Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bus versus biker at 14th and Irving

Just got this note from a reader, who witnessed an unfortunate incident between a Metrobus driver and a bicyclist:
I was walking to the gym in Columbia Heights at 6:30 a.m. when I witnessed an out-of-service DC Metrobus honking at a cyclist in the bike lane heading northbound on 14th Street. When they got to the intersection with Irving and were stopped by a red light, the bus driver opened his door, stood on the step of the bus and started yelling at the cyclist.

Having been the target of aggressive Metrobus drivers while commuting my way around the city on bike, I decided to see if I could help. The cyclist was asking why the bus driver was honking at him when he didn't need to pull over to the curb (no passengers -- out of service) and could have easily moved to the other north bound lane. The bus driver responded by yelling at the guy. I interjected, "Hey man, can't you be respectful?"

He answered my question at once. "Fuck you" he said. My fault -- I hadn't realized we were dealing with one of DC Metro's ambassadors for public safety awareness.

The light changed and he charged off with his anger management issues back behind the wheel of a multi-ton bus the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority has deemed him fit to drive. I snapped the picture as he drove away.

Bus 6500, northbound, 14th street on 8.25.10 at 6:30 a.m. Jim Graham, do you care?
He said the biker was going to report it. I haven't noticed this kind of thing with a Metrobus, but I've seen drivers in the neighborhood honking at bikes.


  1. Yeah, I've been honked at by Metrobus drivers, had them try to push me out of my lane by simply edging into it, drive around me and then cut across the bike lane and stop dangerously short. You name it. They're usually not as aggressive and disrespectful as cabs and often telegraph what they're going to do from miles away, but as public servants and operators of giant machines of death, the quality does not meet METRO's salary budget.

  2. This is horrible! I can't believe this driver was off duty and pulling this stunt. I encountered the same thing (not nearly as bad) this morning while riding southbound down 11th... minor honking when all I was doing was riding along in the bike lane. The problem is bikers and buses are forced to share the same lane which makes sense in theory, but causes these exact issues. Maybe one day the whole city will be like New Hampshire Ave...

  3. that is obnoxious. last week i called wmata and reported a metrobus driver for the first time ever -- he left about 1 foot when passing me, causing me to scream out loud. when i caught up to him at a red light and said 'why did you pass me that close? you can't pass bicycles that close!' he dismissed me with a wave of his arm and turned his head. if i had wavered in the slightest i would have been under the bus. there's a reason drivers are legally required to leave 3 feet when passing a bike!

  4. Not as a cyclist, but as a pedestrian I encountered a very aggressive 42 bus driver a few weeks ago. I was crossing Irving in the cross walk and had the right-of-way. The bus driver flew around the corner, made eye contact with me, and instead of slowing down, he sped up. If I hadn't jumped to get out of the way, he would have easily hit me with the side of the bus as he barreled around the turn. I noted the time, the bus # and immediately reported it. It took a few weeks, but I received a response email from Metro that appeared to take my complaint seriously. Hope so.

  5. Sorry if this is a tangent but I had an accident a week back when a pedestrian stepped into traffic (at 18th and Mass. Ave) and I went over my handlebars when I braked as hard as I could to avoid hitting her. Given what could have happened, I was only slightly hurt (sprained elbows and wrists) but lost consciousness for a minute or 2 after my head hit the road and was taken by ambulance to GW Trauma Center. I CAN WRITE THIS MESSAGE TODAY BECAUSE I WAS WEARING A HELMET. Please wear one when you ride your bike. Pissed off bus drivers are not the only peril. Please, do yourself and everyone who cares about you this favor. Accidents happen very so quickly and easily.

  6. Drivers need to be aware of bicyclists, but bicyclists also need to be smarter. This morning, walking northbound on 16th St between Harvard and Irving, I saw a northbound bicylist swerve in front of approaching southbound cars to cross over to the bus stop. He came within microseconds of being a road pancake. And of course he wasn't wearing a helmet.

  7. Good points everybody. As Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock said, it takes two.

  8. As a 15-year bike commuter I've noted there's a difference between In Service and Out of Service Metro bus drivers.

    The In Service ones are making frequent stops (so going slower than most bikes in the city) and have passengers (i.e. witnesses).

    Out of Service bus drivers resort to their normal car-driving behaviors: speeding, unsignaled lane changes, F-Yous for everybody.

    Cyclists have to treat in service and out of service buses differently.

  9. I am pretty sure that Metrobus drivers have been trained to honk when coming up to bicyclists, which is why the do it. It bugs me, but at least I understand they are doing their training.

    I think the characterization of out of service vs. in-service drivers is anecdotal and not generalizable with regard to bicyclists, although it is true that out of service buses are driven much more fast.

  10. I wonder if there's a driver on this route who is particularly aggressive with cyclists. My two worst experiences with metro busses (honking, deliberate swerving in front of me, not signalling, cursing, and tailgating) were both with a 42 bus around 14th - 16th and irving, both times between 2-3 pm. Never reported because it's kind of hard to write down a bus's info while riding and trying not to be run down by said bus.
    I plan to file a complaint next time, since this seems to be a pattern and metro needs to know about it, and will hopefully do something about it before a cyclist or pedestrian is killed.

  11. My biking partner was physically assaluted by a guy driving a navy blue BMW license plate number JMP 6138 (Virginia plate). The driver was leaving a parking garage and charged my partner with his vehicle. My partner mearly said, " nice move." Which prompted the obviously insane driver to stop his car, get out and push my partner. While I was taking a picture of his license plate he then came after me aggressively. Saying," we can call the police now if you want." I told the guy to have a nice day and rode off. I'm pretty sure he was a republican. This is the last time I'm vacationing in D.C. I'm done.


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