“Very frightening behavior from a bus operator who ran cyclist off the road from a bike lane”

by Prince Of Petworth February 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm 42 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

“Bike vs Bus

To the cyclist who was run off the road by a 96 metrobus last night at 6 p.m. at East Capitol and Kentucky SE, I saw the incident and reported it to WMATA with the bus ID number.

Very frightening behavior from a bus operator who ran cyclist off the road from a bike lane. The cyclist approached the stopped bus and asked the driver if he saw him. The bus pulled away and seemed to intentionally lurch toward that same cyclist half a block later while the bus was crossing the bike lane.”

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  • TJ

    This happened to me three years ago.. I got on the bus at the next stop and confronted the driver, who cursed me, and reported it to WMATA. Nothing ever happened. I will do whatever is within my power to keep a bus from driving beside me, whether it means aggressively taking the lane in front of an approaching bus or simply getting out of traffic temporarily.

    Cyclists are no match for bus drivers with underdeveloped impulse control. And there are many such drivers.

  • petworther

    I’ve seen this happen several times with the 63 bus.

  • Ryan

    That particular bus stop, and that stretch of East Cap more generally, is a nightmare on a bike. Cars turn right across the bike lane onto 12th, Kentucky, and Mass. and more often than not do NOT yield to cyclists that they’re turning in front of.

    They also do a very poor job of stopping for pedestrians trying to cross from Lincoln Park.

    Each one of those intersections should really be a x4 way stop.

    • annonny

      Can you clarify what a typical cyclist would consider proper “yielding” behavior?
      I am very careful to check my mirrors before turning at intersections, especially if there’s a bike lane to the side of me. That said, I have been cursed out several times by cyclists who believe that because I am turning across a bike lane at a stop sign, I must wait for them to blow through said stop sign/intersection instead of stopping to wait for me to turn (i.e., car reaches intersection before the bike, stops, and then proceeds to turn; bike catches up with car that is turning and bikers get upset about having to stop/slow down).
      Petty, I guess, but frankly if I’ve stopped per the law and there’s a bike mid-block behind me, I don’t see why I have to wait another 30 seconds to 45 seconds to “yield” to someone who per the law, should also be stopping at said intersection.

      • gotryit

        Could be a couple of things:
        1. Some cyclists are jerks, because some humans are jerks. I wish I could fix that, but I can’t.
        2. Are you merging right across the bike lane before turning right (use your turn signals, etc.)? That’s the proper way of doing it. You shouldn’t be stopping at the stop sign and then turning right across the bike lane.

        • Ryan

          This is almost verbatim what I was going to say. Think of a bike lane as just a normal lane that you’re restricted from driving in (like a bus lane). To turn across it first signal and merge into it safely. If you’ve done that, then bikers shouldn’t be trying to move around you. Unfortunately, some will.

          The problem on that particular stretch of East Cap is that the traffic is generally speeding with many drivers trying to make the light at the end of the park. They’re also kind-of-sort-of paying attention to pedestrians trying to use the crosswalks (which have visibility issues). So drivers turning onto 12th, Kentucky or Mass are often totally heedless to bikes in a lane next to them that have the right of way when going straight.

          • gotryit

            I’m mostly with you, but when a driver executes that right turn correctly, I will go around them on their left (if there are no other cars that I’d be cutting off, and yes – I do still stop at the stop sign). It would be the height of stupidity to go around them on the right of a car behaving correctly in that turn, but then, all bicyclists are people and some people are stupid…

          • Ryan

            Totally agree. If a car signals and merges into the bike lane in front of me in order to turn right, I will–if it’s safe!–merge into the “car” lane they vacated and go around on their left.

      • Travis

        There are jerks everywhere, whether it’s riding bikes or driving cars. Regardless, we shouldn’t hit them with our vehicles no matter how badly we’d like to.

        As a cyclist who tends to not be a jerk, I’ve found that most cars greatly underestimate the speed of a cyclist. It’s no real feat of strength to be biking at 20+mph but I don’t think it always “looks” like we’re going that fast. Meaning that if you see a cyclist in your side/rear mirror, it won’t actually take 30-45 seconds for them to pass, it’ll take more like 5-10 seconds or even less. That’s the window that is most dangerous for cyclists. Bike brakes don’t have the stopping power to stop on a dime without skidding into the car so it feels pretty scary.

        I wouldn’t expect anyone to give me 30+ seconds of leeway if I’m in a car or on a bike. But 5 seconds seems reasonable.

        I can’t persuade anyone to feel the love for someone just because they are on a bike. But from a practical standpoint, think about how long 5-10 seconds really is versus the time it would take to stop if you inadvertently struck a cyclist with your car.

