Dragon BusLast Thursday Cycle Action was at the Albany Busway Station handing out flyers for our on-line survey to learn how more people can be encouraged to cycle to the Busway. It’s a real buzz watching the empty buses pull in – passengers fill them in a few minutes and buses whisk them up to the Busway, to be replaced immediately by another empty bus. Passengers say the peak hour return trip from the University precinct is hectic, as the the North Star buses can’t cope with the huge demand. I hope AT is working to fix this – but we were hugely impressed by how the slick the operation is at the start of the day.

We used any spare moments to talk to bus drivers – they were all bursting to tell us how they fear sharing bus lanes with cyclists. I told them we feel the same about sharing with buses. All of the bus drivers were well disposed towards cyclists. The simple reality is their buses are very big and drivers have limited visibility to the rear; cyclists are tiny and flighty in comparison.

All of us have stories of bus drivers who don’t treat us with respect. Here’s a rare chance to learn how bus drivers feel. It pays us to do this, as we’re often in the same road pathway – 44km of the 280km of  ‘completed‘ Auckland Cycle Network are on bus lanes. We’d love to change this overnight, but our shared use is the best we can do for now. In the meantime we want your ideas on what cyclists can do to improve our safety while sharing bus lanes.

The bus drivers’ describe that  they are careful to locate cyclists as they approach them, so they can pass them safely. They report that cyclists who were on their left on approach, often turn up on their right when the bus stopped at the lights. One woman bus driver reported her fright on Friday in hearing a cyclist’s helmet hit her right hand mirror as he passed the bus to reach the green stop box at the front of the lane.

This story confirms the hazards of our poor cycling infrastructure. We desperately need lead- in lanes to make stop boxes effective, as well as ensuring there are no more narrow bus lanes.  We’ve got a new project underway with AT to start fixing this.  In the meantime we need to share ideas on how we can respond safely to the bulk and lumbering moves of buses and our city’s cycling infrastructure. If we have enough good ideas, we’ll ask AT to help us spread the word to the cycling and bus communities.

PLEASE save your complaints for another time – give us your creative ideas NOW –  this is your chance to make bus lane cycling safer for you and our cycling mates. 

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17 responses to “Tell us how we can be safer cycling in Bus Lanes

  1. I honestly don’t see any creative ways to solve this except either widening the bus lane so it has a cycle lane on the inside or better understanding between bus and cyclists – “why can’t we be friends, why can’t we be friends?”

  2. I cycle in bus and transit lanes frequently. For a fast and confident commuter cyclist they’re great (in the absence of any other cycling infrastructure). For slow/novice cyclists they’re terrifying. Five things would help for urban (50kph) bus lanes:
    – Adequate width (say 4.5m) to allow buses and cyclists to overtake each other safely
    – More advanced stop boxes at the head of the lanes
    – Additional road signage on popular cycling routes. This could involve integrating cycle symbols in the bus lane, or incorporating sharrows to identify the preferred location on the road for cyclists (could be useful in Albert St for example)
    – better bus driver education. These guys are supposed to be professional drivers. Despite the size of their vehicles, they have a responsibility to watch out for other road users, particularly the most vulnerable. Education, complaint processes, audits, and competency tests are all important here
    – Cyclist education won’t be as effective, but the key words are speed, predictability, visibility, road sense, assertiveness and fearlessness. Not easy concepts to get over to novice cyclists, which is why the bus/cycle combination is so problematic.

  3. I’ve used my observation skills and learnt that on the one bus lane I use regularly, Symonds St, the buses tend to ‘pulse’ along this street i.e. they travel in bunches. This is due I think to the particularities of this stretch of road – the number of stops, and the light phases. I’ve learnt that if I let one pulse go through, I have about 5 mins at peak times before another pulse comes along.

    So depending on where I am travelling along Symonds St I simply pull over safely and let the buses go first at traffic lights, or pass me, and once they are past, I have a much safer and enjoyable ride.

    The cyclists that fail to observe this tend to have the most trouble and I suspect they are either very un-observant or newbies.

