Friday, December 17, 2010

Bus v. Bike: The Full Story

Friday, December 3: I’m riding one of my bikes down to see some friends of mine play at Rudyards. A little before 10PM when I’m on Lawndale by the cemetery, I hear a bus coming up behind me. The bus passes within a foot of me, almost causing a serious accident. And just for full disclosure’s sake, there wasn’t another car on that 4 lane road at the time and I was to the right side of the right lane. The driver intentionally rode as close to me as they could even though they had another whole lane to move into that wouldn’t have slowed them down in the least (not that they’d have an excuse for treating my life as callously as they did even if there was other traffic).

Saturday, December 4: I call into Houston Metro to file a complaint about the driver from the previous night. From the very beginning, Christian seems completely unconcerned that a Metro driver almost intentionally killed someone. He tells me there is nothing Metro can do because I wasn’t able to get the bus number, even though I told him the time and location. I told him I wanted a phone call back from a supervisor and left my contact information. Christian gives me no clue on when I can expect a call back and repeats again that Metro can’t do anything about it.

Sunday, December 5: I call back into Metro and again speak with Christian. I ask why I haven’t received a call back yet and then am told that the supervisors don’t work on the weekends and I’ll get a call within 3 days starting on Monday. I immediately ask him, “You are saying that I’ll get a call back no later than Wednesday?” and he agrees, I’ll get a call within 3 days. Then I say I have the bus number now (I looked up bus routes as soon as I hung up from the 1st call and found out that there is only one bus that goes down Lawndale), before I can say what it was Christian interrupts me and says that he knows, it’s the 36 and that’s the only bus that goes that way…. OK, that’s not at all what he told me the day before. I again tell him where the near-accident happened (this time I told him the closest bus stop) and what direction the driver and I were heading (he didn’t bother to ask that the first time) and now Christian tells me they can find the driver who I said did this and investigate the situation.

Thursday, December 9: After receiving no phone call from Metro the previous 3 days I call in and again speak to Christian. Now he tells me that I’m supposed to receive a phone call within 3 to 5 business days of the original complaint.

Friday, December 10: Call back into Metro again in the afternoon since this is day 5 and I don’t want to wait until Monday to find out what’s going on. I finally speak to someone besides Christian, who now tells me I’m supposed to have a complaint number. What? I was never given one in my previous 3 phone calls. She’s able to look up my complaint anyway using my name and tells me that no supervisor has even looked at it yet. She offers to put me through to someone’s voice mail and I lose my cool. I yell at her that it’s absolute bullshit that Metro doesn’t seem to care that one of their drivers almost killed someone, and why is it taking a week for someone to even look into this? She says that I must have misunderstood her and I let her patch me through, but I understood perfectly. She wasn’t putting me through to someone who could finally get to work on my complaint, she was putting me through to someone’s voicemail, when who knows when that person would check their messages. As it turned out, I couldn’t leave a message anyway. A menu would cut in after a second into my attempt to leave a message asking me to send the message as is or rerecord. It was impossible for me to leave a message past, “hi, my name is –“.

I hang up and call back into Metro again, this time getting Erica. This is the first person I talk to at Metro who actually sounds concerned about what happened to me and my lack of getting answers. She tells me that Christian should have never given me the (multiple) time frame(s) he did, that it’s actual Metro policy to return a phone call within 3-7 days (sigh). She then offers to transfer me to her supervisor but when I tell her about what just happened with the previous person I talked to and the nonexistent voice mail she actually stayed on the line with me until her supervisor was actually able to take my call without sending me to voicemail.

Now I’m talking to Antoinette and repeating my original complaint and all the new complaints I have about the misinformation and runaround I’ve been getting from Metro for the past week. Like Erica, she seems legitimately sympathetic to me and apologizes to me profusely. Antoinette also tells me that there was a note in my complaint file that someone tried to call me for additional information but that person was unable to get a hold of me or leave a message (remember I was told not half an hour before, that no one had even looked at my complaint yet). Now, I did receive a missed call earlier in the day, but there was no message left and the number wouldn’t accept incoming calls and I told Antoinette this. Whoever called me before was perfectly able to leave a message for me, they just chose not to. She then offers to transfer me to Carla R., who is allegedly the person who is actually handling my complaint. I stop her and tell her about the voice mail debacle earlier and she assures me that Carla’s voicemail works and that she is in charge of my complaint and will get back to me as soon as possible. I let her transfer me and I leave a message, explaining the clif note’s of what’s happened and asking her to call me back ASAP.

