With respect: some thoughts on sharing the road

With respect: some thoughts on sharing the road

Bike Auckland

Ponsonby business owner Bruce Copeland rides a bike, drives a car, occasionally catches the bus, and has been thinking about the way we treat each other on the road, after a run-in with a big metal box a few months ago.

Here’s Bruce’s story…

I’ve been road riding regularly again for the last ten years or so, and generally it’s gone pretty well with regards to safety. (Keep that on the downlow, though –  I don’t like to gloat; you know how it works, gloating one week, under a car and in hospital the next.)

It’s hard to know whether you just get used to being in close proximity with fellow road users in hard steel boxes, or whether driving behaviour is genuinely getting better.  I like to think the latter.

Unusually, then, at the end of March I had a run in with a bus. I guess it’s not easy driving a bus in Auckland’s traffic – if it’s frustrating in a car, it must be very frustrating driving a bus and keeping to a timetable. So I’m inclined to cut a bus some slack; they really do have a justified sense of entitlement when it comes to the road. (And if a bike is “one less car”, then a full bus is something to be proud of when it comes to minimising congestion).

Long story short, on that Sunday afternoon, I’d thought the bus and I had been getting along just fine for the previous few kilometres. Traffic was light, and there was plenty of road space for everyone. But I was oblivious that simply by riding down Symonds Street in the bus lane at speeds of around 50kph, I’d apparently slowly infuriated the bus driver.

I only became aware of this when we closed into the left turn at K Road. The bus came alongside, and as we slowed to a stop, the driver deliberately pulled to the left and trapped me between the bus and the curb. I had to stop and jump up onto the footpath.

Grrrrr. I wasn’t happy. But in recent years I’ve worked on my self-control, because it’s been pointed out to me that it does our cause no good having angry cyclists on the roads, swearing and waving digits.

The bus stopped just around the corner, and I asked the bus driver: “Why??” He said I shouldn’t have been in the bus lane, I should have been on the shared space on the footpath.

It was clear he knew exactly what he’d done and why. I retorted that I had every right to use the bus lane, and besides, even if he was correct, he shouldn’t be using his bus to teach me a lesson.

That was why I decided to complain to Auckland Transport, which brings me to the point of this story. It was easy finding AT’s number, and toot sweet, a very nice person took down all the details in a very efficient and compassionate manner. They even called back and asked for the photos I took so they could identify the bus and driver.

Since then?

Complete silence.

I’ve tried following up…  same result.

I still bristle with indignation when I think of it. But then, I wasn’t hurt, so should I just bury it and move on? Then again, I think to myself: this bus driver isn’t in a good space, and a member of the public has advised AT of that, and they have possibly failed to act. What if this driver carries on the same way, and seriously injures or kills someone? These days businesses are obligated to operate safe workplaces. Isn’t a robust process for handling complaints an essential component of AT knowing that their drivers are competent, like the equivalent of a truck’s “How’s my Driving” number?

I wanted some followup. I still do. Ideally, I’d like to have met the driver, and done a little restorative justice exercise. Have him realise that I’m Maurice’s son, Janine’s husband and Jamie’s Dad – that people rely on me. I could have heard his side of things, understood why he was getting frustrated that day, and maybe I could be more considerate in future.

I still wonder whether AT did anything with my report, or whether there is a massive pile of complaints composting at AT?

And I wonder, have others had a similar experience?

Whenever I go past the Ghost Bike on Tamaki Drive honouring Jane Bishop, I think “Auckland should have done better by Jane.” And every time I ride past, I promise her we will. We will get better, safer infrastructure that means we’re not forced into situations like the one I encountered, and the one that took her life. But in the meantime, a lot can be done with a little more respect.

— Bruce Copeland

Not Bruce's bike, not this time. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/north-shore/traffic-delays-on-military-rd-neutral-bay-after-cyclist-killed-in-bus-collision/story-fngr8h9d-1226902458044
Not Bruce’s bike, not Bruce, thank goodness.

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