        • Q

          Definitely: cars should be really mindful to not endanger bikers in any way even if the law is on their side because that’s a life and death thing for the biker. That said, why does a car have to wait for a bike halfway down the street to pass before turning? Bikes are actually supposed to stop at stop signs too; I don’t get why a car should have to wait even five seconds when the biker should be slowing down to cross the intersection anyway. I’m fine with bikes rolling a stop when there’s no traffic, but when a car is moving legally, hey, bicycles need to deal with annoying traffic and obey the signs too. Right? (I have no car but just don’t understand why they’re expected to change behavior to make it more convenient for bikers to bend the traffic laws.) (I also may be a little peeved, as a pedestrian, about how often bikes just blow right through the crosswalk without even slowing down when me and my feet have the right of way. But that’s another subject…)

          • HaileUnlikely

            This should be a non-issue, because as GoTryIt noted, drivers of cars are supposed to merge across the bike lane before they reach the intersection, such that by the time they can actually execute a turn from one road to another, they are already on the right, not left, of the bike lane.

          • textdoc

            The rule about merging _into_ the bike lane before turning isn’t well known. I didn’t know about it before this thread from 2014:

          • textdoc

            This link (which someone posted in the 2014 thread) has a good graphic showing how to merge into the bike lane before turning:

          • Ryan

            To be clear, my comment above refers to bikes that have the right of way and no stop sign or light on that piece of road and cars that are failing to yield when turning right in front of the bikes. Drivers in that situation have the responsibility to use turn signals (for the love of mercy, BEFORE starting to turn) and to safely merge into the bike lane; not just to cut across it with no warning.

      • annonny

        I’m not talking about the particular intersection in this question and yes, when I get to one of the “cross-over” intersections, I check my mirrors, signal, merge across the lane safely, and then turn without crossing the bike lane. I don’t need a lecture about “one-ton car vs. 50# bike” thank you very much, I do not want ever to hit a biker and think that road rage-a-holics who taunt bikers with motorized vehicles are sociopaths.
        I’m talking about any number of residential streets with right-side bike lanes (e.g., Q headed east, R headed west, 15th Street north of Mass) where there are block-by-block stop signs/lights yet (a) bikers don’t usually stop and, (b) get indignant when cars cross the lane after having stopped.

        • DCBikingMama

          You still need to merge over into the bike lane before turning right. You should never turn right across a bike lane. If the bike will catches up to you, stops and then goes move forward to go straight as you are turning you will hit them. And it will be your fault b/c you turned across a lane of traffic that is moving straight. You should be in the bike lane when before you move to turn right. And, if there is not time for you to merge right without cutting of the bike, you need to wait before merging over. If a cyclist yells at you for being in the bike lane at that point, they are being a jerk. But, if they yell at you for turning across the lane, that is probably the adrenaline, b/c you scared the crap out of them.

    • Linc Park SE

      I bike this daily. The road narrows with cars parked to the right and often in the bike lane, and then cars driving on the left of the bike lane. The frustrating thing is when a car passes me and then jerks right across the bike lane, cutting me off to make the right hand turn – that is what happens most often at 12th SE and Kentucky SE – which are only about 4 houses apart.

      • Ryan

        Yep! Especially Kentucky and Mass because they’re such slight turns, cars treat them more like an exit ramps or slip lanes than turns that they’re making across another travel lane. Lots of people flagged this on the Vision Zero map for DDOT, so hopefully they’ll consider traffic calming measures at those intersections (bump outs at a minimum, ideally full stop signs).

  • dat

    Ugh. There are cameras on all buses now, right? This should be investigated by WMATA and the driver should be fired and possibly charged if these allegations are true.

    However — this should not serve as a condemnation of all WMATA bus drivers. I typically find that the drivers of the 64 route, for example, are courteous to cyclists.

    • HaileUnlikely

      The cameras do not record continuously. They are triggered by acceleration or braking beyond a certain threshold and record several seconds before and after the incident of hard accel/decel. They also record if the driver pushes a button to activate it. But they do not record continuously, so a driver doing egregiously dangerous things while keeping the bus moving along at a steady speed or accelerating/braking within normal limits would not be recorded. (more accurately for the geeks out there, everything is recorded but is continuously overwritten unless a triggering event results in its being saved.)

  • contrarian

    I commuted by bike for 13 years. The class of drivers I feared the most were Metrobus drivers.

    • atlas

      followed closely by diplomat vehicles. they operate with virtually 100% immunity from anything traffic related, including hitting pedestrians/cyclists. not saying they would, but they could. and ive seen some shockingly terrible driving from cars with dippo plates.

      • NYT

        …or any Uber or Lyft driver with Maryland plates.

        • Swdc

          Or any driver with MD plates.

  • It’s bad enough dealing with unaware vehicles — for example, I was doored for the first time yesterday, no fun.

    But add aggressive/angry drivers, particular of large vehicles like a bus, and things get downright scary.

