GRT bus driver attempts to run me off the road

You be the judge :)

Riding home after tonight’s ‘Light of Life‘ discussion at the Firken a GRT bus driver attempted to run me off the road at the Victoria and King Street intersection at around 6.45pm. His license plate either began or ended with 397.

I was no angel, having crossed King Street by coming off the sidewalk on a green and then parked myself in front (yet off to the side) of the bus who was waiting for the red light heading north on King.

Once the King Street traffic light hit green I accelerated faster than the bus. The bus driver then attempted to catch up and force me onto the sidewalk. He was not successful forcing me onto the sidewalk  but he succeeded in giving me a fright for my life.

The front of the bus missed me with 10 cm of space between the bus and my handlebars.  By the time the back of the bus passed me I was basically riding the curb with 3cm of separation between my handlebars and a 20 tonne bus.

I was pissed, this driver deliberately tried to rub me off the road. I caught up to the bus at the next red light and had some ‘choice words’ with the driver about a cyclists right to the lane. I must have punched the bus door cause my hand is now quite swollen. The driver screamed back at me that I needed to learn the highway traffic act.

I’m glad he felt the need to use his 20-tonne metal cage to teach a cyclist about crossing an intersection using the pedestrian signals to make a left-turn safer.

Who needs a lesson about the highway traffic act?

You be the judge.

By the way I was definitely visible out there on the bike.

 

37 thoughts on “GRT bus driver attempts to run me off the road

  1. The scenario is all too familiar to me, although haven’t had the experience specifically with a city bus. Although your fist is no match for a 20 tonne steel monster, I’m cheering for you nonetheless! Glad you survived the experience with only a sore hand, and hope someone was witness enough to report the driver. Best wishes!

  2. From your description, I feel that you acted illegally, unsafely and emotionally. I don’t think I would have done as you did, nor do I necessarily feel the bus driver is at fault. My reasons follow, I accept that I wasn’t there and that the conclusions I have drawn are based on what you’ve said, which may not be the entire picture.

    …illegally:

    “I was no angel, having crossed King Street by coming off the sidewalk on a green”

    You broke municipal and provincial laws, but it sounds like you already know that: Sidewalk riding is a violation of Kitchener by-law 2007-138 part IV (1)(a)(ii). Biking through a crosswalk is a violation of HTA 140(6).

    …unsafely:

    “and then parked myself in front (yet off to the side) of the bus who was waiting for the red light heading north on King.”

    Was there room between the front of the bus and the stop line for you to fit?

    The minimum width usually recommended as safe for sharing with regular traffic (let alone heavy goods vehicles and buses) is 14 feet. The lanes on that bit of King are nowhere near that wide.

    You said you were in front, yet off to the side. I assume you were off to the right side? You may not have been visible to the bus driver (reflective vest notwithstanding), who wasn’t expecting someone to sandwich themselves in between him and the stop line.

    Why did you stay “in front (yet off to the side)”? Why not park yourself directly in front of the bus and assert your safety and position in the lane?

    …emotionally:

    “I was pissed, this driver deliberately tried to rub me off the road. […] I must have punched the bus door cause my hand is now quite swollen.”

    By using the word “deliberately”, you’ve accused the bus driver of assaulting you with his vehicle. On the other hand, you’ve also said that you physically attacked his bus.

    Did you talk to the cops to report reckless driving? Otherwise, the only road raging criminal I see here is you.

    Do I sound judgmental? Remember, you asked for it. :)

  3. I do believe we’re fortunate in St. Catharines as we don’t have the same issues like other cities. People are constantly complaining about bus and taxi drivers in other cities, however both in this city are extremely courteous to cyclists…at least for the past 6 or 7 years.

    The one mistake I believe you made was related to the sidewalk. I don’t blame people who do cycle on sidewalks, but I’d give way to any vehicle when coming off the sidewalk onto the road.

    And purely from observing bike/car relations in St. Catharines…I find those who wear brightly coloured or reflective jackets, shirts etc. tend to be passed more closely.
    I don’t know if it’s because of the clothing itself or if the motorists believe cyclists who wear such things are more knowledgeable.

