I’ve had a little cold and it’s been rainy, so after spending the summer months blissfully bike commuting, I’ve spent this week as I do the coldest parts of winter, riding the bus. Doing so, as always, is a reminder: none of you know how to drive around buses.
Yes. You. You’re doing it wrong. Never fear, however, as I’m here to remind you of a few things. You’re welcome in advance.
Some of what follows is going to be about state law. Some will be about good policy. Some is straight-forward safety. But all of it has a foundation in just being courteous to others, especially considering that those others may be less fortunate or more vulnerable than you.
While there are people like me on the bus, who are there by choice, there are also lots of bus users who don’t have a choice. I often share the bus with a people whose disabilities mean they cannot drive (vision impairment, Downs Syndrome, mobility and coordination impairments, etc.) and my bus often has to pause for someone in a wheelchair or using a mobility device at one of the several health care facilities we pass (and elsewhere). Keep those people in mind if you’re driving, especially alone, in your car around a bus. They need to get safely and efficiently to their destinations too.
With that in mind:
Yield to the Bus
A quick quote of the relevant Minnesota statute (which you will see cited on the back of buses sometimes):
The driver of a vehicle traveling in the right-hand lane of traffic shall yield the right-of-way to any transit bus attempting to enter that lane from a bus stop or shoulder, as indicated by a flashing left turn signal.
So, yeah, you’re cruising along (or stopped at a light) and the bus turns on its signal, you’re supposed to yield to let it out. Not accelerate to try to get in front of it before it can pull out. Every single bus ride involves people doing the latter, slowing the bus by prioritizing themselves over the many people on the bus and ignoring state law.
You can wait a few seconds. It will make next to no difference to your travel time (especially in the city). You’re just hurrying to the next red light anyway. Slow down and let the bus get its job done on schedule.
Do Not Turn Right in Front of a Stopped Bus
I’m reasonably certain I’ve seen this posted on local buses, and I believe there is a relevant citation, but I’m unable to find it with the amount of time I have for research. Nonetheless, if it’s not illegal, it should be as this is a serious safety issue. In lieu of a specific citation, check out the postings on the back of all of these buses from elsewhere and this DC pdf on the subject.
Anyway, you can’t see around the bus to know whether there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk. You can’t be sure that the bus isn’t starting to move, about to hit you. You do not want to hit a pedestrian or be hit by the bus. So don’t turn right in front of the bus.
To make it personal, I get off the bus at 6th Street downtown and, if the signals are with me, immediately cross to the north side of the street. Not infrequently does someone in a car, who can’t see whether there’s a pedestrian in or entering the crosswalk, whip around the bus to make a right turn on the green light. Thankfully, I’ve never seen anyone actually get hit, but I have seen many close calls. Those drivers weren’t trying to hit anyone, but they also were not being as careful as they could have been. They knew they had a green light, but apparently didn’t stop to think that the green light also means pedestrians have a walk signal and the right of way.
And, more broadly:
Yield to Pedestrians
People who get off the bus immediately become pedestrians, whose is safety is also important. Yield to pedestrians getting off the bus.
You read this website, so you already know this (also because you’re smart), but pedestrians have the right of way, even if there is no marked crosswalk. If you’re driving a car, you’re supposed to yield to pedestrians trying to cross at any intersection without a signal.
On the way home, I get off the bus on Bloomington Avenue in south Minneapolis and have to cross it to get home. Pretty much every time, I get off the bus and stand next to the curb as car after car just keeps moving along. Basically no one even thinks about yielding and I have to just wait until there’s a break in the traffic to cross. Most of the time it’s no big deal, but sometimes it’s raining or snowing and it gets annoying. Regardless, it’s not what those drivers are supposed to do.
What else are people doing wrong? What rules have I missed or what other rules should there be?