Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bus drivers and their bicyclist passenger

I caught my bus to Tukwila at the Westlake station Friday morning. Biked downtown to get there, as usual. Reminded me of a couple conversations I had with bus drivers earlier in the week. One had just come back from vacation and hadn't heard the news that all the bus tunnel stations were open to bikes yet. I went up early just to make sure he knew it, so I would be assured of getting off there. He took my word for it and let me off where I wanted. I didn't argue for it, just told him what was up, and he said 'I didn't know that, but I'll go with it'. Bus drivers are nice people, I find.

I did the same drill the next day, except this time dismounting at the University Street station. As I came up early that time, dressed in my usual day-glo vest, the bus driver remarked that 'I would be getting my Seattle bicyclist membership revoked for dressing in clothes that actually made me easily visible'. Then he started a lecture about how so many bicyclists don't, etc etc. I stopped him before he got far, telling him that I wasn't the guy he needed to be telling this to, and that I agreed with him that there were many "ninja" bicyclists (dressed in black, no helmet, no lights, etc) in Seattle, especially in and around downtown. It was a revealing conversation, probably giving me as much insight into what bus drivers think of their passengers (or at least a subset of us) as any other I've had, even though we didn't talk for long. It makes me wonder how much consultation happens with transit operators (or their union), much less the bicycling community, when transit planning decisions are made. Certainly, it seems clear that the bicycling community wasn't in the loop when the South Lake Union Trolley and its bicyclist-maiming layout was being planned.

A recent Portland example may be a good (if ironic) example of how 'The Seattle Way' should be applied more often in urban planning decisions like these: a busy transit center without bicyclist accommodations was being heavily used by bicyclists anyway. Portland's leadership (including their Department Of Transportation, PDOT) then reached out to the bicycling community, and perhaps belatedly, the transit operators, to come up with a design that would make everyone happy. Not just another lame compromise, you understand, but a solution that would actually serve everyone.

It opened last week. I certainly hope that it'll make for safer and more convenient transportation for all its users, now and for many years to come.

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