Home > Car Culture, Transit > What’s the rush?

What’s the rush?

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the past couple of days I’ve witnessed two right hook maneuvers by car drivers that nearly resulted in crashes.  If you’re not familiar with a “right hook” check collision type #6 here.  In both of these cases, the driver was simply in a hurry and couldn’t be delayed a few seconds for safety before continuing on their way.

The first right hook occurred while I was driving my bus.  In Bellevue, near the intersection of 108th Ave NE and NE 4th St there is a bus zone that downhill or west of 108th on NE 4th.  As I was loading a group of passengers an impatient driver of a sporty Volvo sedan pulled out from behind me and zoomed up on my left side.  During this time I had finished loading passengers, turned on my left signal and started to move away from the zone.  The driver then proceeded to cut me off and turn into a driveway located immediately in front of the bus zone.  My experience avoiding right hooks as a cyclist probably saved this individual a lot of hassle getting his car repaired or, more likely, replaced.

The second right hook occurred on my way home from work this one day.  Being a bit lazy and afraid of getting wet (It was raining, and yes, I know I’m a wimp) I decided to drive that morning.  As I was merging onto 405 another car was exiting 405 at the same time.  (This event occurred at the on/off ramp to southbound 405 at NE 8th st)  I was following a delivery truck who was carefully merging but apparently not fast enough for this bozo.  The car zoomed past us, cut off the truck in front of me, and lost control of his car while trying to make the exit.  Thankfully, he just spun out in the grass a bit and ended up sideways on the exit ramp – a perfect lesson without any major damage to his vehicle or injury to anybody at the scene.

Ever since I stared working at Metro, I’ve worked hard to absorb Metro’s brainwashing (er.. uh, I mean training) on not being in a hurry.  Constant reminders are posted at the base in bulletins and the ever present “Outhouse Safety journal”.  My wife feels that I’ve taken the lessons a little too much to heart – I drive like a grandma when behind the wheel of our personal cars.  When asked why I’m driving so slow, I’ll typically respond that I’m in “Autopilot” mode and driving like I do when I’m in a bus.  She gently reminds me that while I may need a six second following distance when driving a bus, staying that far back in a car is not necessary or even ideal.  Ok, I get it and speed up a little.  “How about 4 seconds?” (I smile, her eyes roll)

(Note:  I drafted this post a while back while I was driving the 550 in Bellevue.  I’ve since switched to trolleys so I’m driving my bus even slower.  The top speed of a trolley is about 35mph.  I think there is a small stretch of wire on the 36 where you can legally drive that fast so most of the time I’m down near 25-30mph.  Thankfully, I’m doing better on driving my personal vehicles a more “normal” speed.  Because of this, my wife isn’t demanding to drive as often these days.)

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  1. Atomic Taco
    October 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Reminds me of an incident that happened here. I took the exit from NB (Eastbound?) 405 to SB 167. It’s now two lanes through there. I was in the right lane, with at least 5 carlengths ahead of me. A flatbead tow truck was parked on the shoulder. I saw the driver hop out of the cab right after the car in front of me passed him. He waited until I was right up on top of him to yank some chains out of a side compartment that whiplashed themselves into my lane. Luckily I had been watching my mirrors and knew there was space in the lane to my left so I was able to swerve to avoid him. After getting back in my lane, I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed the car that was behind me had come to a complete stop with the driver standing in the middle of the lane with his arm up and palm facing the car.

    Luckily I noticed the AAA logo on the flatbead and called them to let them know one of their contractors was, um, ensuring his company would have more work.

  2. MissBeth
    October 29, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    You’re my kinda bus driver!

    I can not tell you the number of times I’ve been on board a bus and the driver made maneuvers that were not only scary but also VERY illegal – such as running red lights. Some more that 1 light even! I have on a few occasions turned these drivers in. I value my safety as well as those out on the street in crosswalks or in cars, bikes, etc.

    Another incident that sticks in my mind was an ST bus that came out of the Renton Transit Center like a bat out of hell and came within inches of hitting me while I was in the cross walk – which I was in LEGALLY and not just mindlessly crossing when I shouldn’t be like many do there on 3rd avenue. Yield isn’t just for cars, but also for pedestrians!!!!!

    I applaud you for your cafefullness with tons of steel on the road!

    Sign me – 40 year bus passenger.

  3. October 29, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I wish I could say that I’ve never run a red light, but I’ll be honest and say that it happens from time to time. More often than not, I’ve mistimed a light and have to make a split second decision of whether to brake hard and risk injury to my passengers or go ahead and run the light while tapping my horn to warn pedestrians and motorists that I’m running the light. In most cases I’m entering the intersection while it’s still yellow and I proceed through slowly.

    Metro trains us to watch for the “stale green” light and time it so we just get stopped at the red. Sounds easy but sometimes we get it wrong – me included. Either way, the primary concern is safety – even when I screw up.

    Sorry to burst your bubble 🙂

  4. Jeff Welch
    October 30, 2010 at 5:57 am

    I had a “right hook” incident while driving the 44. Down 46th to Market street – had to jam on my brake to avoid pushing the car into the oncoming lane of traffic. Threw a passenger out of her seat, injuring her and requiring transport in an ambulance.

    Have also had not a few cab drivers do this to me while driving north on 3rd avenue peeling around and making a right turn from the left lane.

    It is really dangerous.

  5. November 4, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I’ll just throw this out there – I had an exciting right hook experience as a bus passenger just a couple days ago. It was almost exactly that first situation you described (I was on the 550; maybe it was the same guy who almost right hooked you!), and the bus driver slammed on his brakes and narrowly avoided squashing that little car like a bug. I think he was justified in honking the way he did, too.

    Which is scarier: Being right hooked when you’re in a bus, or on a bike?

    • November 13, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      > Which is scarier: Being right hooked when you’re in a bus, or on a bike?

      Tough call. One involves fear of pain, injury, and death while the other involves fear of inflicting pain, injury, and death on another human being along with the hassle of a drug test and paperwork. Given how much I hate paperwork and mental anguish, I think I’d rather be the run-overee vs. the run-overer.

      I suspect many bus drivers feel the same way and it’s why we get so grumpy about errant cyclists and amateur drivers…

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