Friday, 23 September 2011

Priority Traffic Lanes And Bicycles

I cycle for commuting and fun covering thousands of miles per year. Most of my interactions with traffic are without incident and generally predictable. I have stopped routinely filming my commutes because it became all consuming, made be rather bitter and I don't think it actually achieved much. However, I really cannot stand so called professional drivers - not white van men or mini cab drivers but drivers who have to take a seperate road test to gain a HGV or PSV licence - when they feel they can bully their way on the road. This is an email I sent to First Bus Company in Manchester along with thier reply about such an incident. 

I don't know the outcome and I am going to leave it that. I do hope though that bringing this kind of poor driving to the attention of  appropriate managers will result in the few bad drivers being made to think twice before they behave in such an appalling manner.

My email to the bus company
Dear Sir/Madam

I am a frequent road cyclist and cover about 100 miles per week on numerous roads. Most of my trips are done around Manchester. I have the greatest of respect for the driving of most bus drivers I encounter but I am writing as I wish to very strongly complain about a First bus driver who very nearly caused a serious road traffic collision recently.

I was cycling north along the A56 towards Bury on Friday 16 Sep at about 12.20hrs. I had just entered the priority lane near Gigg Lane and was moving at about 20 mph, wearing a bright red top and in the "Primary" lane position. Weather conditions were dry with good visibility and traffic was moderate in volume. I became aware of a single decker bus passing me very closely - so closely in fact I could have touched the side of the vehicle with no effort. The bus driver had not completed the pass when the vehicle moved towards the kerb forcing me to brake hard and aim for the gutter to avoid a collision.

Obviously I was very shaken by this display of poor driving. The bus continued to move up the lane and stopped at the next passenger halt 150m or so ahead. I decided to challenge the driver about this incident. I cycled passed the bus while it was stationery and stopped in front. I made eye contact with driver and moved to his window. I asked him if he realised how closely he had passed me. His reply amazed and infuriated me.

Rather than apologise and tell me he hadn't seen me or even that he had misjudged the manoeuvre, he proceeded to inform me I had been in "his" lane, had no right to be there and further that I should have been in the pedestrian/cycle shared lane (this runs adjacent to the priority lane for 200 m or so on the pavement). I explained with some vigour I had every right to be in the priority lane as it is a shared bus/taxi/cycle lane and pointed out the pedestrian/cycle lane is not mandatory for cyclists and no road cyclist moving at 20 mph is going to choose to use it over the road. He continued to insist I should not have been "in his way" and that the lane was for "buses only". This is incorrect and there are clear signs at the beginning of the lane stating the lane is for buses, taxis and cyclist between 07.00 - 19.00hrs

It quickly became clear to me the driver had in fact seen me, felt I should not be there and was in his way. I am therefore forced to conclude the closeness of his pass was not an error of judgement but rather a deliberate attempt to force me to a stop or even off my bicycle. This was not just careless driving but a very deliberate and dangerous attempt at intimidation that could have resulted in serious harm or even death. If I had wobbled, hit a pothole or manhole as I was being forced to the gutter I would, without a doubt, have gone under the rear wheels of the vehicle with disastrous consequences.

I expect you to take this further with driver concerned. I have not reported this matter to the Police but may yet do so depending on the actions taken from this point onwards. The bus was a 93...
 And the reply I got today

I write in response to you  recent email regarding the behaviour and driving standards displayed by one of our drivers on our 93 service on the 16 September 2011.

Good customer care is a principle of First and there is no excuse for the behaviour of the type you described, which certainly fall shorts of these standards.

You may be assured that in view of your comments, the driver concerned will be interviewed under the company's disciplinary procedures. If necessary, appropriate action will be taken with a view to avoiding any further instances, such as this. Due to employee confidentiality and the restrictions under the data protection act I am unable to disclose the form of action that will be taken, however it will reflect the seriouness of your complaint.

In closing therefore, I would be grateful if you could accept my sincere apologies for the incident, and my thanks for bringing this matter to my attention. It is through receipt of such information that we are able to monitor the performance of our drivers and seek improvement where necessary.

I hope this incident has not deterred you from travelling with First in the future.



  1. Translation of their reply:
    "Dear Moaning Cyclist,
    What WERE you doing cycling in OUR bus lane? You are lucky he didn't actually run you over - many of our other drivers would have!
    As such, you really ought to have written a note thanking him for only slightly scaring you and putting you in your place, and for not flattening you.
    The only action we'll take is to pat him on the shoulder and congratulate him on his fine driving, but we'll hide this fact from you by using the old "confidentiality" excuse.
    Next time, take the bus!"

  2. William

    Sadly probably true but I will not let that stop me fighting for truth and justice and the right of cyclists everywhere. I will never be cowed!

  3. Stumbled on the website by accident - love the style - a pleasurable read as I prepare for a wet ride south from Whistler into Vancouver, Canada - and curious to know a little more about Middle Age Cyclist - the full profile is pretty short! Yours, fellow lycra wearing Middle Age Cyclist from Manchester (originally)

  4. Ken

    Glad you like my site. What more do you want to know about me and why?

  5. Clearly the bus driver used to be a train driver and still hasn't got the hang of the funny wheel thingy in-front of the seat.

    I bet they will file your letter in the round file, (trash).

  6. Darrell, I am sorry to say that it is the standard reply they send out. A couple of years ago I witnessed an appalling behaviour from a Fingland bus driver towards an elderly person. I reported him, with bus fleet ID and number plate and I got exactly the same email.

    I would follow it up with your local police officer. You can find out who that is on the GMP website

    Plus I'd let First that you're taking things further. That will make them stand up and listen and perhaps write you a proper email.

  7. Bicycles are vehicles too. Both the bus driver and the rider should have been charged for careless driving, luckily no one was hurt.
    @amoeba very funny, man! We all need to laugh sometimes, despite anything that happens.

  8. Joseph

    Not sure why you think I should be charged with careless driving. Could you explain? Thanks