    1. Well, you could also argue that they, like other people, like to travel at their own pace, not set at that of others…

  4. Bus lanes can be positive for cyclists.
    1) No risk of “dooring”. There are no parked cars. Buses only have doors on the kerbside.
    2) Buses, with passenger pick ups, travel about the same speed as cyclists. This means cyclists can mostly ride in the gaps. To stay in the gaps between buses slower riders can stop against the kerb to let a bus pass them then have the lane to themselves for quite a while. Faster riders can pass a stopped bus and perhaps ride all the way with the bus lane to themselves.
    3) Less glass near the kerbside because bus wheels, when in a bus lane, travel closer to the kerb than cars.

  5. I have a request for improvement of the shared bike/bus lane in Symonds St at the Symonds St/Grafton Bridge/K Rd/motorway onramp intersection. If you want to continue cycling south up Symonds St towards Khyber Pass, you have to leave the bus lane and get into the middle lane. The bus lane here becomes left-turn-only and goes over Grafton Bridge. At the moment, the green paint is just on the left-turn-only lane, not the straight-ahead one. Could the green paint be extended out in front of the straight-ahead/motorway lane as well? With a bike logo added? Not all cyclists want to turn left here and ride over Grafton Bridge. And cyclists need a good launch spot here to beat the vehicles that peel off left onto the onramp.

        1. Auckland Transport has sent this response:

          Dear Monica

          Thank you for your useful suggestion.

          At present we have two pieces of work underway that are relevant.
          With our partners NZTA we are assessing improvements for Walking and cycling at State Highway intersections.
          Separately we are also reassessing the Advanced Cycle Stop Boxes (the green boxes at traffic signals) at a number of intersections.
          This intersection is included in this work program. Once all the projects have been assessed we will be better informed to prioritize the program of works.

          Thank you for taking the time to report this to us and for your patience while we investigated this matter.

  6. One of the things I find is passing a bus while it is stopped picking up passengers, and then having it pass you again 50m down the road. Repeating this until one of you get away from the other.
    Having wider lanes would help, but also having a reasonable path marked for cyclists (sharrows) around the bus stops would make the interactions more predictable.

  7. The big problem in Auckland from my observations is the Council squeezes in bus lanes that are far too narrow, hardly the same width as a bus! Last week when in Auckland I noticed Great North Road seemed to have two lanes marked then a very narrow bus lane as well. I used to regularly ride to Auckland along Great North Road or New North Road and they were wide safe roads. Now they are cluttered up with multiple sub standard width lanes designed only for cars of course.

    My suggestion is to remove the second car lane if a transit lane is required and if cars are held back so be it. This would allow a four metre lane which buses and bikes could share comfortably and allow a narrow median as well.

  8. What about parking bays at bus stops so they are not blocking the lane when they stop, this would be handy for other buses as well as cyclists.
    On a side note if you think Auckland buses/bus lanes are bad, I went for a cycle around the eastern beaches of Sydney recently, we left early on a Monday morning so we ended up heading back into the CBD at rush hour. Like us, cyclists are able to use the bus lanes, but I dont think the Sydney bus drivers believe this and try to bully you out of the way and honk at you! Very scary.

  9. Cycling in bus lanes with buses is best when the bus lanes are of high-quality — that is, the bus lane is continuous and sufficiently wide. When the bus has to move from a dedicated lane to a mixed lane due to blockages or because the lane stops, it’s movements become less predictable and more dangerous.

  10. Better enforcement of the bus lanes is needed, buses are often having to swerve in and out because of cars pulling in front of them which makes it dangerous for everyone. Not to mention the numbers of cars in the bus lanes usually outnumbers the number of buses due to abuse.

    The major pinch point really are when buses overtake a cyclist and then almost immediately pull back in front and come to a stop in a bus stop, often not allowing you any space in the maneuver. I’m not sure how this can be changed until there are actual cycle lanes, at the end of the day this is merely what happens when you lump buses with cyclists.

    1. Agree bbb, though bus driver education/enforcement could also help some. I think dobbing in the worst drivers is certainly appropriate. Cutting you off is dangerous and inappropriate even if they are in a bus lane.

      If you have such an occasion, report the driver at http://www.maxx.co.nz/feedback.aspx, with, ideally, the bus license plate & the time & location.

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