Thursday, September 29, 2011

Close Call

I had a bit of a close call on the bike last night on the way home from work. Details of the encounter are below, but it involved me and one of these Hop On Hop Off DC Double Decker sightseeing buses. I'm including a screenshot image from Google Maps of the place where the encounter occurred.

Click for larger image

I felt threatened enough by it to know instantly I wanted to report it to the company. I did my best to read out and remember the license plate number and stopped to enter it into the notepad on my phone as soon as I could safely get off the road and do so.

So, here's the message I just sent to the company that operates the buses. (Text/format is based on a sample e-mail I'd seen shared one time for contacting Metro or other local transit agencies to report dangerous bus driver behavior.)
To Whom it May Concern,
I would like to document a bus driver (from your company) who passed me, while I was on my bicycle, with only about 1 foot of clearance, nearly running me off the road into the curb. Please note that DC law requires three feet of clearance for safe passing of a bicycle by a motor vehicle. The following are the details of the incident.
Bus license plate: Maryland tags 01P 237 (or 01P D37) I did my best to remember the license plate number and write it down as soon as possible given the circumstances.
Time/date: Approx 5:40pm yesterday, Wednesday, September 28.
Location: East Basin Dr SW near the Jefferson Memorial. (see link for Google Map view of the site of the incident: 
Incident: I was riding in to the right side of the lane on E Basin Dr SW where it forks right away from the entrance ramp to 395. Driver passed me unsafely by passing within my lane and much closer than the legal 3 feet of space. I estimate it at approximately one foot. I was honestly worried that the rear end of the bus was going to brush me if not worse. The driver's maneuver forced me all the way to the curb. I had no extra room to maneuver. 
I request that the driver, and all drivers (if not already standard training) be informed of the 3 feet passing rule and all laws related to sharing the roads with bicycles.
I am an experienced bike commuter, having traveled to work by bicycle along this route almost every day for the last two and a half years. At the time of the incident, I was following all road rules and operating my bicycle in a safe and predictable manner. 
The driver could have waited a few seconds until the the drive becomes two lanes wide to change lanes and safely pass me with more clearance. Instead he chose to pass dangerously close. I appreciate your help in making the roads safer for all parties concerned.
So that's what I sent. I really was worried for a second that the rear end of the bus was going to hit me. In a contest between a bus which ways many tons and a cyclist on a 25 pounds of bike, the bus will always win. The driver literally would have had to go the 15 mph I was traveling for another five seconds before the road widened and he could have passed safely.

He did all this only to come to a stop to drop off passengers Either the driver didn't feel that he needed to afford me a little room and not almost run me off the road to pass or he has an increedibly poor sense of the size of the bus and the way it handles around corners. Either way, something needs to be done. A driver of such a vehicle in a place with crowded, realtively narrow streets and lanes, like DC at rush hour, should know better.

I'll be curious to see what kind of response I get from the company. I'll be sure to post updates on this situation as they develop.

1 comment:

  1. My heart is racing just reading about this. So scary. (I can guess this is why I'm having to read about this incident on your blog.)

    This is why more people don't bike can be just plain dangerous with motorists not paying attention and/or observing traffic laws.