    1. Having been hit by 5 bikes riding in dowtown Kitchener over the past 6 months, I’m presently in a battle with the police to do their job. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, not bikes and since the police won’t lay charges I have to protect myself. It’s a pity when my knap sack, or cane happen to get into the spokes of a bike riding illegally on the sidewalk. You may be next if you pass near me riding on a sidewalk in downtown.

  4. Despite what happened, threatening someone with a vehicle is clearly illegal. I spoke to the police about occurrences like this that happen all to often on WCC club ride out in the country. Drivers forcing cyclists off the road, throwing water bottles at cyclist from vehicles, etc.

    They said, “Get a plate & number file a report. We’ll follow up.” And it works!

    1. I am going to follow up, but directly with GRT. I’ve got a time and a partial license plate, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

      I admit that I was clearly cycling where I shouldn’t be but as you state, that’s no excuse to use a public vehicle as a weapon.

  5. Also, I noticed you have the planet bike super flash rear light. That is by far one of the brightest, most annoying lights available…

    1. That’s why I use it. There was no way that bus driver didn’t see me as I passed directly infront of him while he was waiting for the red and was clearly cycling in front of the bus before he passed / rubbed me off the road.

  6. I’ve had my fair share of run-in’s with the GRT drivers as well. Although not everything you did was perhaps the best choice, I would have to agree in that the driver should be more patient, especially at night. Hurtling a giant steel cage at you isn’t the best choice on his part either. Pretty sure had you been squished, this sadly would have been another incident where they would have blamed the cyclist for getting in the way of the poor little bus.

  7. I’d have to disagree with Colin. It’s true that riding on the sidewalk is a bylaw infraction. However, what would be different if you were in the road crossing King, then stopping in the rightmost lane of King turning 90 degrees and waiting for the King light?

    In fact, this is my preferred method of turning left when I don’t feel safe taking the left turn lane (am I understanding the situation correctly). You would have still been at the front of the bus and would not have had anywhere else to go.

    1. Rob, that was exactly my thinking. I was coming out at Charles Street on to busy Victoria only to make a quick left turn onto King. In my view it’s extremely dangerous with all the traffic. So I just took the dark sidewalk straight to King and crossed.

      I would have been in the right if I had walked my bike to that point, but I’m lazy and biking is easy :)

    2. I agree that there are times when ignoring by-laws and the HTA is safer; however, Graham had posed the question “Who needs a lesson about the HTA?” The bus driver, IMO, is right to comment that Graham needs a lesson, when he has observed him disregarding the HTA.

      I don’t consider the sidewalk/crosswalk stuff the issue. The question for me is where he positioned himself after crossing the crosswalk. Was it in directly in front of the bus? Was there room for him to be in front of the bus and behind the stop line and be visible?

      Being off to the right in a narrow lane is how you get killed. Darting out from the right is how you get killed.

      1. I wouldn’t let the stop line prevent me from turning two straights into a left if it felt safer than taking the left hand lane for the turn. In most cases, the HTA is written for motor vehicles and very little thought goes into how to handle these situations for cyclists.

        Other than that, there’s no HTA infraction, until the bus driver used his bus as a weapon.

      2. Colin, I value your opinion. This morning I was definitely thinking: What would have happened if I had confidently taken the lane and forced the bus to do a proper lane change if he wanted to pass. My riding actions by keeping to the right kind of told the bus driver I was in the wrong and that I was trying to ‘sneak’ ahead of him. I will say that taking the lane is not something that comes naturely to me, I do it when it’s obvious, but it’s not a habit. Good advice.

        I also purposefully put this experience ‘out there’ for judgement, as I’m interested in a broader view of what happened. It would be interesting to get the bus driver’s take on what happened to compare (especially if it contained similar emotion).

        Thanks,

      3. (For some reason I can’t respond to your post directly. Chrome issue? Dunno.)

        I appreciate that you’re open and transparent. I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I’m not trying to come off as rude or all-knowing. You were the guy who was there, you have the most context of who was in the right and the wrong.

