Bus meets bikes on Critical Mass ride; bus wins

This account of the Critical Mass bike ride comes from a Tattler reader:

I was a part of the entire Critical Mass ride last Friday afternoon.
Although I don’t agree with everyone’s attitude towards sharing the road
(or lack of) I thought overall it was an enjoyable ride. I’m one of
those bikers that really tries my best to look out for everyone. There
was one moment however for me that crossed the line. Unfortunately it
involved a CTA bus.

On Division
street going eastbound just east of Noble ave at roughly around 8:15pm a
#70 driver crossed the line in the safety of others. I can understand
completely that this driver does not want to fall behind schedule, nor
delay the passengers. However the operator should have just stopped the
vehicle and waited.

This driver pulled out of the stop at Noble in the
right lane into strictly hundreds of cyclists. The operator continued to
try to get up to speed and push at least 20 to 25 mph for about a block
before myself and another rider put ourselves in front of the bus to
slow the driver down for everyone’s safety. I almost never pull this
type of move. The driver was simply going way to fast for how many
cyclists were riding right next to the bus beside in the street.


photo © Jeremy Atherton, 2005

I was
actually sort of shocked. I’m not trying to single out bus operators
either. I ride buses, and I ride a bike. I’ve chatted with a lot of
operators. A lot of them really care about us, and I try so hard to cut
them slack. There was lot of positive support during the ride from many
operators (particularly on the 72 north!) who were all safe and
positive. They get it. But this #70 driver pushed it too far.

I really regret not grabbing the run number, or the fleet number of
the bus (it was a New Flyer). Wish I had. The more I thought about the
situation later, the more I was displeased with this operators decision
to push the limit of safety to keep on schedule. I’ve been a part of a
number of CM rides over the passed 3 years and this was a first. They
should of just stopped and waited.

Here’s the Tattler again: Meanwhile, in Portland, Ore., a bus driver there stops publishing his popular blog after his controversial “kill this bicyclist” post.

There are two sides to every story.


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  • I was totally in support and agreement with the quoted "Tattler reader" -- until he/she wrote that he and "another rider put ourselves in front of the bus to slow the driver down for everyone's safety. I almost never pull this type of move."

    That shows poor judgment (frankly, that's an understatement) and eliminates any credibility he and his story have for me.

    As a cyclist, pedestrian, and yes, car driver, I'm very aware of my impact and affect on other people using other modes of transportation and have seen the highs and the lows of behavior. A bone-headed maneuver (bus operator) cannot be corrected by another's (cyclist and buddy) boneheaded maneuver.

  • First of all, using myself instead of I or me is the universal sign of a d-bag. 2nd, it's good to see someone in this city refuse to take shit from obnoxious bike riders. Chicago bike riders are bad enough individually, running red lights and stop signs, plowing through crowds of pedestrians at crosswalks, and generally putting themselves above the safety of others. I am sure that an enormous group of them is far worse.

    Bike riders expect to be treated with respect, but show no respect

  • If someone want to take on a bus with a bike, they should next time know the odds.

    If the riders don't want buses on the route, they should get a parade permit and an Alert on the CTA webpage that the buses will be rerouted.

    I suppose next the Amtrak Tattler will have some "bike the tracks" story, except there won't be a "myself" to write about it.

  • @tecki

    I never understand the point of comments like yours. Yes, there are bad bike riders. Just as there are car drivers, truck driver, bus drivers and even pedestrians. To single out people using a certain mode of transportation as "obnoxious" seems totally unfair. Many of us are safe and law-abiding, and - as District299Reader pointed out - use many other forms of transportation as well.

    All I ask is that you have an open mind when dealing with people on the street, especially non-drivers. A biker acting reckless may be annoying, but in any car vs. bike situation it's going to be much disastrous for the biker.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    Riding a bike in this town, I'm all for, but this mass bike ride is 1 of the most selfish acts this town has ever seen. Anyone who has ever participated in this should be ashamed of themselves.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    @AB - I don't understand your defense at all. The vast majority of riders don't yield at stop signs or lights. I've lived in the city for five years, I don't own a car, and I've had far more close encounters with bikes than cars. Drivers here are far more considerate towards pedestrians than cyclists.

    Frankly, I'm tired of having to dodge cyclists who refuse to slow down when they are approaching a crosswalk.

