A confession: I don’t like buses (Or the Leapfrog Situation)

I’m in a ranting mood. Cranky. Maybe I need coffee.

Look. Does anybody else get annoyed when there’s a bus in the way? If I ever have road rage on my bicycle, which isn’t often mind you, it usually involves a bus, rather than an errant motorist.

I’m not proud of this. But I ask this inappropriate question anyway: Aren’t buses constantly gumming up the works? This probably isn’t entirely true, but this is a rant. It doesn’t have to be true.

For example, the other day I heard a guy ranting about how the traffic lights in Eugene weren’t “timed” properly. He was talking about driving in his car. Oh, geez. I’ve lived in a few towns in my life. And in every town I’ve lived, I’ve heard people complain about this: “This is the only town in the country where they can’t seem to figure out how to ‘time’ the traffic lights! What is it with these people?!” Of course, what this complaint really means is this: “My very important life is not something to be interrupted by somebody else’s red light.”

But let’s proceed.

I occasionally find myself in the Leapfrog Situation: Bus roars past me, then pulls over 50 yards up the road — in the bike lane, of course, because as any cyclist knows the bike lane is also the bus parking lane.

At this point you basically have four options:

  1. Stop and wait behind the bus, taking in the odor of freshly combusted diesel fuel.
  2. Veer right onto the sidewalk, careful to dodge disembarking bus passengers (for whom I insist that have no ill will).
  3. Veer left into the open half of the traffic lane and go past (after checking for cars coming up behind you, of course).
  4. Crash into the back of the bus.

The correct answer here, people, would be (1) or (3). Option (2) is always a bad idea and runs afoul of my pet peeve against riding on the sidewalk, especially when there are pedestrians present and better alternatives. Option (4), of course, is best avoided. I usually choose option (3).

A few seconds later, the bus begins accelerating, gets up to speed and goes lumbering past me again — only to pull over into the bike lane at the next stop, typically not far ahead. So I pass the bus again … etc. Hence, leapfrog.

I hesitate to wade into the EmX controversy — you know, whether Lane Transit District should build a dedicated “bus rapid transit” line on West 11th Avenue — and other streets — out to west Eugene.

But I will go ahead and tell you my position anyway, because my position is a tried-and-true, red-blooded expression of patriotic American values: I support anything that gets buses the hell out of my way. That means my bike lane, everybody!

I know that’s not an issue on West 11th Avenue, where there is no bike lane, but I don’t care. And, moreover, you would think that people who drive cars on streets where buses make frequent stops (e.g. West 11th) would feel the same way.

You would think giving the bus its own lane would smooth things out for everyone. But what do I know about traffic engineering? Well, that doesn’t matter either. A lack of knowledge is all the better to rant with, my sweet.

Still. Among the many signs posted on various streets around town in the well-organized campaign against the west Eugene extension of EmX, there is one version — my favorite — that says: “More buses everywhere. No bus to nowhere.”

Translated, that means, “More buses in more bike lanes. No place for the bus to call home.”

But at least it’s handy to have an advertisement like this right on the back of the bus:

7 thoughts on “A confession: I don’t like buses (Or the Leapfrog Situation)

  1. Really? Hm. I never have problems with buses. It’s always been automobiles of some kind for me. Either cars trying to run me over in shared lanes (sometimes even on bike boulevards, when they come around diverters), or almost turning into me as I go past them. I’d say delivery trucks are more of a pet peeve of mine than buses. At least the buses are on their way, the trucks are oft parked in bike lanes for a long time.

    I have no problems with buses. They’re pushed to the side by cars just like bikes are.

  2. I haven’t had a problem recently with buses in the bike lane, either. It’s probably because I’m more likely to use a bicycle boulevards these days. But I do think that you have a really interesting pro-EmX argument here. When you figure out a way to condense it into a lawn-sign slogan, let me know. I would totally put that in my front yard.

    Of course — and I know you’re not seriously trying to incite one of those bloodthirsty EmX debates — I think that EmX would ultimately result in more buses everywhere. I have no data or transportation expertise backing me up here, but I think that making transit faster and more convenient than using a car is one of the few ways to get large numbers of people with cars to choose to leave them at home. And when you increase the number of transit trips, you get…more buses.

    When I was in Seattle recently, riding the bus through a neighborhood with bike lanes and narrow streets, I noticed that the driver was consistently stopping his bus directly in the main lane of auto traffic in order to avoid blocking the bike lane. When confronted by a frustrated bus rider accustomed to stepping right from the curb onto the bus, the driver explained that he had been instructed by the police to avoid stopping in the bike lane at all costs. I have yet to notice an LTD driver avoid stopping in the bike lane, but I only ride the bus once or twice a week.

  3. Also wanting to avoid a frothy EmX debate…but I do live in west Eugene near W. 11th. Part of the improvement plan going along with the EmX development would be to widen the sidewalk to 10 feet *and* reposition the telephone poles out of the sidewalk (they are currently in the middle of the very narrow, when it exists, sidewalk). I’m usually very anti-ride-on-the-sidewalk (I believe you call folks like me “vehicular cyclists”) but this would make the sidewalk on W. 11th a viable option for cyclists, and we wouldn’t have to slalom around the poles.

  4. Option 3 is all there is for me. I try and anticipate it and move left into the other lane while speeding up.

    To be honest though, I’ve actually had more buses have to wait for me to clear the bus stop, and for the most part, they’ve been polite about it. It barely even gives me the shakes anymore to have a hulking bus breathing down my neck!

  5. @ Matthew & pedalon: Well, I don’t really hate buses that much — I was trying to write more about rants than about buses … but you guys know better than to take me too seriously. Although I was almost hit by a bus today at the 4-way stop at Olive & 15th. I really did stop. The driver evidently didn’t see me and started through the intersection, though I had the right of way. But then he did see me, fortunately, and waved me through. I have no problem with bus drivers.

    @ Emily: Good idea — I’ll work on the yard sign slogan.

    @ Alpha: Yeah, I generally don’t like riding on the sidewalk, but as I wrote once before in a post about West 11th, I’d give a sidewalk waiver to anyone who is riding a bike on that road. It’s really the best option.

    There are a few things in the EmX plan, as I understand it, that would be improvements for bikes — along with the bigger sidewalks, the plan includes a couple of new bridges and routes from the Fern Ridge path up to W. 11th. That would make it easier to avoid W. 11th.

  6. I find I have the same issue when coming up behind a parked bus and always choose option number 3. However, after I pass the bus it rarely passes me again.

    The answer to your dilemma is; ride faster.

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