Metro Buses Harass Two Bike Advocates

Last Friday, two local bike advocates had run-ins with Metro buses on the streets of L.A. Fortunately, neither rider was seriously injured, although Enci Box did sustain bruises moments later when a car driver veered in front of her with a "right hand hook."

Via Soap Box LA:

She looked over her left shoulder at the approaching traffic and saw an 18 Wheeler in the #1 lane and a Metro Rapid Bus (750) in the #2 lane. They were side-by-side and traveling at the same speed.

Enci had parked cars to her right and no room to spare. She held her line, with only inches between her and the parked cars. There were only a few parked cars remaining before the Boulevard opened up and the #2 lane widened.

The Bus Operator did not slow down and had no room to move to the left. He passed Enci with inches to spare. Enci had no wiggle room at all.

She did not see the Operator but she was able to get the 4-digit number off the Bus. She was shaken, she was pissed and, in an expression of frustration, she yelled at the bus as it drove off down Ventura Boulevard, still side-by-side with the 18-Wheeler.

She continued on her journey, westbound on Ventura Boulevard, still in the #2 lane when a motorist passed her and then made a hard right turn (the "right hook") across her line and into the corner gas station.

Enci was able to avoid the vehicle, braking and turning hard left and then right, but ended up losing control of the bike and she hit the ground, hard.

As she lay in the street, she was unable to get up off the ground because her left arm and left leg wouldn’t take her weight. No motorists traveling the same direction stopped to help and none of the motorists waiting at the light offered assistance. A pedestrian stepped out to help her get to the curb and to collect her bike.

Eric Richardson had a less violent experience, but a jarring one none the less. 

Via Blog Downtown:

I’m riding eastbound just a bit past Santa Monica, in the bike lane but hugging the left edge because I have this thing about not wanting to get doored. An articulated Metro Rapid 714 comes up behind me, starts honking, and continues to do so until he’s halfway past me. Despite no significant traffic, he’s up against the bike lane so tight that the bus is hanging over the line and coming into my already narrow space.

This being LA and bus speeds being what they are, I pass him a couple more times. Each time he gets into the horn while coming back around me. Each time I fight my urge to emulate Will Campbell and give the driver a few choice words, instead just shaking my head at him.

Right before the climb up to Alvarado I move into the traffic lane to pass a bus that had stopped in front of me. The driver of the 714 proceeds to lay on the horn solid for maybe 10 seconds. As we start up the hill I turn and just point and glare at him. He stayed behind me most of the way up, then went around in the left lane and got away by running a super-late yellow at Rosemont.

In the end, I lost this fight by not being alert enough to take down the bus number so that I could file a report against the driver. While to me this is just another part of riding in L.A., I can only imagine how disconcerting it would be to a casual cyclist to have a bus driver use his horn in a clearly intimidating manner and then infringe on the cyclist’s own lane.

In both instances, the bus drivers are clearly in the wrong. In Box’s case, the driver ignored the safety of the cyclist by not slowing down so that he could provide more room to the bike rider while passing. In Richardson’s, the driver violated city law when blowing his horn without there being a safety issue.

Metro employess and cyclists should be allies in the war against car culture, but as Richardson sums up his post, "Actions like this all too frequently illustrate how seldom that’s the case."

  • it’s unfortunate when this happens. bus operators – like every group of people – have good ones and bad ones.

    i’ve had really close calls, and have been the victim of really bad driving by bus operators, both on metro and commuter express lines.

    every time something bad happens, i file complaints. i’m not sure where they go – but, at least i’ve done my part. i’m not sure what else there is i can do.

    there are also some good operators out there, and ones who know to give us space and are patient with our slower speed. it’s just the jerks that inevitably end up defining them, much like the behavioral outliers of all groups.

  • David p. writes: “there are also some good operators out there, and ones who know to give us space and are patient with our slower speed.”

    Last week I rode to Hollywood & Vermont to catch a bus. I missed the bus by seconds. No worries! I’ll just ride south on Vermont and catch it at the next stop. Again, I just missed it by seconds. As luck would have it, I kept hitting red lights and the bus kept sliding through on yellows.

    Eventually just decided to keep riding to my destination at 85th and Vermont. The bus and I were neck and neck all the way.

    My point is this, when it’s all said and done, cyclists aren’t really traveling slower than the buses, we just don’t accelerate and brake to such extremes as the operators of buses (and other vehicles) do.

    Studies show that moderate and consistent speeds result in greater throughput than rapid acceleration and deacceleration.

    More cyclists! Moderate speeds! Greater capacity! Safer streets!

    “See you on the Streets!”

