How to Drive Around Buses

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.

Metro Transit buses at Coffman Memorial Union, By Runner1928 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32651385

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.

Next up:

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?

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12 Responses to How to Drive Around Buses

  1. Stuart Knappmiller September 21, 2018 at 1:14 pm #

    Maybe we need to borrow the hand held stop signs from our schools that do walk to school mornings, like Lyndale did this am. Just step out with that STOP in our hand. The one I carried was heavy. I think it could do some damage. When we drivers do what you’ve described we don’t mean to be dangerous. We’re just unaware. Thanks for helping us out.

  2. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke September 21, 2018 at 1:58 pm #

    Thanks for writing this. We should make DRIVER HOW-TO into a regular feature.

    e.g.

    How to not speed:

    Step 1) When you reach the speed limit, do not press the gas pedal down

  3. Nick M September 21, 2018 at 2:31 pm #

    While I can’t say this for certain, I believe that turning right in front of a bus is classified as a lane use violation. The law says that you must turn from the closest lane into the closest lane (as appropriate, there are naturally some exceptions). Turning right in front of a bus necessitates that you are not in the right-most lane, and it is therefore illegal.

    I see this daily at the south end of the Hennepin Ave bridge (the stop in front of the Federal Reserve). Drivers don’t feel like waiting in the line of legal right turners stacked up behind a bus in the right turn lane, so they cruise by in the right-hand through lane and then turn in front of the bus and all the people following the law. Which probably makes everyone else that just got passed pretty unhappy and suggests that they don’t need to wait next time either. Since enforcement is not going to happen anytime soon, I’ve been trying to think of ways that the intersection could be engineered better to solve this.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller September 21, 2018 at 3:20 pm #

      Now that you say it, that’s consistent with some stuff I found while Googling.

    • Julie Kosbab September 21, 2018 at 4:02 pm #

      That whole section of space is horrifying, especially with the single lane on the bridge. I have driven block for cyclists on that bridge a couple times lately. Pisses off the people behind me, but I seriously do not care for their need to speed and scare bikers.

  4. Chris Moseng
    Chris Moseng September 21, 2018 at 3:31 pm #

    I frequently have occasion to mutter: “if you’re honking at a bus, you’re probably the one driving wrong.”

  5. Scott Stocking September 21, 2018 at 4:53 pm #

    If I’m driving I try and follow these rules, but is there an exception to rule 2 if the bus has its four-way flashers on at a stop?

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller September 21, 2018 at 8:51 pm #

      Maybe? But also no?

    • Scott Walters September 24, 2018 at 9:59 am #

      That is the exception. The 4 ways mean the bus is waiting for a time-stop. It got a little bit ahead of schedule (yes, it does happen!) and is waiting for the clock to catch up with the bus.

      You still have the right turn from the left lane problem. Go around, Signal right, Look back at the bus before you get in front of it…be very visible, check for peds, and make the right.

      It’s kind of how bicyclists feel all the time…you are vulnerable in your car because you are the smaller vehicle, and if that bus driver doesn’t see you and punches it…well, it’s lights out for you. So you’re really careful, and it turns out okay.

  6. David Markle
    David Markle September 22, 2018 at 11:43 am #

    Good reminders, Adam.

    (Not to turn right in front of a bus, meaning when going in the same direction as the bus.)

    Though unrelated to the above discussion, I wish enforcers would at least warn drivers to turn on their headlights during precipitation (as required by state law): very important for safety. Luckily I SAW the non-compliant drivers I encountered in traffic during the last several days of rain,

    • Rosa September 23, 2018 at 9:50 am #

      not turning right in front of a bus, not swerving around a car that has stopped to let pedestrians cross, turning on your lights when it’s dark…these all come under a general heading of “don’t drive when you can’t see.” Along with “wait for your windows to defog” and “scrape your car if it is icy or snowy” and, this time of year “wear sunglasses or pull over for a minute if you can’t see in the glare”.

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