  • dcbiker

    I had that happen to me a few years ago, at 7th and F: I was in the bike lane on 7th, and a bus came extremely close next to me and then cut me off. When I went around him, I yelled that he’d almost hit me. His response was, “Yeah, I tried to!” WMATA did nothing.

    I’ve been bike-commuting in this city for 8 years, and I second the comment about how the most-feared drivers are bus drivers. Some just do not give a f**k.

  • DC1

    The drivers are Unionized, might as well claim immunity because reporting them will go absolutely nowhere. Ever wonder why they run red lights without the slightest hesitation?

  • Anon

    Contacting Metro Transit Police would also be another route. I witnessed an incident in which bus driver was very physically aggressive towards a passenger. I called the police, Metro Police followed up with me and the driver was arrested later that day. As a witness, I found Metro Transit to be very responsive.

  • Philippe Lecheval

    There are some short-tempered, aggressive bus drivers in this town who shouldn’t be driving at all, much less driving Metrobuses.

  • Steve

    This discussion is very useful – I wish there was a way for responsibilities of drivers and bike riders to be clarified and disseminated. I do not believe that I am supposed to move into the bike lane to make a right turn. I suspect that many bike riders would be infuriated by that. So what’s the rule. I’m intrigued by the notion that a bicycle rider is entitled to “take the lane” from a car or bus. What’s the difference between this and cutting them off. Several cities have changed laws so that bike riders can go through stop signs and red lights, but I suspect this could create more problems.

    Since I walk to work daily in the U Street neighborhood, I know to watch for bikes and cars in a hurry. Sorry to say, the bikes are a much bigger problem.

    • gotryit

      See scenario #4 here:
      You are supposed to signal right, then merge right (usually there’s a dotted line part of the bike lane before the intersection – do it there), continue to signal right, then turn right from the far right part of the road. Scenario 4 shows why turning across the bike lane is more dangerous.
      See page 12 here:
      (** for emphasis)
      “According to the DCMR Section 2220,
      The Director of the District Department of
      Transportation is authorized to designate any traffic
      lane on any roadway for the exclusive use of a single
      class or combination of classes of vehicles during
      certain hours. During the restricted hours, any vehicle
      may enter a restricted right curb lane solely for the
      purposes of taking on or discharging passengers or **to
      make a right turn** where a right turn is not otherwise
      prohibited by any official traffic control device.”
      As a side note, some bicyclists won’t understand that, and will be agitated, but please do continue to do it this way – it is safer for all of us.

    • Ryan

      The post above has excellent information to help your confusion. I want to take a moment to push back strongly against the notion that bikes are the worst offenders or the biggest cause of problems on the road. To my knowledge cyclists have struck and killed three people in the DC metro area in the last 10 years (and were not at fault in at least one of those collisions). Drivers kill that many people by mishandling their vehicles in a given month or even a bad week.

  • wpk_dc

    I loved reading that an eyewitness took the time and effort to contact WMATA and report the incident. Nice job!

  • DCReggae

    About six months ago, I was stopped at a red light on my 50cc scooter in SW. I was in the lane next to a metro bus – a kind of two lane stretch that merged into one about a quarter mile ahead. The driver and I caught eyes, knowingly nodded to each other, and both punched it when the light turned green. We were in a full out drag race! …and he BEAT ME. At the next light I pulled up next to him and we had a good laugh. Bus drivers are people too!

    • textdoc

      Sounds like an amiable guy, but the idea of a bus driver gunning his bus to “race” a civilian is disturbing.

      • DCReggae

        You have a point, but I’m riding only a 50cc scooter, which is a glorified lawnmower lol

  • PJ

    Riding Your Bike IN DC is dangerous regardless of bike that while giving riders a dedicated area to safety ride, are not some protective bubble. Bottom line both drivers and rider’s need to be alert. Let’s SHARE the road.

  • DupontDad

    If a car in the right lane you must yield to the greater public need of a bus pulling to the right. Does that not apply equally to bikes whether or not in lane?

    As a bike commuter I’ve experienced this many times on Connecticut and it and finally concluded all the different bus drivers aren’t homicidal– but that I was just wrong.

    • Ryan

      This is literally incomprehensible word salad.

      • DupontDad

        I think it may be the case that bikes, like all other vehicles, must yield to a public bus pulling right to service passengers — irrespective of the bike lane.

        • textdoc

          I believe you’re also required to yield to them when the bus pulls back into traffic. I didn’t know this until I was reading the list of driving offenses with increased “Vision Zero” fines.

  • Nolan

    this happened to me also. WMATA driver on Mount Vernon Ave in Alexandria ran me off the bike shoulder almost clipping my handlebars. Gave said driver big fat bird at the next intersection and slapped side of bus. Didn’t report but should have.


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