    I'm also tired of having my commute home held up because a bunch of cyclists want to make a point and take over the roadway. For a group of people that want others on the roadway to be more considerate of their needs events like critical mass are counterproductive (e.g. asking for consideration while acting inconsiderate).

  • Critical Mass riders should be rounded up and arrested. I am so sick of seeing bikers put themselves and others in dangerous situations, simply because they feel they are exempt from road laws.

  • Although I have little sympathy for cyclists, I have less for bus drivers these days. I'm so tired of their running red lights and their jamming intersections because they didn't want to sit and wait through a red light. Those two red lights on Michigan Ave. in front of the Tribune Tower, not even 50 feet apart? The cyclists there are bad, sure, but bus drivers shouldn't be pulling away from the Tribune stop and running those two red lights -- from that dead stop -- when the walk light cycle has almost completed. I noticed one bus driver's side window was open last week when he did this; I caught up to him at the red light at Illinois Ave. and yelled into his window loudly enough for the passengers to hear, "What kind of asshole thinks two red lights are just suggestions?" He just sneered and closed the window, and while I felt better, it sure hasn't made a difference on the number of bus drivers who run red lights.

  • In reply to BobS:

    Especially with the diction you used.

    I wonder about those who would rather swear than take down the bus number and report it to the CTA or police. FoxChicago News did a story about this a couple of years ago, but I'm sure Larry Yellen didn't use this language.

  • In reply to jack:

    What a prig you can be, jack. Yes, next time I'll apologize for interrupting him and humbly request that he try to kill me more gently.

  • In reply to BobS:

    You seem to have a foul temper. The question is whether you want something to be done about drivers going through red lights, or just want to vent.

    If you just want to vent, fine, but calling people aholes and prigs isn't accomplishing anything positive.

  • In reply to jack:

    I think just about everyone has a foul temper at some point in his or her life, jack. If you're the one who never has, my congratulations. And yes, having nearly been hit by a bus who ran two red lights from a dead stop -- the lights were red when he was still loading people on -- I felt venting a reasonable release of my anger. And you're the one who seems to feel that insulting and trolling me when I mention it is accomplishing something positive; I allowed in my OP that I was venting.

  • In reply to BobS:

    They should of just stopped and waited.

    First of all, it's "should have." Second of all, WHY should they have waited? I've been caught by Critical Mass rides, and an event that applies for no permits but rejects all traffic laws and screws up traffic patterns doesn't merit too much respect in my book.

    Critical Mass embodies the arrogant ethos of a community who imagine that their mode of transport bestows unlimited rights with zero responsibility. The cyclists I encounter on a daily basis ride on sidewalks and habitually ignore signals and signage. I've seen 2 cyclists signal a turn in all the time I've lived here, and never seen them yield to pedestrians unless sheer pedestrian volume or motor vehicle traffic forced them to. I've seen people snatch children and pets out of harm's way because some heedless (adult) cyclist was Lance Armstrong-ing down the sidewalk. I've seen cyclists nearly collide with other cyclists because one had right of way and the other didn't. I've seen cyclists pull crazy passing tricks on buses that I wouldn't even dare in the comparative safety of a car. I've dodged many collisions myself because I remain foolish enough to imagine that the stop signs and lights governing an intersection would stop cars AND bikes. And I've nursed a friend's nasty cuts and sprained wrist after he was knocked down by a cyclist running a stop sign at full speed. (The car traffic had stopped. How silly of him to think he could cross.)

    tecki's right - you want respect? You gotta earn it. You want rights, assume the corresponding responsiblities. Look, some drivers are jerks too, but that doesn't give you the right to do whatever the hell you want. If you make it a habit to run red lights, eventually you'll get hit by a car but it won't be the car's fault.

    For the record - I don't have a car. I'm not an evil motorist, and as always happens in these car/bike/pedestrian threads, this comment will be disregarded because many cyclists seem to think the danger posed to them by cars (which are, incidentally, also a danger to pedestrians) permits them to ignore the danger they pose to themselves, other cyclists, and pedestrians.

    I don't know that intersection, but since the OP makes no mention of a light or stop sign, I'm willing to guess the bus legally had right of way. I don't blame the driver for trying to take it.

  • In reply to sixseeds:

    Perfectly put.

