Friday, June 18, 2010

The Frogger Dilemma

Clearly, bus drivers in Washington are a special breed. They do things like punch out McGruff the Crime Dog* (though I have my own issues with McGruff). Then they are reinstated, with back pay for clocking a Crime Dog. Because anyone who punches a mascot is completely mentally stable and ought to be trusted with the safety of Washington's citizens.

And those are just the official drivers. In summer, the city gets flooded with all flavors of tour bus operators, most of whom have no experience with city driving and have never observed a pedestrian in its natural habitat. My daily walk home has gone from pleasant diversion to high-stakes Frogger.

The primary issue is that these tour bus troublemakers have never learned how to yield to a pedestrian. So I get stuck playing this game of chicken where I have the light, put one foot in the crosswalk, and stare down the driver until he stops the bus and lets me pass. Sometimes, instead of stopping, he'll nudge me out of the intersection. In a game of Tour Bus vs. Mighty Munchkin, there are no winners.

I'm fighting back, though. Every day, I carry a pen and a piece of paper. I also keep my cameraphone handy. I write down the bus company, vehicle number, intersection, time, and date, and call their employer as soon as I get home. I don't know how much it does, but it feels pretty good.

In the comments, tell me how you deal with homicidal tour bus drivers. Or just bitch about tourist season in general.

*Am I the only one who kind of wishes the police officer dressed as McGruff had been a woman? Because then the driver could have said, "The bitch set me up?" Just me? OK.


FoggyDew said...

My problems generally come when they neglect to look in their mirrors and don't see me on my bike. Thankfully, I pay attention to them.

I've been cut off any number of times, but with no adverse results. However, my displeasure with them is usually expressed in the form of a swift pounding on the side of their vehicle. If I had my U-lock I'd use that, but that might be overkill.

Titania said...

All tourists and tourists drivers have their brains in "park" mode. And there is not way of make them use those neurons. A week ago, a tourist bus driver tried to run me over at Hains Point, and since he couldn't (I was actually faster than him and we were approaching an intersection), he just drove less than a yard behind me honking non-stop. Worst scare I've had in a long time while on a bike...

Shannon said...

Foggy/Titania - Wow! I can't imagine riding a bike during tourist season. The locals are bad enough about sharing the roads, I imagine the out-of-town buses are even worse because they just don't have cyclists in Armpit, Arkansas.

Shannon said...

Though while I'm ranting about bikes, does anyone else wish the bike rental companies would be at least halfway diligent about telling their customers that it's illegal to bike on the sidewalks in the Central Business District? I'm sick of almost getting clocked by touron families riding around downtown sidewalks.

Brando said...

The problem is a lack of consequences. For the Metrobus drivers, their union will keep all but the most homicidal from being fired, so what incentive do they have to actually take their job seriously? Of course that doesn't explain any non-union private company drivers, but their bosses clearly aren't screening them enough.

Frankly, the tour buses shouldn't be allowed in the city. They should be forced to mill around the farthest Metro stations like the redheaded stepchildren they are, while they wait for their bloated and wretched tourist passengers to navigate the city's Metro system. Goober McTownie doesn't like to have to metro into the city? Tough--try visiting St. Louis instead! I hear the Arch is nice this time of year.

Mr. J said...

I often think of carrying rocks on my person so I have a projectile to aim at the touron buses/SUVs/minivans that try to run me down for walking (legally) across the road. Granted, I do jaywalk quite a bit, and if I were to get hit then, I'd have no right to fling a rock.

Lemon Gloria said...

Those buses will take you out in one hot second.

A guy I went to high school with is - or anyway, was when I saw him 10 years ago - a bus driver in Rome. I couldn't even drive a car in Rome, much less a bus, without practically having a nervous breakdown. But anyway. He said that he was so sick of people cutting him off, and sometime before he quit, he was just going to go ahead and plow into some car that darted in front of him and cause a big accident.

I have that feeling regularly in DC traffic, and I drive a little Honda Civic and am not much of a threat to anyone.

I wonder if he ever did.

Shannon said...

Brando - I don't really mind the tour buses when they're transporting kids and the elderly - there are serious mobility issues. But a group of able-bodied adults can easily get dumped at Springfield and Metro their way in.

Mr. J - I think if you were hit by a touron bus, rock-throwing etiquette would be the least of your problems.

LG - Not a surprising story - I've heard Rome is the closest thing you can get to Third World driving, minus the livestock in the road.

Alex said...

Foggy Dew, while it may make you feel righteous, I bet the bus driver doesn't even hear you pounding on the side after they cut you off. Just like odds are they wouldn't hear anything until too late if actually they ran you over. With most buses, it's pretty easy to tell when they're getting ready to turn -- better to just avoid putting yourself in that position in the first place, don'tcha think?

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