Friday, July 23, 2010

An Open Letter to King County Metro Transit Operators


Do you see that line on the road there, to your right? Oh, now it's kind of under your wheels. Now it's on your right again.

Some people call it a fog line. It's a lane marker, and along southbound East Marginal Way South in Seattle it divides the motorized vehicle traffic lane from the bicycle lane. One way to tell this is the graphic of the bicycle and rider painted in that lane.

Here's a thing about that lane: because it's called a bicycle lane and a there's a bicycle painted in it, I feel like I have the right to ride my bike in it without having to share it with motorized vehicles. And here's another thing: the City of Seattle thinks so, too, and they wrote it down in the law. Seattle Municipal Code section 11.53.190 is entitled "Driving In a Bicycle Lane" and says, "The operator of a motor vehicle shall not drive in a bicycle lane except to execute a turning maneuver, yielding to all persons riding bicycles thereon." That's a law. There are other laws that say a cyclist has the right to travel in a bicycle lane and that a person has a right to overtake on the right when the roadway is laned for traffic permitting such travel--like if there were a bicycle lane next to a motor vehicle lane.

This afternoon, when I was riding my bicycle southbound along East Marginal Way South between South Hanford and South Spokane Streets in the bicycle lane, your colleague was in the wrong when she crossed that white line without signaling (and apparently without checking her mirrors). And when we collided while I was moving straight ahead with the right of way in a marked bicycle lane and I came out the worse for wear, and her response was "I didn't even see you" and "these buses are really big", well, it made me mad. And when the driver operating the coach behind her told me that the collision was my fault--that I was operating too close to the bus--it made me really mad.

Now to be clear, I respect the job you do, and I know that we cyclists don't always make it easy. Some of my compatriots operate their bicycles with utter disregard for the law, for their own well-being, and for the health and safety of those around them. I know how frustrating that can be to an occasional driver, and I can only imagine how much more frustrating it is for a professional transit driver. However, I wasn't operating with disregard for the law this afternoon. And as you are the professionals, I expect more.

That white line is there to protect the most vulnerable of road users. It's almost all we've got, it and the law that backs it up. So stay the hell on the other side of it, please. Make a point of it. Your bus is big, we have established that, and it's dangerous for it to get to close to other road users, also stipluated. So mind your lane and stay out of ours. And then maybe I will be the not quite so

Bloody Cyclist


  1. Sorry to hear about your collision. FYI: I've posted my own Open Letter in response to yours on my blog. I hope you'll take the time to give it a read:

    Be safe!

  2. [Reposting comment to get the link right]

    Sorry to hear about your collision. FYI: I've posted my own Open Letter in response to yours on my blog. I hope you'll take the time to give it a read.

    Be safe!

  3. You weren't clear on how the collision occurred. Was the bus pulling out of a bus zone, or into one? Did you collide with the right or left side of the bus?

    I once talked with some fellow riders (I'm a bike rider, not a 'cyclist' so much) who were unaware that drivers don't signal pulling IN to bus zones, only when pulling OUT. By necessity, buses cross the line you're talking about as both the bike lane and the bus zones are on the same side of the main lane.

    I've read VeloBusDriver's 'open letter' and it's a good one. As drivers we do indeed care deeply about you safety whether you're a cyclist, a pedestrian, a transit rider or operating another vehicle on the road. We don't just drive buses around all the time - we also ride bicycles, drive cars, walk, and even ride the bus as do our families.

    I've encountered some cyclists who have shouted things at me like 'YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO SIGNAL' (even though we're really not - you don't signal pulling into a bus zone, only pulling out). I've had them shout 'WATCH OUT! (angrily) when I was at a complete stop. I've had them cut around my bus as I was going slower than them and changing lanes to set up for a turn then shout obscenities at me through my open window.

    Most of the time the interactions that I have with cyclists as I'm driving go unnoticed. These are the ones where my bus and bikes coexist safely and without incident. So far, that's 100% of my experience. I'm sorry that you had the bad kind. No driver wants to be associated with an accident involving an injury regardless of who is at fault.

  4. I hope you immediately called 911. This area has been especially hazardous lately due to the traffic backups (construction zones) this summer. Drivers are becoming more aggressive. I have encountered a bus in the bike lane recently and had to ride around to the LEFT of the bus because the bike lane was blocked. I even saw a truck driving with one set of wheels on the SIDEWALK the other in the bike lane on this stretch one day.

    There's no excuse for using the bike lane or swerving into it. All motor vehicles (and motorcyles and scooters over 50cc) must stay out of it.

    I have been reporting violators on a regular basis to SPD. Call the non-emergency line: 206-625-5011 or 911 if you do think a driver is putting others in immediate danger. You can use the non-emergency line to report trucks parked in the bike lane as well (this Tuesday there were 8 of them parked in the bike lane).