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Let buses in

Published January 17, 2013 1:01 am

Change would improve traffic flow
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Bicycles and buses. The two don't appear to have much in common, except that they are alternative methods of transportation to cars and trucks, alternatives that should be respected by motorists but too often aren't.

Many motorists become impatient when cyclists or bus drivers get in their way, impeding their speed or forcing them to stop or even hesitate. But many of those same motorists would tell you we should encourage fewer private motor vehicles because of air pollution and traffic congestion.

Bus drivers rightly believe they should be allowed to re-enter traffic flow after stopping to let passengers get on and off. That seems reasonable, but in practice it can be difficult. And waiting for a string of cars and trucks to move past at every stop can put them off their schedule, causing frustration for passengers.

That's why a group of bus drivers and the Utah Transit Authority are supporting, and helping write, legislation that would require other drivers to yield to a bus with its turn signal on, trying to move into traffic.

Courtesy and respect for public transit shouldn't require legislation, but, sadly, many drivers in Utah have a determined, don't-even-try attitude toward other vehicles moving into a traffic lane in front of their vehicles. It's an anomaly in a state populated mostly by people who are thoughtful and reasonable — when they aren't behind the wheel.

What UTA is proposing would change the current law that says drivers trying to enter traffic "shall yield the right of way to all vehicles traveling in the continuing lane." The proposal, contained in Senate Bill 121 sponsored by Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, would reverse that language for buses to read: Other drivers "shall yield the right of way to a public transit vehicle traveling in the same direction that has signaled and is re-entering ... traffic."

Some opponents of the bill say the change could be confusing and that it isn't necessary. They suggest, instead, educating the public about the importance of giving space to buses so they can leave a stop promptly.

But that optimistic attitude has little to support it. Motorists need more than admonishment; they need laws that require them to drive responsibly. Traffic laws are designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly and prevent accidents. Motorists should be required to accommodate the stop-and-go patterns of UTA buses by letting them re-enter traffic quickly. Without a mandate, motorists are too likely to block a vehicle, especially a lumbering bus, from moving ahead of them. It's the Utah way.




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