I think it would be fair to say that buses and cyclists are not normally the best of friends. Cyclists tend to have a dim view of bus drivers, and are quick to criticise them for the way they drive, particularly overtaking too close and pulling in just in front of cyclists. Bus drivers likewise don’t tend to be that keen on cyclists.
Last week Life Cycle met with First Bus to discuss how we could improve relations between busses and cyclists and develop better understanding between the two parties. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Bristol Bus Station but all my concerns were quickly allayed. It was a really positive meeting and what struck me the most was how much Life Cycle and First Bus have in common! At the end of the day we both want the same thing – for Bristol’s roads to be safe places for all road users. We share very similar perspectives and have similar concerns about road safety - hearteningly the gap that needs to be bridged between cyclists and bus drivers is surprisingly small. So that has to be a good start.
Life Cycle was keen to talk about training bus drivers in cycle awareness. This involves a short class-room based session, followed by an hour or so out on bikes, where drivers get to see the road through the eyes of cyclists Life Cycle knows from experience of training HGV drivers that a couple of hours in the saddle can make all the difference to understanding and attitudes.
Equally, we recognise that it’s very useful for cyclists to sit in the driver’s seat and experience the road from the front of a 12-tonne vehicle. In particularly, cyclists can get a better understanding of the view in the wing mirrors and where the blind spots are - when a driver simply wouldn’t be able to see a cyclist coming-up on the inside.
We also learnt about the many pressures on bus drivers – from managing customers with a wide range of needs, to dealing with heavy traffic and interruptions to their schedule, to even having to give emergency first aid to passengers on occasion. I now have a better appreciation of the role: bus drivers are much more than just drivers - they are customer services managers and they have a good deal of responsibility.
Next time you are cycling past a bus, spare a thought for the driver: make sure you can see the wing mirrors, then the driver will be able to see you, try to catch their eye in the mirror and never cycle up the inside – be a little patient and either wait behind or overtake on the outside when it is safe to do so.
We hope to be able to get a bus along to a few events this summer and offer members of the public a view from the driver’s seat, so watch this space – there could be a bus coming to an event near you.