I am a big fan of public transit and a loyal, daily rider of the Big Blue Bus.
There is a problem, however, I have brought a number of times at BBB public meetings: some of the drivers use the bus’s horn inappropriately.
According to the California Drivers Handbook, the horn should only be used, “When necessary to avoid accidents. Don’t honk at other times.” As an example of valid use of the horn, it says: “Try to get “eye contact” with other drivers. Tap your horn to alert another driver who might turn in front of you.”
The same source says that drivers – and it does not give an exception for bus drivers that I can see – should not honk at other drivers who are driving too slowly, or to show other drivers that they have made a mistake.
As a rider of BBB route 1 to UCLA, I have sometimes witnessed as many as 13 violations of this rule within three miles. To be fair, I do not always see what the driver sees, and some of these seem directed at cars coming out of driveways or difficult cross streets.
The worst, and repeated violation I have seen, seems clearly wrong: the bus is sitting line at an intersection waiting to turn left — say, at Santa Monica Boulevard ready to turn left onto Westwood — or to turn right – say at Westwood turning right on to Le Conte. One car is in front of the bus. It does not move fast enough for the driver. The driver honks.
Think of this. Both the bus and the car in front are stopped. There can be no accident.
This is wrong for me when I am driving my own car, and it has to be wrong for a bus driver. It disturbs me as a rider, and why should that matter? I’m only a customer.
It may cause the driver of the car ahead to make a mistake, and ruin his or her day.
As I say, I am in favor of public transportation, and a noisy driver must make lousy public relations with pedestrians and neighbors, as well.
I have observed: Drivers honking at pedestrians, and drivers honking at bicycles — when the bus is stopped and just wants to clear the way. Some drivers will honk at other buses. Today, I heard a driver tootle “shave and a haircut” at a BBB driving the route in the opposite direction, and it was not the first time.
The drivers’ handbook only reflects the California Motor Vehicle Code, starting at section 27001. Our good lawgivers thought that the peace is best maintained by honking only for safety’s sake. Do you agree?
To the management of the Big Blue Bus, I have some questions.
1) Are the honking drivers instructed by management to honk in inappropriate situations, or are they rogue?
2) If the Big Blue Bus policy is in accord with state law, do they communicate this with their own drivers?
3) If the Big Blue Bus policy is not in accord with state law, why not? Can you, management, explain why buses should be different than regular drivers? Do you have some exemption we don’t know about?
The motor code is not just the law, it is a good idea. We need safer streets, and barring some obvious hazard, the safest way of driving is quietly. We need quiet neighborhoods. The Blue Bus, surely, wants riders such as myself to have a pleasant experience.
Readers of the Mirror, in a few months Big Blue Bus will have public meetings for comment. If you have made observations along these lines, please let them know what you think.
Larry A. Taylor
West Los Angeles