We were riding southbound on Vermont in lane #2 alongside parked cars at approximately 3:25 pm in light traffic. I was in the lead, Enci was in second position and the bus was in third. I heard Enci scream, I looked back and saw a bus behind me but not Enci. I pulled over and the bus passed me, pulling to the curb just yards further on. Then I saw my wife riding down Vermont.
Bus Operator #25119 had just "asserted" himself into the #2 lane at the expense of my wife's position and in doing so, forced my wife to choose between the side of the bus, the parked cars or simply braking to avoid getting hit by the bus as it came from behind alongside her and then simply merged right toward her.
This incident drew a Metro Supervisor, two Sheriff's Deputies, an LASD Supervisor, LAPD officers from both Hollywood (4) and NorthEast (2) and an LAPD Supervisor. Quite a significant show of force!
The Bus Operator was long gone when the first LAPD officers responded to my call. As we stood on Hollywood Blvd. talking to the officers, Operator #25119 came back on his return route, graciously slowing down and waving, apparently enjoying the spectacle. Imagine his shock when Officer Lee WALKED off in pursuit and pulled the bus over.
Through it all, we experienced a cloud of jurisdictional confusion over who takes the report and law enforcement confusion over whether or not it's a crime to run a cyclist off the road.
I went to the Metro Board on Thursday to address 1) this incident 2) the issue of training and oversight of bus operators on safe interaction with cyclists on the road 3) the jurisdictional confusion 4) feedback opportunities for the metro on weekends and holidays.
It was a crazy session, public comment was scheduled for the end of the meeting and then moved to the beginning. It was a full house with overflow in the cafeteria. They moved public comment from the end of the meeting to the beginning and all of a sudden I heard them call my name. I was prepared for a two minute speech but they cut us down to 60 seconds and so I gave it my best.
I went over my time and kept going, committed to hitting the 4 points and I thought County Supervisor Knabe was trying to cut me off, then I realized he was calling over Jack Gabig, the Division Manager, who motioned for me to follow him out a side door. For a moment I flashed on that scene from Casino and imagined a bunch of Metro Operators waiting "backstage" but with RoadBlock and Courage flanking me, I figured I was in a good position.
Mr. Gabig spent half an hour taking my complaint and I'd like to think we're on our way to starting a relationship between cyclists and bus operators, one that puts our safety before their schedule or convenience.
Attached is an email I sent as a recap of that meeting.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me at the Metro Board Meeting and for discussing the details of my complaint.
I wanted to recap the specific elements so that you can address them or direct me to the appropriate person.
1) Metro vs. Cyclist incident from this past Monday. My wife was riding her bike south on Vermont, in contol of the #2 lane, when she was run off the road by Operator #25119.
From our first encounter with a Metro supervisor to those we speak with along the journey, it is made clear that this is a personnel issue and that we have no right of access to the Metro file or process.
I contend that Metro passengers and those on the streets and sidewalks also have rights and that the Metro can surely balance the personnel limitations with appropriate resolution and communication of this complaint.
Further to the potential claim that this is a personnel issue, I would contend that this is, first and foremost, a criminal complaint.
2) Metro Training and Oversight: This incident, along with similar incidents, indicates a need to address the training and oversight of the Metro's Operators. From honking unnecessarily to passing unsafely, CVC violations must not be tolerated, especially when they endanger the lives of cyclists.
The Metro's manual calls for 3 to 4 and a half feet of passing room for cyclists but some operators still "assert" themselves and squeeze cyclists.
The Metro's manual refers to "cyclists and other road hazards" indicating a culture of primacy that results in unsafe and illegal behavior.
3) Jurisdictional confusion must be resolved: Once again, we experienced jurisdictional confusion as my call to LAPD resulted in 1 Metro Supervisor, 2 Sheriffs, 1 LASD Supervisor, 2 NE LAPD Officers, 1 NE LAPD Supervisor, 4 Hollywood LAPD Officers.
One shouldn't have to watch law enforcement officers debate jurisdiction in order to report a crime. One shouldn't have to know the system in order to get the full support of the system.
If there is a memorandum of understanding between the LASD and the LAPD with regards to jurisdiction on the streets, the rail lines, the busway and the bike paths, please consider this a formal request for that MOU.
4) Metro Customer Service is cumbersome and ill-equipped to handle simple complaints, as evidenced by the deluge of tweets, messages, emails, texts and verbal stories I received over the last 3 days that conclude with "I tried to contact the Metro but I gave up!"
One would think that from a simple loss prevention position, the Metro would want a customer service system that yields good accurate data on safety and performance.
And yet...the current system doesn't allow someone to call in during the evening, on weekends and holidays. There's not even an answering machine in place!
Most important is the need for significant improvement in acknowledging complaints and reinforcing the process by communicating resolution, even if in general terms. But there must be some confirmation that the process works.
I thank you for your help in addressing this specific situation and the larger opportunity of the relationship between the Metro and cyclists.
As I mentioned today, cyclists and bus operators move at the same speed across town and share the curb lane so it's imperative that we develop a relationship based on equality and respect.
I look forward to working with you.