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Gear Prudence: I’ve just switched up my route due to a change of jobs, and my bike commute has gone from primarily on trails to primarily on major city streets. You know what I never had to deal with on trails? Buses! Seems like the bus drivers in this city go out of their way to make bicycling as hard as possible, and people who take the bus don’t even think to look for bikes when they’re trying to get on or off. It’s very frustrating, but I know I’m just going to have to learn to deal. Any advice? —Kindly Render Advice. Man Desperately Evading Nuisances
Dear KRAMDEN: Buses aren’t bad. They’re just misunderstood. And when it comes down to it, buses are far greater friends to bicyclists than they are enemies. Would you rather 50 people contained in one large vehicle or 50 more cars on the road? Admittedly, the presence of lumbering buses makes navigating the urban context slightly trickier for bicyclists, and GP readily concedes that bus drivers and bus passengers can cause a fair share of anxieties for bicyclists—especially when there’s a sudden swerve toward the curb. Do what you can to keep yourself anywhere other than immediately adjacent to a bus and never, ever ride for extended periods where the driver can’t see you. Dropping back ensures that you’re not in the driver’s blindspot and also gives you much more time to react if there’s a sudden stop. Also, riding directly behind a bus will put you in a better position to pass it should the driver pull over. If you find yourself in a bad spot and it looks like you might be imminently squished, scream your head off. If you can’t rely on being seen, be heard.
Another thing you could (and should) do is to learn the locations of the bus stops along your route. Unlike taxis, buses have standard pick-up/drop-off points, and keeping track of these should help you avoid getting caught unawares. Forgo sleep to study bus maps. Make flashcards with pictures of bus shelters and have your friends quiz you on their location. Stop using your phone for anything other than zooming in on the map app until you have unparalleled street-by-street recall. Or just kind of pay attention while you ride each day.
Expect bus passengers not to anticipate you. Frankly, it’s not their responsibility to get out of your way. If you see bus doors open, just stop. This isn’t that hard.
Bus drivers do a hard, thankless job. Sometimes some of them aren’t as good as they should be, and sometimes some of them outright fuck up. You’re allowed to get mad if that happens. But what’s really important is that you don’t get squished, so ride defensively and attentively and you should be mostly OK.—GP