because I’m sure they’ll stop, and look for it.

    Metro can get with the 21st century and get some kind of computer thingy – I think they’re called databases – which can associate the bus to a division number.

    Overall WAD’s comment demonstrates just how out of touch MTA is. If you’ve got a huge fleet then you obviously need a large complaint department. If it’s not large enough than Metro needs to allocate more funds to expand the department. That – or get sued to pieces by people getting run over because the quality control is so bad. Don’t give me baloney about why you have difficulty handling my complaint – spend that energy handling the complaint.

  • Oh, you fogot #8 WAD:

    8. All complaints must be filed in triplicate, on form 27B-6, with a stamped receipt.

  • Justin

    Well, I think I am lucky in that I don’t have any metr0 buses on my daily ride to work. That said, it has seemed to me that, in general, this year automobile drivers are much more aware of, and much more courteous of bike riders than in previous years. I am wondering if it is because of the “green” mantle that bike riders have in a time when green is in, or if I am imagining things or what.

    The down side of this equation, however, is that while I am seeing a lot more people riding bikes as transportation, almost none of the new riders seem to be following traffic laws, or common sense from a safety perspective. (Yes, I recognize the regular bike riders I have been seeing over past years versus new riders this year.) I regularly see people:

    1) Riding on the sidewalks, and then blowing right into intersections when they reach them (cars aren’t looking for things going at bike speed on sidewalks, even if the rider has the light, or “walk” sign)

    2) Riding on the wrong side of the road

    3) Riding the wrong way on the sidewalk (and then blowing into intersections)

    4) Turn left from the far right lane, across 4 lanes of traffic, where there isn’t really a gap (as if somehow they should be treated like a pedestrian with the “walk” sign)

    5) Unpredictably changing from being in the crosswalk to being in the road and back again.

    Somehow we need to educate these folks on proper riding or we are going to lose the good will we seem to be gaining, and will be less safe as drivers will feel that our actions are less predictable, and therefore won’t know what to expect from our riding.

    Justin

  • Wad

    Alex, may I ask, how old are you?

    I need to ask because no grown adult would throw a tantrum as preschool as your post in number 7.

    First of all, I am not affiliated with Metro as an employee or in any other capacity. I am not expecting you or anyone to do anything. I have been riding the buses and trains for well over a quarter century, and I am sharing my knowledge about how the system works. In particular, a Metro division supervisor explained to an audience one day about customer service. It was his job to act on customer complaints and discipline problem drivers, but a lot of the information he got from the customer hotline was so vague that he could not act on the complaint. Plus, drivers have both union and civil service protections to appeal any disciplinary actions that may go on their record.

    If the information is too vague, he wasn’t going to bust his ass doing detective work on something that was only going to go on a driver’s record.

    And his job was not to protect the subordinates, even though he was a former bus driver himself. He had the power and the duty to enforce customer service problems. So he explained to the audience what they should do to file an effective complaint. And just to show how serious he was about acting on complaints, he gave the audience his business card to call him personally to file a complaint and not even go through 1-800-COMMUTE! This was unprecedented. This was almost like receiving inside information.

    The four items Metro requires are: date and time, location, bus number and line number. These data are sufficient enough to find the driver. Metro can resolve the matter in a day.

    Items 5, 6 and 7 are not required because these are much harder to obtain. Only bus riders see the driver’s badge number (the four- or five-digit number on the shirt sleeve). The direction the bus was traveling is somewhat redundant, and out-of-towners may not orient themselves to our street grid and wouldn’t know which direction a bus was traveling. As for number 7 — the division number that set you into apoplexy — this is a detail irrelevant to the riding public. Most riders don’t know what a division is, nor do they need to. However, I have found that once I started to include the division number, I’ve gotten complaint responses within a half-hour. And not the boilerplate “Your concerns matter a lot to us. We’ll look into the matter” e-mail, either. Metro will actually tell me how it dealt with the case.

    What Metro will not say, and cannot say, is how the driver was disciplined. That’s a privacy disclosure law.

    I have to go into so much pedantic detail, because I can bet you will still stamp your feet and bullwhip your blankie to just further maintain that Metro is a stupid bully and must make nice.

    There was a time when I used to think like you, too. The only thing is, I grew up. I discovered that there was a big, complex world beyond the tip of my nose, and I reached the age of reason. I also had teachers, family and friends that did not allow me to roam through the world as a functional retard. And I was not even a member of the GI Generation — hell, I was born in the period after the Vietnam war ended but before affluence and constant electronic stimulation rendered the species with a sense of entitlement that’s twice personal capita income and an intellectual maturity age that’s half of an adult shoe size.

    Case in point: You demand that Metro must go through a reorganization of enormous time and money, because customers have lost the ability to memorize simple data and recall it at a later time to file a basic complaint. So, while Metro must cope with a flood of new riders and not cancel service because of high fuel and labor costs, here comes yet another expense. Metro must now procure a database vendor, customize the software, test it and train hundreds of employees how to use it properly, and come up with a backup plan should the system fail. So, under the most optimal conditions, Metro could take two years and a couple of million dollars to come up with a technological solution. Assuming it works, it will end up doing nothing different than what employees are doing now. And the customers have the nerve to continue sniveling!

    So, Alex, your little hissy-fit misidentified the problem and your remedy created more problems than it solved. Metro had no desired outcomes, it must now replace the money it wasted, and customers are still pissed.

    Yet, for the cost of about, oh, $0, customers can complain just the way they do now and still get results, imperfect as they may be.

    I hope you’re happy.

    This knowledge, by the way, is not from a PhD in public administration or a career in public transportation. It’s a concept that in lay terms is referred to as “common sense.” Once you get the basics of it down, you’ll probably find it useful and even quite fascinating.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be going now. I’ve already taken up more than my share of this fine blog’s bandwidth to educate you on the theory and practice of complaint-filing. You don’t have to thank me. I’m just lending a little help to a fellow rider.

    By the way, there are a couple of transit users on the interwebs who actively follow Metro news and commentary closely, and help make changes on their respective governance councils. Had it been one of them who had seen this message, they would not have been as kind as I was to you.

    Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

  • Wad,

    Consider my comments amended from “Overall WAD’s comment demonstrates just how out of touch MTA is” to “Overall WAD’s comment demonstrates just how out of touch MTA ***and it’s supporters*** are.”

    When I hear the term “common sense” I reach for my gun,

    but typically I just press ctrl+W

  • Gary K.

    …it has seemed to me that, in general, this year automobile drivers are much more aware of, and much more courteous of bike riders than in previous years… -Justin

    I do see more bikes on the streets, but I’m not so sure drivers are being more mindful. My self and a number of friends of mine who are street smart vehicular cyclists have been hit in the past couple months. I regularly deal with cars revving engines at me, cutting me off, and on bike to work day I was honked at and flipped off for trying to make a left turn into my company lot after hand signaling and moving lanes. I do a lot of my biking in eco conscience Santa Monica too. Although most drivers are for the most part respectful, I think we have a long way to go before I use the words courteous to bike riders together in reference to Los Angeles motorists.

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