Today is the first day of the rest of our lives—with the T.

The Boston Cyclists Union, MassBike and the City of Boston met with a group of MBTA officials this morning to begin a long-term effort aimed at improving how the T’s bus-driver training program incorporates bikes. This first meeting was about gathering information and listing our opportunities, which were many.

To help illuminate the process, the advocates asked the T for a stack of detailed reports on all the bicycle and pedestrian vs. bus crashes for the last 10 years (or however many years have been collected), and introduced the idea of bringing a focus group of bus drivers and cyclists together to hash out their differences in a facilitated discussion— closed-door, so the real grievances can be spoken without fear for consequences. Below, we also ask you for your opinions.

The T, in turn, listed a wide variety of opportunities. To name a few: putting “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” stickers on the rear ends of buses, creating a number of bike safety posters to post in MBTA bus garages, and including bikes in the bus simulator scenarios they use to train drivers. They also announced that they will use this video from Chicago in all their trainings until such time as a local version can be produced. (Big thanks to Ken Field of the Cambridge Bicycle Committee, also a participant in today’s meeting, for giving the T that suggestion!)

The highlight of the trip was the T’s new pair of sophisticated bus simulators. The only thing these machines can’t simulate, apparently, is the thousands of crazy situations that drivers have to tolerate in the back of the bus while negotiating Boston traffic. If they made this adjustment, this could become marketable and extremely challenging video game!

The T is asking for the advocates’ advice on which simulations would make the most sense. Currently they have four pretty good scenarios:

  • Bus making a right-hand turn conflicts
  • Bus making a left-hand turn across traffic conflicts (with obstructed view!)
  • Bus passing on the left conflicts (bike is between curb and bus)
  • Bike passing on the left conflicts (when the bus is pulling out of a stop or changing lanes, for instance)

The BCU and MassBike representatives present also came up with a few ideas for new scenarios, such as:

  • Bike swerves to avoid door opening
  • Bike takes full traffic lane
  • Unpredictable cyclists

We also invite you, good bicycle citizens, for information on which types of bus behaviors most scare or endanger you. And your ideas on how these problems might be alleviated.

We’re here to represent the cycling community in Boston, so tell us how you feel!

Make a comment here, or email us at Stidman (at)


  1. Debbie on April 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    One particular situation with passing on left is on narrower roads where the bus absolutely has to cross well into the oncoming lane in order to pass the cyclist. It’s in these situations that I’ve experienced (and have talked to others who’ve been through the same) cases where the bus just bears down on the cyclist, running her/him off the road.

  2. Gerald Robbins on May 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Scenarios: a bus is behind a bicycle, speeds up to pass and take either a right turn or pull to the curb to reach a bus stop; bicycle continues to the right of a bus even when buses are trying to pull to the curb to reach a stop (ie blocking a path for a bus). Buses should also be aware of the constrained space to maneuver when trolley tracks are in the road or when cyclists must cut across tracks in a perpendicular fashion.

  3. jen o on May 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    One thing I’ve seen and experienced far too often, is when you’re riding, coming up on the general area of a bus stop, and a bus comes barreling up behind you, fast, just to cut you off/run you off the road while hitting the brakes into a sudden pullover in the area of that stop. They always say they didn’t see you, …but they just passed you. If you, the rider, know there’s a bus stop up ahead, you can be ready for it, sure, but it’s still terrifying (not to mention an illegal move on their part) to have a giant box of metal suddenly and really quickly come up behind you and then immediately squeeze you out, forcing you to try to stop fast enough not to get crushed against parked cars or chucked into a granite curb. This is specifically when the bus passes first, and then cuts off. I’m not talking about when you’re riding at the same speed as the bus, to its right – this is technically completely legal, but I never ride between the axles of any big truck – legal or not, they will not pay attention to the space you’re in, they will cut you off to pull over or take a right, or simply while driving in an unsteady line, and of course such a scenario is a really common killer of people on bikes. The whole passing/cutting off thing is the thing I’m trying to point out as a seriously dangerous oversight on the parts of bus drivers. Thanks.

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