  • In reply to sixseeds:

    Greetings fellow tattlers,

    I'm the one who wrote Kevin about this. Thanks for bringing this up good sir! I appreciate all of your comments. I wanted to clarify an area of my original email regarding pulling in front of the bus with another rider as there seems to be a little confusion. We did NOT just ride in front of the bus and slam on our brakes in a dangerous way to get the bus to stop. Some cyclists do this during mass and I don't agree with it. It creates hatred towards bikers. I talk to them. I thank drivers for waiting. Think of it as normal traffic, it'll be by in a few minutes.

    We were roughly 15 or so feet in front of the bus and slowed down, in order to get the operator to slow down for the safety of the hundreds of riders just beside the bus. I didn

  • In reply to BobS:

    I'm very familiar with the lights on Michigan that you're talking about, and have never seen buses run those. Are you mixing up the words "bus" and "cab" because then this would make more sense to me?

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    I've seen CTA buses run red lights during morning rush at Michigan and Lake and at Michigan and South Water. If they've had to inch forward in traffic for a while, and by the time they get up to the intersection the light is red again, they just decide they have waited long enough and they deserve to grant themselves an exemption from the traffic laws. Rather frustrating for pedestrians who have been waiting for their turn to go, finally get the WALK light, but find themselves cut off from the crosswalk by a big bus, which by that time is stopped again.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    "Critical Mass is an odd view of society, and unfortunately a few cyclists based on entitlement create a bad name for us all. I'm trying my best to change that."

    That's great that you acknowledge the trouble Critical Mass creates for itself, but this wasn't the tone of your original post. Your original post was about the horrible CTA bus operator.

    I wasn't there, so I don't know the exact circumstances and I won't attempt to comment. I will say that I have seen Critical Mass disrupt the city several times and I don't remember any substantive protest being involved at anytime. It just seemed like a whole bunch of two-wheeled narcissism. No one seemed interested in "sharing the road;" pedestrians and transit users seem to be held in as much contempt as motorists. Good luck trying to change the tenor of Critical Mass events.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    It wasn't the horrible bus operator. I'm not aganst whom ever it was. I'm for safety. All I can say is get on a bike. Ride a city street during rush hour. I do every day. Notice whats going on. What can I say Martha, I try to do my best.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass Read it.

  • In reply to railalex:

    I've lived my whole life in this city, I've rode a bike in rush hour, and driven a bus. I understand the situation as well as anyone, and 1 thing is clear, you and the rest of the critical mass riders are nothing but arrogant narcissists. Get over yourselves.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Lets go for a bike ride Tim!

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    I agree with the idea behind Critical Mass. Cars have ruled our roads for too long, and it's time to take them back. That's all great and good. However, I have a serious issue with this post. Why the heck were you getting in the way of a bus?? You realize there were probably 40 people on that bus that you were delaying with your selfishness??

    For something like Critical Mass to work, you have to realize that buses, trains, taxis, bikes, and pedestrians work in concert to provide an alternate transportation system that is fuel-efficient, healthy, and good for the streetlife of the city. If you won't respect the many modes involved in that, then I don't respect you. Get your bike out of the way of the bus or you deserve what you get.

  • In reply to theloosh:

    Selfishness? Right. Its Selfish of me not wanting all the hundreds of people filling the two lanes inches away to possibly get hurt by a forty foot bus trying to race in front of everyone traveling at a high speed. If that's selfish, well ok then.

  • In reply to railalex:

    Yes, it was selfish. You want to share the road then make space for faster traffic to pass through. Instead of trying to moderate the behavior of your fellow riders, who you admitted are flawed, you sought to further their interests by impeding the progress of another vehicle and delaying a few dozen commuters.

  • In reply to railalex:

    I get the point behind Critical Mass, but I think it has reached a stage where it is no longer a clever, thing that people understand but one they loathe.
    If you actually were a monthly thing, that had planned well in advance routes that the rest of us could plan around, like Bike the Drive, it would go a long way toward good will.
    Most of us get it, bikes are good. But bikes that make me late to my job just because they felt like making a point? Not so good. It isn't like you're crossing only major points, the ride that went up Ravenswood effectively cut off many of us from our train line for over twenty minutes; considering it's the time of night that trains get progressively further apart that is NOT a minor inconvenience, it is a real problem. Bosses understand "accident" as a reason for being late, they still don't accept "Critical Mass".

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