Threatened with Jail Time by an Orange Line Bus Driver

So yes, what you read above is what happened to me at about 7:40 in the morning on my way from the Valley to Long Beach after my daily trip on the Orange Line.

The culmination of bad design, a cold morning, a bus driver needing to assert their authority, and most importantly a righteous bicyclist.

What led up to this?

Bicycling right in front of the orange line bus on Oxnard and Buffalo, the Woodman Orange Line station.

Yeah, I know, biking in front of the orange line bus is not really safe or something I like to do for shits and giggidies on the weekends, but let me tell you why I felt the need to cut off the bus at this particular intersection.

First off, when I was a really novice bicyclist and Metro rider, at this particular stop, I would often miss the bus, usually catching nothing but the tail end of its cloud of smog.

Following the traffic laws, I’d have to wait for the walk signal to turn on. As the walk signal would turn on, the orange line bus would move forward to the bus stop, about 200 feet away from me.

In order to actually catch the bus from the very same intersection, I discovered over time that I'd have to account for a lot of things within a very small time window: 1) coming from the bicycle path to the left of the station, I have to cross the street to the right side AFTER the fast-moving bus has passed 2) making sure I got to the bus or crowd of people fast enough, through a combination of bicycling and running 3) tapping my card. 4) after tapping my card, getting back on the bike quickly enough to bike the 50 or so yards separating me from the crowd of people entering the bus as the bus stop. This has to be done within a window of about 45 seconds, which can be somewhat stressful.

That. Or missing the bus.

The consequence of missing the bus? Waiting for the next bus, which could take as long as up to 20 minutes.

20 minutes in the life of this grad student is time I could spend much better than waiting around watching a bunch of tough guys spit loogies, deflecting unwanted glances from random individuals, or listening to the sounds of frozen awkward silences between riders.

Having a bicycle, sometimes I’d be better served just biking to the North Hollywood Metro station. However, I’m never sure when the bus is actually coming, unless I already see it.

If I see an Orange Line bus with an empty bike rack, I absolutely NEED to rush as fast as I can. Why? Because I never know if the next bus is full of bikes. If the next bus if full of bikes, I can’t get on, and have to wait another 10 minutes for the next bus, grudgingly and enviously watching waves of people who got to the stop at the same time as I did, prance on in leaving the bicyclist stranded.

It feels like I'm being punished for having a bike!

Anyway that brings us to earlier this morning at 7:30 AM.

At this intersection, Oxnard and Buffalo, I was waiting at the same stoplight as the bus. Not wanting to go through that stressful 45-second ritual, I decided to go before the stoplight and the bus so I'd have plenty of time to get across the street, tap my card, bike to the stop, and actually get there.

Ahhh...made it in front of the bus!

I'm going to be on time with the bike rack empty, it's a good start to my day.

As the bus approaches me at the stop, he looks at me and honks.

Yeah, I know I fucked up, I'll take whatever verbal harangue he has to offer.

I put my bicycle on the rack.

As I enter, the bus he asks me "Why you do that?"

I responded, "Because sometimes you bus drivers don't care [if I miss the bus]"

I thought that was a reasonable enough response, he had nothing else to say. I made my way to my seat and plopped myself down for the 15 minute ride to North Hollywood.

Uneventful ride.

Then comes the exit. I take the front exit so that I can get my bike.

As I retrieve my bike from the rack, the bus driver steps down from his bus and walks up to me.

He asks me again "Why you do that?"

I tell him, trying to elaborate that "Sometimes other drivers don't seem to care if I miss the bus. I can move as fast as I can and sometimes they just don't care."

He continued, "Well, that's why we have buses that come every 5 minutes. You can’t wait 5 minutes?”

I told him, "It usually takes more than 5 minutes, and I don't like being late to things, I gotta be different places."

He says "You're lucky there wasn't a Sheriff here or I would have you cited for $250 dollars"

Infuriated at the fact that $250 is hard for me to come by, remembering a blog about the middle-class habitii of bus drivers, and recalling one bus driver’s conversation about how some drivers made up to $100,000, I fired back with a mounting annoyed fury in my voice, “do you ride the bus?”

He didn't answer.

Instead he attempted to assert himself, he said, "Next time you do that on MY bus, I will report you to a Sherriff and if you don't pay that fine, you'll serve some jail time."

Completely thrown off by his unwillingness to listen, and losing my sense of rationality, I told him "Man, fuck you."

He said, "Try me then next time" as he walked off.

"What the fuck is wrong with you, making $100,000 a year and trying to take $250 bucks from me? What the fuck is wrong with you?" I yelled at him as he made his way stage left.

