People riding bikes and people driving buses often share space on the right side of the road. MassBike and LivableStreets Alliance collaborated with the MBTA and the City of Cambridge to update their bus driver training to ensure that people driving buses have the empathy and safe skills to safely drive around people riding their bikes. In working with bus drivers we learned a number of tips and tricks to keep in mind that will keep you safer while riding around buses and other large vehicles. Below we share some key takeaways, but if you have additional questions about how to safely ride near buses we’d love to hear from you.
Thanks to funding from the Partnership for Healthy Cities, an international network to which Boston belongs, MassBike and LivableStreets Alliance partnered with the Boston Public Health Commission to expand our bus driver training program. We collaborated to create trainings for the City of Boston’s Public Works Department and school bus drivers statewide focused on interactions with vulnerable road users.
Training of bus drivers
Being a bus driver is a challenging and important job. People driving buses are balancing many demands – safely getting their passengers to their final destinations, driving a large vehicle with blindspots, dealing with passengers, collecting fares, navigating the hectic streets of metro Boston, and handling any emergencies and contingencies as situations arise. In order to ensure that bus drivers also have a good understanding of the challenges and experience of riding a bike around the metro Boston area we are continuing to work with the MBTA to update their bike safety training for bus drivers. MBTA bus drivers want to keep you safe, if you experience an unsafe driver or want to give kudos to excellent MBTA drivers:
- Call: 617-222-3200
- Report online: https://www.mbta.com/customer-support
- Tweet: @MBTA
Tips and Tricks to Stay Safer While Biking Around Buses
People driving buses have several large blind spots on all sides of the bus. The right mirror is positioned to show the rear wheel and while bus drivers scan their mirrors every 5-10 seconds, bus drivers may not see you. Ride in front or behind the bus when biking near buses to be more visible to the driver. Pass on the left when a bus is turning right, crossing a bike lane, or stopping to pick up/drop off people.
People riding bikes should avoid being right hooked by never riding parallel to a bus when approaching an intersection or bus stop. When a bus is approaching an intersection or bus stop, always passing buses on the left and staying clear of the blind spots. Blindspots shift when drivers make right hand turns, which means you are less visible. Tap your brakes & stay behind to stay out of the blind spots.
Predictability & Visibility - Help drivers see you. When turning, use your hand signals. When riding at night, use bright front & rear lights.
Patience & Space - Give space to reduce conflicts. Buses take 1.5 bus lengths to stop, people on bikes should stay far ahead or far behind. If you keep leapfrogging a bus– wait 30 seconds & let the bus get ahead.
Anticipation– Think ahead at intersections. The only way to never get in a right hook situation is to never ride parallel with a bus approaching the intersection
Communication with Bus Drivers - Similar to all drivers, make sure you are seen and acknowledged by making eye contact & giving a polite wave. You can also communicate by using your hand signals. Bus drivers sometimes want to communicate to you that they are passing & may do this with a friendly "honk honk".
School Bus Drivers Want You to Know
When a school bus’s lights are flashing and the stop sign is out, students are either getting on or off the bus. During school bus student drop off and pick up, the stop sign on the bus means stop! When you see a school bus stop sign, always come to a full stop until the sign has been disengaged. It may be tempting to try to pass when the bus is stopped, but that can put school children in danger as they can be either exiting the bus or trying to cross the street in front of the vehicle.
Riding the Bus with your Bike
When loading your bike on a bus, make sure the driver acknowledges you before you step out front to the rack. When you place your bike on the rack, ensure the bar is firmly secured over your front wheel. Make sure to remove any loose items before boarding the bus. If you can, ride near the front of the bus so you can keep an eye on your bike & let the driver know when you're getting off to retrieve your bike.
Step-by-step from the MBTA
Loading the bike rack
- Squeeze the handle in the center of the rack and pull it down until it’s flat.
- Front wheel first, put your bike into the rack wheel slot. Use the slot further away from the bus first.
- Pull out the support arm and raise it over the front tire or rotate the level to secure the tire.
- Check that your bike is secure. Bikes are not allowed to be locked to the rack.
- Let the driver know where you’re getting off, and be sure to watch your bike while you’re on board.
Unloading the bike rack
- Let the driver know you’ll be taking your bike out of the rack.
- Raise the support arm off the tire, or rotate the level to loosen.
- Lift your bike out of the rack.
- If the rack is empty, squeeze the handle in the center and fold it back up until it locks.
- Let the driver know you’re done, and wait until the bus leaves before getting on your bike.
Learn more on the MBTA website.
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