With bicyclists of many skill levels — from the experienced rider to the novice two-wheeler — sharing the roadways with them requires bus operators to understand the rules that apply to bicycles and Metro Transit policies for safe operation around bicycles.
In 2009, Metro Transit Safety and its Instruction Center produced a video (“Patience”) that showed operators how to interact effectively with bicyclists, addressed the policy for following distances and gave other tips for safe operation along bicycles in mixed traffic.
Once again, safety is a shared responsibility with cyclists. To this end, Metro Transit Bus Transportation in 2011 set up a Life Behind the Wheel clinic and invited area bicycling enthusiasts to attend. At the event, bicyclists were able to sit in a bus operator’s seat and experience what an operator can — and cannot — see when in service. This is an idea that any agency can and should adopt to forge better relationships with the bicycling community.
Customer Recognition of Improvements in System Safety
Metro Transit conducts onboard customer research every two years to gauge customer perceptions of service performance and other aspects of the transit experience.
In 2012, the performance measure “Drivers operate vehicles in a safe and responsible manner” received one of the highest scores, 4.26 of a possible 5. This is up from a score of 4.16 in the 2010 research.
Customers have recognized an improvement in system safety performance. Collision statistics show that Metro Transit’s efforts in 2009-2010 continue to bear fruit in 2011-2012 and beyond. Metro Transit Risk Management numbers show that the number of collisions fell from an average of 967 in 2009-2010 to an average of 904 in 2011-2012 — a decrease of 6.5 percent.
In 2009-2010, Metro Transit was paying roughly $1.6 million in risk management claims related to collisions each year. As a result of the system safety programs implemented, by 2011-2012, claim amounts had dropped by more than 70 percent to $419,000. Not only had the number of collisions declined but also the severity. The average cost per collision dropped 72 percent, from an average of $1,638 in 2009-2010 to just $463 per collision in 2011-2012.
These results demonstrate the effectiveness of using a system safety approach to collision reduction. Bus Operations, Bus Maintenance, Training and Marketing worked together in a comprehensive effort of education, equipment improvement and outreach that made it possible. And the good management practice of measured enforcement was a needed component as well.
This program relied on readily available tools, such as Safety Keys from the Smith System of defensive driving, and the creativity of Metro Transit staff. Metro Transit is happy to share any of its training and promotional materials, including the video “Winter Driving: What Would You Do?” and our Look & See promotion logos and bulletins.
This program was innovative in its delivery, commitment from management and community involvement — all leading to a sustained reduction in collisions. Customer campaigns were kicked off during other promotional events. It took a major commitment from management to make this a sustained effort.
All of this can be summed up in one of Metro Transit’s Guiding Principles: “We provide a safe and secure environment for our customers, community and employees through consistent training, enforcement and allocation of resources.” Put another way, safety is the cornerstone of what we do.