Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Who's afraid of the big bad bus ?

Scene from a Dutch suburb built in the 1980s: The dreaded Bendy Bus. Many cyclists really dislike these, and they have been blamed for an increase of injuries in London. Quite apart from the real danger, it is quite obvious that the articulated nature of them leads to a reduction in subjective safety for cyclists, and we already know how important that is.

Over here, buses rarely get close to cyclists as we're on the cycle path (red) while the buses are on the roads, with the speed bumps to try to keep them and the other motor vehicles under control.

Note also the way the road rises up a little at the position of the crossing for pedestrians (and cyclists just off the right of the photo). Just enough to give drivers a hint that they should slow down at this location, but without causing cyclists (on the cycle path) any problem at all.

Getting "knocked down by a bus" is not all that uncommon where buses are mixed in with cyclists. Large vehicles don't ever really mix very happily with bicycles, and that's one reason why I have never thought much of shared bicycle / bus lanes. The only time I've ever had to ride in a bus lane in the Netherlands, it had been converted into a bike lane because of road works.


  1. Hi David, yes unfortunately that's the situation here in NZ - shared bus and bike lanes, and nothing will prompt me to use them - I'm managing to get by either by slipping onto footpaths, or going the back streets. Oh to be in Europe!

  2. I agree with your observation about buses and cyclists. Although a number of studies that have found small trucks and vans are the most dangerous types of vehicles for cyclists, large buses, from a subjective standpoint are no good. In Sydney, not that far from where Mr Fuller was killed, bus lanes have been treated as defacto cycle lanes. In some cases it as worked where the bus lane has been widened to 4m (i.e. Oxford St), however in most cases it doesn't work. I've been road raged by a public bus in a bus lane (in my case, the driver was ending his shift returning to the depo). I do however feel quite sorry for bus drivers dealing in that driving so close to cyclists in cities like Sydney would be very stressful. It seems to me to be a sad case of two devalued road users fighting each other for a bit of road space when buses and bikes should be made to feel at the top of the hierarchy. We've had cases in which our state government has placed bus lanes straight over the top of some of bike lanes in the Sydney CBD using 'special' planning laws to bypass local government and process of community consultation. (see:

  3. Buses are very Dangerous,they cut in front of you to stop at the Bus Stop and when you try to overtake them they start pulling away from the Stop. Worst of all in the Centre of the City at Rush Hour especially Westmoreland Street and Dolier Street and also O 'Connelll Street Dublin you can be suddenly surrounded by several Buses on either side of you.
    We now have some Bendy Buses as well,you have to watch not to get on the inside of those when turning a Corner Lethal.

  4. Getting "knocked down by a bus" is not all that uncommon.

    Does this mean that cyclists in Netherlands get knocked down by buses a lot??


  5. Peter: Sorry, it's a bit confusing. I meant mainly in the UK. So far as I am aware, cyclists here don't have trouble with buses terribly often. It's quite unusual to find yourself in a situation on a bike where you are close to them.

  6. I think in general that bus drivers are good drivers.

    I think it's best to avoid them though, as the drivers are regularly distracted by the complexities of the job. They also sometimes tend to cut in sooner than they should after overtaking, and that this is worse with longer (i.e. bendy) busses.

    Riding in bus lanes? Yeah, I do, but as assertive as can be. When a bus approaches from behind, I give the driver 'the look' before pulling over to let them past if necessary.

  7. Buses and taxies have access to buslanes, and cyclists (at least in Nijmegen and Doetinchem) often have a cyclepath right next to a buslane. Which in the case of Nijmegen for example, means that both buses and cyclist have a shortcut from the city centre to the university, but cars do not.

  8. Yep, buses and bikes don't mix. We have a public mall that allows buses and cabs through. I don't know why anyone would sit outside there, unless they are getting high off the fumes. I'd like to see it made pedestrian and peddle only. Put the buses on the next street over. That will cost cars some lanes. Unfortunately, we have a policy of putting motorized traffic first. Hopefully, my city is realizing that taking away space from cars isn't a negative impact.

  9. Spiderlegreen: Yes, I find buses are quite unpleasant to cycle around. Also, as you point out, they tend to make a pretty awful smell (I also find the claims that they are "green" a little hard to believe given the remarkably low average occupancy rates on many services, but that's perhaps a subject for another day).

    As for city centres. The Dutch seem to have a better idea of this. I've covered the centre of Assen and Nijmegen before. You tend to find pedestrians and cyclists, but not buses and cars. Groningen has a lot of buses, but they can only go through some parts.