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VeloBusDriver talks buses and bikes in Slate

Tom Vanderbilt interviewed everybody’s favorite bike-riding, blogging bus driver for an article in Slate. King County’s very own VeloBusDriver lends his valuable perspective, as both bus driver and bike rider, to Slate readers and talks about the stresses of the bus-driving life:

Given this litany of challenges and poor outcomes, I was curious to talk with an actual driver and find out: Is it really all that bad? I was also curious to see how bus drivers—for whom the road is a workplace—view the wider world of traffic. That’s when fate waded into my Twitter stream, in the form of Matt Leber, otherwise known as Velobusdriver, who describes himself as a “former techie turned Metro bus driver, bike commuter, and renewable energy enthusiast.” Leber, who spent a decade working for Microsoft, among other things, is a part-time driver for King County Metro Transit (serving Seattle and environs). As his Twitter handle indicates, he’s also a cycling enthusiast. I figured the rather unusual cyclist/bus driver/car driver combo would give him special insight into intra-modal relations.

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While driving a bus has provided a unique window onto the landscape of traffic, Leber says it’s changed his behavior in other modes. He says he drives the speed limit, or just below it, which he says “dramatically reduces stress” (though, he suggests, it may raise that of his wife). On foot, he no longer runs for buses. And as a cyclist with more with 30 years of experience, he says bus driving awakened him to “just how invisible we cyclists are on the road.” (He’s since shifted to wearing lights during the day, in addition to night.) He sees parallels in the way “a minority of rushed drivers” act around buses and cyclists. “They will make risky passes around corners, against oncoming traffic, or through crosswalks and crowded pedestrian areas, simply because they don’t want to be stuck behind a bus,” he says, while some drivers “kind of freak out” when they see a cyclist, passing too closely or honking even when there’s plenty of room.

Vanderbilt is the author of “Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)” and one of the best transportation writers in the country. He was intrigued by VeloBusDriver’s mutimodal perspective. I guess every town is not lucky enough to have a bike-riding bus driver providing insight on local stories and debates. They’re missing out.

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3 responses to “VeloBusDriver talks buses and bikes in Slate”

  1. I like his idea of March 18 being “bus driver appreciation day”. Is there anyone with connections at STB, Publicola, or Slog that could help get the ball rolling on that?

  2. @Jake: It’s been publicized locally (by STB, me, and others) for a couple of years now. It’s up to the riders to make it happen, so make sure to acknowledge your drivers on that day–and pass the word!

  3. I always pay attention to Velobusdriver’s tweets; he makes a lot of sense.

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