He called off in the distance, "Try it!"

Micro-dissection of a Terrible Intersection: Del Amo St., and Susana St, Compton, CA

On my way to the Historical Society of Long Beach, I generally get off at the Del Amo stop.

Below is one particularly irritating intersection on my way there, technically in the city of Compton (according to Google Maps), bordering Rancho Dominguez, that contributes to annoying the hell out of me, and probably just one big/little thing that scares people about biking in Long Beach.

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Where to start on this one?

  • The road is charred from all the heavy-ass trucks that make its way by the micro-second. This makes for a real bumpy, tire-tearing experience.

  • The two-way roads are segregated by a physical barrier. A bicyclist wanting to head East is generally not going to want to bike OVER that barrier just to bike on the correct side of the street. I usually take the sidewalk and bike AGAINST traffic. I'm eventually trying to get on the the correct side.
  • Deciding to bike on the sidewalk coming from the Blue Line, I can't actually continue on the sidewalk. I'd actually be cut off from doing so if I tried to continue on this sidewalk, There is actually NO sidewalk on a stretch of industrial infrastructure. Instead is a thin patch of dirt that is unbikeable. Vea abajo.

Microaggressions on the Metro: 761 at 5:30 PM on a Saturday

Rainy February Saturday in LA con mi bicicleta. Was at UCLA. Library closed surprisingly really early. 5 PM. 5 PM!!! Unbelievably early. So much going into the freekin' renovation and they can't keep these motherfuckers out there one minute past 5 PM. Oh no, it's Saturday.

Anyhow, I biked over in a downpour to a bus stop on Westholme Ave. to ride the 761 Bus back to the San Fernando Valley. That was about 0.3 miles of biking.

And so the bus finally came. Maybe about 45 minutes after I got there. Put my bicycle up front, tapped my card, sat down in the front of the bus.

There wasn't really anything I noticed right away about the bus ride, except that it seemed like this bus driver was driving really fast. She was making tight turns as if she were driving a Civic.

Once we got into the valley, her driving got even more impatient. She was swerving from lane to lane, making liberal use of her horn for any cars that dared get in her way.

Instead of staying in just the right lane, she would weave in and out. I exchanged some knowing looks with passengers about how fast she was driving, especially in light of the rainy conditions.

It was a fast moving hour long bus ride.

I didn't really have a problem with her until I actually got off the bus. I probably wouldn't have cared about the swerving and weaving if she didn't do something extremely annoying at the very end.

That annoying thing had to do with me retrieving my bicycle.

I exited the bus from the rear (which is a direction I don't really understand unless there's a crowd of people). I was getting kind of impatient waiting for a throng of people to get off, namely because there was no one getting in and some old lady in purple slightly delayed my exit. The bus driver seemed like she was about to leave. The rear door closed and the bus made a sound like it was set to leave. I ran quickly over some puddles while getting rained on to claim my bicycle off the bicycle rack.

So in my state of hurriedness, I pull my bicycle off the rack. I get my bicycle on the sidewalk over the puddles.

Honk honk!

The bus driver shouts and makes a motion for me to pull up the bicycle rack.

I know it's common courtesy to pull up the bicycle rack and usually do so, but given the downpour, having already put my bicycle up on the sidewalk over some Red Sea deep puddles, and her apparent rush to move the bus, this motion she makes is slightly annoying.

I look at her exasperated. I walk back in front of the bus, and pull up the bicycle rack.

While she hadn't been particularly warm before, and had been particularly curt when she yelled at me, she looks at me through her window, with her penciled in eye-brows, and very obviously heavily made up face, smiles, and sends me a waving "thank you," right before she sped off.

I figured that perhaps her need to speed, her need to tell me to put up the bicycle rack was just all just one piece of ownership and control that she desparately needed to feel.

The Worst Bike Path Ever: Carson St. in Lakewood

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What I dislike:

  • How invisible the bike path is to a bicyclist from the street. My chain come off my wheel in the middle of peddling. Once I came to a complete stop, I had to move to the sidewalk. Only then did I notice that there was indeed...a bike path. Very few visible signage.
  • The bike path creates a situation where drivers will see bicyclists on what looks like a sidewalk. From seeing bicyclists on sidewalks, it potentially creates the expectation in drivers that bicyclists belong just on sidewalks and not the streets. We don't need drivers to feel more entitled to the streets, thus even more annoyed at bicyclists.
  • Near Long Beach City College (the Carson campus), the bicycle lane also functions as a sidewalk. Very annoying to both bicyclists and pedestrians because of all the potential collision. The markings on the lanes help a little bit, but there's still a lot of pedestrians on the lanes at any given school hour.
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