Here’s the text of an email I sent to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s customer service division on Friday. (Some information has been redacted, because I’m not that obnoxious. Yet.)
Although I was not on the bus when this incident occurred, I am a regular MBTA customer. I was riding my bike along Mass Ave, westbound, and was passed unsafely by the XX bus (vehicle number XXXX). This occurred between 2:05 and 2:10 pm today (July 22), just past the intersection with Pleasant St. The bus passed too close to me, with inches to spare, and it might have hit me, potentially causing serious injury, if I had not moved farther to the right. This occurred just after the light changed to green. The irony is that if I had broken the law and ridden through the red light, I could have avoided this unsafe situation, and not been in the bus driver’s way. This is, in fact, why many cyclists do not stop at red lights, because we feel that our safety will be threatened if we do by the impatient motorists and bus drivers behind us. I still choose to obey the law, and I would prefer to not be endangered by reckless MBTA bus drivers as a result.
I don’t want the bus driver to get in trouble, because I know that we all make mistakes on the road, and he or she may have genuinely miscalculated and not intended to pass so closely. However, I would hope that someone would speak to the driver about this incident, reminding them that cyclists are entitled to use the roads in Massachusetts, and that if there isn’t room to pass a cyclist safely while staying in the same lane, and the lane to the left is occupied by cars, they need to wait until either the lane on the left is open, or the cyclist has turned off the road onto another street. In this particular case, bus drivers should be aware that many cyclists who go through the intersection between Mass Ave and Pleasant St at Arlington Center are planning to take a right turn 2 blocks later onto Water St to access the bike path. Because of the Arlington town bylaw banning the riding of bikes on sidewalks, this is the only legal way to use the bike path to get through Arlington Center without dismounting and walking. If the XX bus driver behind me had been patient enough, they would have had the lane all to themself after I turned onto Water St.
Thank you for your time, and I trust that this matter will be addressed. I will be posting this letter to my personal website and blog, along with any response I should receive from the MBTA regarding this issue.
So far, I have received the following, apparently an automated email response:
We appreciate your business and value your feedback. A customer service issue was logged on 07/22/2011 at 15:27:59. A tracking number of XXXXXXXX has been assigned to this call. Please reference this number on any additional communications you may have regarding this issue.
Type of Feedback: Complaint
Topic : Other
The information you provided has been forwarded to the appropriate department to be addressed. If additional actions are required, a member from that department will follow up on your issue.
We’ll see if I ever hear anything else from them. Like I said, I don’t want anyone to get in trouble. Everyone makes the occasional mistake while driving, and usually nothing too terrible comes of it, and we all try to do better next time. On the other hand, if anyone should be expected to drive safely and follow the rules of the road (including not passing other vehicles–including bicycles–unless it’s safe to do so), it’s city bus drivers. This isn’t the first time I’ve been put in an unsafe situation while biking because of a reckless bus driver. And I’m sick of hearing about how cyclists never stop at red lights, every time some cyclist complains about being threatened by a motorist. I always stop at red lights. I didn’t used to, but I do now. The only time I ran a red light in the past year was when a motorist behind me was yelling and honking because I was moving too slowly and he couldn’t pass because of all the snow piled up on the edges of the road, and I ran the red light because I was turning onto the bike path half a block later and I was genuinely afraid that if I didn’t, the motorist was going to pull some dangerous stunt to try to teach me a lesson, or pass me when there wasn’t room to do so safely. (Even though I was doing nothing more illicit than riding my bike on the street, which I have every legal right to do.) Like the bus driver did on Friday.