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October 26, 2012

Abusive bus drivers and ignorant call centres – does anyone know the road rules?

Filed under: Cycling — joel.cass @ 4:55 pm

Ignorant Bus driver It’s been a while since I posted here, mainly because I’ve either been too busy with work, away for holidays, or riding my bike in whatever free time I have. Part of my free time is spent on the commute to/from work. These days I’ve been trying to regain my fitness by riding to work, hence I haven’t had the capacity to post here.

Today is different. I’m catching a train and it’s because I’m still a little shaken from what happened yesterday. On the ride into work I was tailgated and abused by a sydney bus driver whilst I was riding into work.

Usually I do not have a problem with bus drivers, they are very courteous and usually once I pass them I never see them again anyway, due to the large number of stops on this road. However, yesterday was different. I was riding down Victoria Road toward the city. Things had been going pretty swell so far. I hit iron cove bridge and continued past the traffic at a high rate of speed, probably hitting around 45-50km/h for most of the stretch.

I could hear a honking in the distance. I figured it must have been one of those drivers that wants to get around the traffic by using the bus lane. I look back again and the number of cars seems to have dropped off but I still hear the honking. I pass an intersection and the last of the cars behind me turns off so it’s just a bus behind me now. Yet I still hear the honking.

I come to a stop behind another bus that takes off, I follow that bus and then the honking begins again. This time it sounds very close. I look behind me and there is a bus right on my tail. Literally inches away – perhaps 6-12 inches. I jump in shock, figuring that my life is in danger so I pull off and let the driver pass. Still he is honking at me.

He pulls over to pick up passengers at the top of the hill so I confront him and ask what his problem is. He states, “the bus lane is for buses, the bike lane is for bikes” or something like that with a few curse words thrown in. I ask him how the hell he got his license because knowing the rights of other road users is part of the test. I get no reply, I cannot remember what I said after this but by now I was quite upset so it was probably not very pleasant. I flip him the finger and continue on my way. He’s still honking.

I pull over and decide to report him. The lady at 131500 starts taking down details and then says something like “I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to ride in bus lanes during peak hours”! I was truly shocked to hear this. I ask her to check. I’m sitting there for quite a while waiting for a reply. She comes back simply with an “I don’t know” answer. I continue to report exactly what happened as well as the bus number and my contact details, wanting the depot to contact me. 131500 lady says I can contact RTA for the road rules.

I call the RTA number 132243, and am greeted by another helpful lady, who once again thinks that bicycles shouldn’t be allowed to ride in bus lanes. I challenge this response and we start going through the legislation.

Road rules 2008, part 158, 2, c, i:

“158 Exceptions to driving in special purpose lanes etc
(2) The driver of any vehicle may drive in a bicycle lane, bus lane, tram lane, transit lane or truck lane if: (c) the driver is (i) riding a bicycle in a bus lane (other than a bus only lane), tram lane, transit lane or truck lane”

Oh, look at this, it seems cyclists can ride in bus lanes, and there does not seem to be any limitations on timing or circumstance. Reading this for what it is, it groups bicycles with buses, taxis, and motorbikes. So if a bicycle is not allowed in the bus lane, neither is a bus!

By now I’m truly pissed off. I want to bury this bus driver, I’m going to contact the police. I call them on 131444 and start to run through what happened. And what am I confronted with? “Oh, I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to ride in bus lanes” – what the hell!!! I start going through the legislation, after which the lady says, “Oh, sorry I can not offer you any advice on that”, and then a couple of sentences later “but if you ever need any help on anything, you can call our number anytime.”. Help? define help! Were you helpful? Hell no. Not calling that number again.

So now I wait for a response from the depot. And maybe I will see if I can drop by a police station and log a formal report, regardless of the “legality” – I felt threatened and my life endangered. This is a huge failure of all NSW government departments I had contacted – it shows that there is a huge lack of education in all departments regarding the rights of road users, especially cyclists. Something seriously needs to be done about this.

Update: I was involved in another incident a week later, where a bus driver tried running me off the road (pictured). After this was reported the depot got back to me right away and unfortunately because the industry is so tightly unionized, the investigator can’t really do much, so he recommended I report them to the police. I called 131 444 again and this time got someone a bit more understanding. I still had to report it in person to a police office.

The people at the police office seemed a bit dismissive and needed some persuasion. I doubt much will be done, apparently the tapes are only kept for 2 weeks and it’s past that time now for the first incident. If anything at least a few drivers will learn that they can’t pick on cyclists.

And the shared use path following Victoria Road on the Iron Cove bridge is still closed.