Mixing with heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses while biking can be a daunting prospect to say the least. As was evidenced by the controversy just last week about a close-passing truck in Wellington, we still have some way to go to get all parties to understand the issues faced in these encounters. With this in mind, over a decade ago a programme was started that sought to get truck and bus drivers together with people who cycle to share experiences and learn from each other via some practical activities. The Share the Road workshops are still offered today, and this blog-post (originally from Aug 2015) summarises one such event in Christchurch for bus drivers and cyclists…
Last Wednesday saw the previously postponed Bus-Bike Workshop finally happen in Riccarton. Organised by the Cycling Advocates Network (CAN), this was an opportunity for some urban bus operators to join with some regular bike riders to compare notes and better understand how to interact with each other on the streets.
Although we started at the Chateau on the Park, most of the workshop took place on the surrounding local streets. Bikes were provided for those who didn’t have one and a few warm-up exercises made sure that everyone was road-ready.
While some of the bus drivers were regular bike riders too, others were less familiar, and there was even one who hadn’t really ridden much at all. But a friendly circuit of quiet streets enabled everyone to take part in the outdoor activities.
An interesting exercise was to consider when someone following you seems too close; this can be a concern for bike riders when a bus is behind them in a narrow shared lane. The effect was mimicked during the workshop by looking at how comfortable it is to walk or bike closely behind someone else; a general consensus seemed to be that a four second gap made things much less stressful when being followed.
We also discussed where a bike rider might position themselves on the road and why they might do that. Situations such as parked car doors and roadside debris were discussed, as well as the concept of “taking the lane” to deter unsafe overtaking.
Another interesting exercise was to stand on the side of the road and see what it feels like when a bus passes close by. Estimates were made of just how close the bus had been, and whether it felt comfortable.
The outside activities concluded with an opportunity for cyclists to see what it is like to sit in the bus-driver’s seat and note where the blind spots are (hint: quite a few!). There was also the chance to have a go with the front bike rack to see how that worked.
After the activities, the group returned to the Chateau for a bit of food and some wrap-up thoughts. Having had the experiences from both sides makes for some valuable discussions between all parties, and hopefully this will lead to better on-road behaviours in the future. The driver trainers present from the bus companies can also ensure that their new drivers get the message about safe road-sharing from day one.
One of the bus company reps said that they had also been compiling a list of complaints from cyclists about bus-driver behaviour and they were keen to have another workshop to bring these two groups together to learn from each other. Hopefully in the future, these workshops will be a regular feature in Christchurch and cycling will be the better for it.
Do you think that these workshops are a valuable exercise?