Monday, December 13: I finally receive a call back from Metro, but it’s not from Carla R. (unfortunately I missed this guy’s name at the beginning and didn’t think to ask him to repeat it), it was from possibly the smuggest asshole Houston Metro employs. He apologizes for how long this has taken, but he was out of town and then he had jury duty and call backs usually take 8 days (lolwut?) anyway. He says that they talked to the driver and the situation has been handled. I ask him how it’s been handled and he tells me he can’t tell me that. He then sighs and says, “Well would it make you feel better if I told you the guy was fired?” Thanks asshole, this has nothing to do with my feelings, and has everything to do with how I was almost killed the weekend before and Metro seems utterly unconcerned about it. I then ask him what kind of training their drivers have to share the road properly with cyclists and it’s clear from this guy’s answer that he has absolutely no clue about the legal rights of cyclists on Texas roads. Great.

So a Metro driver intentionally tries to run a cyclist off the road. It takes over a week and 6 phone calls for anyone to take it seriously and then… they still don’t take it seriously. I was just expected to take this guy at his word that the driver involved was disciplined after being repeatedly lied to by Metro employees. And the worst part is, I will see that driver again, unless he or she was actually fired. If I want to ride into downtown or Montrose (where I spend most of my time when not at work or home), I have to take Lawndale or else go several miles out of my way. I’m going to fear for my life every time a bus passes me in that area when I’m doing something I love to do and doesn’t hurt anyone. Thanks Houston Metro!

If anyone sees a Houston Metro bus driver take the lives of cyclists or pedestrians into their hands, or you just want to know why they didn’t take seriously what happened to me, please contact them at 713-658-0180 or

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Good, The Sad, and The Ugly

Since I still have bike in the blog title and a bike picture as my avatar I figured I should give an update on things bike related in my world for the last few months.

The Good
Some generous soul has taken pity on me and filled a hole in my heart I didn't know I had by donating to me a unicycle. Now I just need to learn how to ride a unicycle.

The Sad
I gain one wheel and lose 2. I sold my pink baby to a friend of mine. Hopefully she can treat her with the respect she deserves and actually get her out on the streets of Houston more than I ever could (doing 15-20 miles round trip on a cruiser that's not quite my size is not something I want to do, no matter how pretty my ride is).

Farewell, my love. You are in good hands now.

The Ugly
I'm currently in a fight with the bus system (Metro) of Houston. See, I am of the belief that I shouldn't have to worry about being intentionally killed by a bus driver when I'm utilizing my legal right to ride a bicycle on a city street. They evidently disagree. Or at least are undecided... I'm still waiting on a call back from my complaint.

Seriously, last Friday a bus came within a foot of hitting me. 12 fucking inches, and yes, it was intentional. Let me count the ways this driver could have killed or seriously injured me:
*Could have clipped me with the side mirror.
*Could have startled me enough to make me veer off course, either causing me to crash into the curb, or crash into the bus and end up getting run over.
*Could have sucked me under the wheels of the bus with the draft as the bus passed (seriously, I was fighting the draft hard).
*Could have misjudged their distance from me and hit me straight on, or run into me as they passed.
It was my ability to confidently ride a bike and pure fucking luck that kept me from being killed last Friday. The driver intentionally tried to drive as close to me as they could and it could have easily turned into a disastrous situation for me.

I've called into Metro 4 times now and each time I get different information about when I should be receiving a call back about what they are doing about this situation. Up until my last phone call with them yesterday afternoon, I have gotten nothing but the run around and false information about what is happening with my complaint. The last person I talked to even claimed that there was a note in my file that someone did attempt to call me but they were unable to reach me and leave a message. Bullshit. I did get one missed call on Friday, but whoever it was that called then did not leave a message, not could not.

It's not that hard Houston Metro. (At least) One of your drivers is intentionally endangering the lives of other people on the road. It shouldn't take a week or longer to try to "resolve" this. Get on the fucking ball.