        Taking the lane is stressful. I commute on Weber and I often have to grit my teeth and build up the courage to take the lane. When I don’t, I inevitably get passed unsafely and feel panic and anger.

        It took me a few months to consistently start taking the lane on Weber, and that was on my regular commute. On roads that I don’t regularly travel, I’m much more timid, often to the detriment of my safety.

    3. Sounds like a bike box at that intersection would have avoided this situation entirely. Having room at the front of the interstion explicitly for bikes sends automobiles a clear message – cyclists have a right to be here. Even though the automobiles waiting at the light might now be inconvenienced by the cyclist everyone is safer.

      Cyclists in Graham’s situation could easily bike across King and do a 90 degree turn in the bike box. Cyclists passing the line of vehicles waiting at the light would have a safe place to wait. And, any cyclists coming from the sidewalk would have a safe place to become part of traffic after, say, walking their bike from a store.

  8. Why would you incriminate yourself, by riding on the sidewalk, and then pounding on the bus door? Just take his plate number and file a complaint – both with the police and with the GRT. This would be far more effective than taking on a steel behemoth with your fist. This type of scenario makes cycling more dangerous for all of us, as opposed to making a point.

    1. Peter I completely agree with you that by riding on the sidewalk was wrong. But part of staying alive out in the jungle on the bike is reacting to the dangers immediately.

      The bang on the window was to get the drivers attention. A bang on a bus door is not a personal attack by any means .. who is it going to hurt.

      But it does get attention and how the driver reacted confirmed that he had purposely tried to rub me off the road and teach me a lesson.

      Peter do you care to elaborate how it makes cycling more dangerous for everyone else? Does anyone else feel that way?

      It’s too easy for motorists to hide behind their steel cages, perhaps when there is actual human interaction out on the ashphalt motorists will think twice about using their steel cage as a weapon.

      Who here has been rubbed out by another cyclist or by a pedestrian? Humans act differently when encased in steel.

      1. You asked how violence makes cycling more dangerous for everyone else.

        There’s a lengthy but worthwhile study put out by England’s Department for Transport called Cycling, Safety, and Sharing the Road: Qualitative Research with Cyclists and Other Road Users (at http://www2.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme1/researchreport/pdf/rswp17.pdf)

        It points out the usual things: drivers don’t empathize with cyclists, they have a pre-defined stereotype of cyclists, and they will use perceived or actual slights to reinforce that stereotype in their minds.

        Peter can make his case independently of me, but I think the gist he’s going for is you’re harming the reputation of cyclists, which decreases support and empathy for cyclists.

        The study is worth reading for its mention of blind spots on HGVs and buses, too. By not putting yourself directly in front of them, you are tossing a coin and hoping things go well.

      2. Colin, your point is well made about “[anger] …harming the reputation of cyclists, which decreases support and empathy for cyclists”. Most motorists will have seen the angry scene at the next set of lights, as opposed to the actual incident that caused it, and it may then be added to the general angst and even aggression that motorists often feel toward cyclists. I pulled this point from my original reply, though, as I considered the anger and frustration I felt when I was curbed by a GRT bus on Caroline Street. Would I have acted differently, had I managed to catch up to the bus? Despite knowing better, I can’t say honestly that I would have. So ultimately, Graham, I am just glad to hear you are safe, and I hope the wrist heals soon.

      3. How does this harm other cyclists?

        I am glad to see in the comments that you intend to follow up with the GRT, as this may make the driver think twice about using his/her metal cage as an expression of anger in the future, and ideally will lead to a change of employment for them. Consider the results of the recent Ottawa bus driver who was fired for yelling at a passenger, even though the passenger was also in the wrong. The driver from GRT should obviously not be in control of a bus, but as it stands, he/she has probably already forgotten about being yelled at, and you are the one left with a sore hand. But why not file a complaint with the police, in addition to the GRT? If it is because you were also in the wrong for breaking a bylaw, then the driver gets away with less repercussion than they deserve, and are likely to repeat the same type of deadly behaviour with the next cyclist.