  • steve, my “slower speed” comment was pertaining to traffic overall – not buses.

    on my ride home from work, i leave downtown on my bike, or i could catch the #33 up venice.

    if i take the #33 – that’s an extra half an hour of travel time.

    so i’m well aware that many times on bikes we are faster than buses and cars in the macro sense, but in the immediate, roaring your engines, we are slower.

    hence my point, there are good bus drivers who are tolerant of our “relative” (and immediate) slower speed.


  • This is not a good idea, but I’ve found one thing that will SUPREMELY PISS OFF any bus driver: messing with their rear view mirrors.

    When you catch them at a stop, pull up on the drivers side. Grab those big mirrors on the side and twist them out of position.

    Gets ’em every time.

    If you want to avoid conflict, I would advise being aware of any upcoming bus stops (usually near intersections). When you near a bus stop, either accelerate to let the bus pull over, or slow down to let the bus pull over.

    Looking at the driver and making it known that you will respect their need to dump passengers (or pick them up) usually results in a good relationship as you both make your way down a large thoroughfare.

  • Alek F

    Yes, very disturbing stories…
    What I can also recommend for cyclists: please obtain rear-view mirrors. They can be a life-saver. If you were to use a rear-view mirror, you could see approaching 18-wheeler and a bus much earlier (not the last moment!)
    I’m a biker with 17+ years of experience, and… honestly – couldn’t imagine cycling on our city streets without rear-view mirrors. I think this is a must for anybody who rides on the roads.
    Good luck to you all!

  • That’s a good call re: rear view mirrors Alek. I think I’m going to invest in some. My bike is shamelessly oriented to city comfort riding… got a big basket, cushy seat, mud flags, bell, and soon… rear view mirror!

  • Mark Panitz

    bike and buses
    I am a bike rider myself as well as a frequently bus rider and I’m also on the Metro Accessiblity
    Access committee (we deal mostly access issues
    on metro buses,
    if you call customer relations metro will listen
    to you and follow up on your complaint
    (but it helps to have the coach number and line number and time of day (and if possible the run
    number which is the 1 or 2 digit number that you
    see if you are loading or unloading your bike
    from the bike rack)
    when I approach a bus stop and know bus is behind me -I let the bus pass me (maybe
    I might hop on the sidewalk (which is legal
    in Los Angeles) to pass the bus on the sidewalk() I will never pass a stopped bus
    (well unless it broke down)

  • Alek and Mark, great comments and recommendations however non of these would have made my situation any different.

    1. I saw that the bus was coming on full speed next to the truck. I looked back to let the bus driver know that I see him/her. She still came at me with full speed, squeezing me into the parked cars.

    2. There was no bus stop for this Rapid. If I see a bus stop with people waiting, I usually take the lane and move out to the left of the lane to let the bus driver know that they can merge into the curb.

    3. None of these suggestions would have helped me with the car incident where the driver cut me off. I’m still bruised and I can’t use my left arm.

    4. I always write down the number of the busses (route and id #, time of day, direction and intersection) but it has not gotten me far. I report them, I get an email back saying that they will talk to their drivers and that’s about it.

    I want these drivers fired and I want these incidents to get onto their driving record! I ride the bus all the time, with my bike and sometimes without. I always try to make friends with the drivers and I report the good and considerate ones as well to reinforce good behavior.

    But drivers who endanger the life of others need to be punished. Maybe we should put them on a bike on a busy street and put them in front of one of their own buses. Topanga has an equestrians/mountain cyclists program. Maybe there could be a bus/urban cyclist program.


Cyclists and Pedestrians Looking for a Champion

Photo of bicycle after its rider was killed by an LADWP truck via the Daily News. As we approach the summer season, a time when streets are more filled with people NOT in a car, and the number of crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians continues to grow; now would be the perfect time for some […]

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 […]

Caught on Camera: Metro Bus Harasses Will Campbell

Last March, there was a flurry of "bus versus bicycle" stories that captured the attention of bike blogs and Metro itself.  On it’s worst day, two stories, one by Enci Box and one by Eric Richardson were posted within hours of each other.  Metro responded by putting together a task force for cyclists and operators […]

Law-Breaking Drivers Disrespecting New Wilshire Boulevard Bus-Only Lanes

On April 8, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other Metro, federal, county, and city leaders cut the ceremonial ribbon opening the second phase of the $31.5 million Wilshire BRT (Bus Rapid Transit). Metro forecasted that the Wilshire Boulevard peak-hour bus-only lanes will significantly improve commute times for the more than 25,000 people who board Wilshire Boulevard buses at peak […]