comments

The new law and school buses

Bike column
By: Tom Frady
-A +A

I have written before that cyclists can get in the way of vehicular traffic, even when doing everything right. 

But the passage of a new law in California and a conversation with a school bus driver cause me to revisit the subject.

First, the new law, a law I thought was already on the books.  Cyclists must pull over (when safe) when five cars are waiting to pass, the same as any other slow-moving vehicle.  This is not too hard to do if one is riding alone, but finding a safe place and letting eight to 10 riders know when to pull over, can be difficult. 

I put in many miles riding with a group of eight to 12 cyclists on the narrow country roads around Lincoln, Auburn, Loomis, etc. Very seldom have I seen more than one or two cars stuck behind us, waiting to pass. 

Generally, it is my feeling that the safest course of action for riders is to continue to ride as far to the right as safe, be predictable and let the driver determine when it is safe to pass.  I do not recommend that a cyclist wave a driver around.  Let the driver make the decision.   If there is a way to let the driver know that you know he is there (a glance over the shoulder or a wave) it may help. 

Of course, when the shoulder or lane widens or if there is a large turnout, make it easy for the car(s) to get by. 

In a recent conversation with a school bus driver, who is also a cyclist, I was reminded of the obvious: school bus drivers are tested, examined, lectured, reviewed and otherwise constantly reminded that safety of the children on the bus is their No. 1 concern at all times and under no circumstances should they even stretch the traffic laws. 

This means, unlike a car,  a school bus driver will not pass a group of cyclists by crossing the double yellow line, violate the 3-foot buffer law or make a pass unless there is a good quarter mile of visibility ahead.

Buses are wider than cars and pickups. Even if there is a 14-foot lane, giving a cyclist 4 feet in which to ride, a 3 foot buffer makes it impossible for buses to pass legally, where a car might be able to do so. 

Therefore, the bus driver will wait. And wait.

The new law requires cyclists to pull over (when safe) to allow cars to pass, once five have stacked up. Most of us find a way to do it earlier. 

If one of those vehicles is a school bus, maybe we can make it possible for it to pass quickly. 

After all, you know those kids are anxious to get to school. 

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.