        The GRT is in particular need of a wakeup call. I’ve been ‘curbed’ by them as well, but was unable to catch up with the driver, as it was winter conditions.

      4. @Peter – My main reason for not contact the police is that there is no evidence. It’s a he said / she said. Also in the end no one was hurt.

        And as you suggest, it would add further salt to the wound if I was the only one charged in the incident. I’m not so sure how much trust to place in authorities.

        However, you’ve piqued my interest, I’m going to think about it further — could be an interesting experiment.

        What are they going to do … suspend my bicycle license?

    1. Seconding this.

      Definitely contact GRT directly about this, as this is completely unacceptable behaviour. In any unfortunate future cases, look for the 4 or 5 digit bus number that uniquely identifies the vehicle and should be on every side of the bus (e.g. 2414 or 20109).

  9. My thoughts on the situation.

    From your perspective: You performed a left turn in a manner that you felt the safest and the most comfortable performing in the given conditions(Eg. Traffic levels, available light). Unfortunately, this put you in a position that will hold up a bus. Of course, you feel a little guilty for stopping right in front of this waiting bus so you decide instead of taking the lane you’ll ride fairly close the curb so the bus can pass you easier(and hopefully it does so safely).

    From the bus drivers perspective: He probably almost made it through that intersection but the yellow light forced him to come to a stop. He then probably consoled himself by the fact that even though he missed the green he was now at the front of the line and would have a nice clear road when the light changes. However, right before it changed to green a cyclist, crossing illegally from the side walk, parked right in front of him. He was then probably further angered that this cyclist, instead of letting him pass while going through the intersection, took off at full speed causing the driver and all the passengers to now be held up.

    I think it is important to see the situation from different perspectives. I can certainly see why the driver was upset but with that being said, running other vehicles off the road because you witnessed them break a section of the HTA is absolutely unacceptable. Imagine, if he tried to run every speeding car off the road, or every car rolling through a stop sign, or every car that unsafely merged … it would be like bumper cars on the road. He only tried running you off the road because he had the help of several tons of steel and several hundred horse power.

    Stay safe.

    1. “Thank you for contacting GRT, the issue will be dealt with internally”. That’s what I got anyway.

      I was crossing the intersection at Columbia and Hagey Blvd and intending to go straight I stopped right in the middle of the middle lane essentially taking up the whole lane. This apparently pissed off the iXpress driver behind me, who suddenly turns into the next lane opens the door and starts yelling at me that I shouldn’t be in the middle of the road, and I should be on the right side of the road. I asked him if he is suggesting I go straight from the right turn only lane to which he says yes (I am not making this up).

      1. I’ve left a complaint 3 different ways and recieved no reply. Horrible. Just left another follow up message and this is the webform response.

        “Thank you.

        Your comments, suggestions or customer issue has been received. We will contact you if more information is needed to investigate your issue. If you do not hear from us directly, please know that your issue is being investigated and will be dealt with according to our policies and procedures. All issues submitted after business hours will be recieved the next business day. We appreciate your time and effort to help us make public transit a better service in our community.”

        Love the ‘if you don’t hear from us it means we’re working on it” …. what a load of crap. Can’t believe my taxes pay for this. Maybe a 30 yr contract with a private firm for the LRT is a good idea after all.

  10. From the Firkin you could have gone to Francis and avoiding the stress of making a left at King & Victoria. I often head uptown from Vic Park and I go up to Francis and then up King and I turn at Moore and go up that way. Good route planning can really make for easy rides.

  11. Here’s something that just occurred to me. That particular intersection, travelling towards Waterloo, is immediately (100m) followed by a rail crossing. This bus would have had to stop at the rail crossing no matter what, so why would he be in a hurry to get going? You should bring that up when you talk to the GRT rep.

  12. Tasteful discussion! Great points on all sides…and no yelling :)

    In this case, bus driver, paid by the government (us) to safely perform a public service, was clearly out of line. The bus driver can act like all the other idiots when he’s off the clock.

  13. Buses hardly ever give me enough space on the road in WL. Drivers also seem the get angry when I pass them on the left when they are stopped picking up passengers. I have experienced what you describe many times before.

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