Sunday, April 5, 2009

Concerning School Buses, and the Rules Particular to Them

When I lived in Somerville, Mass., I commuted by bicycle fifteen minutes to Cambridge (technically, a Somerville-to-Cambridge commute could be accomplished in under a second, but from my house to my work was fifteen minutes). Along this route, almost without fail, I got stuck behind a school bus discharging its precious cargo (kids). Why was I stuck when I was on a bike, you ask, and thus able to maneuver in traffic as agilely as a koi navigates a putrescent pond? Because when school buses discharge kids, a stop sign extends from the left side of them, forbidding cars from passing in either direction. I assume this is a hedge against children's propensity to dart into traffic, and it is sensible, but I always felt it wouldn't be so bad if I just inched forward while astride my bike until I had passed the youths and could resume my usual high rate of speed. Unfortunately, the spot where this always happened (in front of the King Open School in Cambridge, if you must know) was presided over by one of those neighborhood-mayor-type crossing guards, and she once scolded me when I tried to creep past, so I made a habit of waiting and chatting with her. I have always been unclear, though, on precisely the extent of the no-movement-around-school-buses-discharging-kids rule. To wit, I was driving a car in the North End not long ago, on Capen Street, I think, and I came to a four-way stop, where I brought my vehicle to a complete stop and checked for pedestrians and crossing traffic. Stopped about fifteen feet before the stop sign to my left was a school bus, with special bus-side stop sign extended and lights flashing. The children exiting this bus were entering some building right in front of the bus, not crossing the street in front of me, so after checking again, I proceeded across the intersection. This occasioned strenuous honking and angry gesturing from the school bus driver. Did I do wrong? Does it matter that I was driving and not on a bike? Will stiumulus package money fix this problem?

This diagram makes me think I did right, but I never count out the possibility that I have failed to notice something that proves I am in the wrong.


Nomad said...

If things have not changed since my Drivers Ed course, I believe all vehicles within 100 feet of the bus, on the same road or any intersecting are supposed to stop and wait. The idea is that the child may be running across a single street or multiple adjacent streets to get home, and probably won't watch the traffic. Since bikes are covered by the same laws as cars in CT, even bicyclists are burdened by the law. (And being a big guy myself, I imagine I could do some real damage hitting an elementary schooler at any rate of speed. Probably if I just lost balance while still and landed on him/her.)

Brendan said...

It's if you're on the same road as the bus. So people behind the bus and oncoming traffic must stop, which makes sense if you follow the usual red light/stop sign rules. However, if you're on a divided highway or road with a median, oncoming traffic for the bus doesn't have to stop.

People don't like to follow this rules in Hartford.

Bianca said...

Hi Brendan,
When I took my driver's test in 1997 in CT there was a question exactly on what you mention: must you stop for a bus on a divided highway/turnpike. I answered no and got the answer wrong. It's one of those things that's burned into my memory from Patz driving school in Newington. That and this 90s driver's ed rap video.

So unless, the law has changed, I'm sure you have to stop for buses on divided highways.

El Presidente de China said...

All I know is that a highway divided against itself cannot stand.

Brendan said...

I got the "how does marijuana affect your driving?" question wrong. The bus question wasn't on the test when I took it.

However, per the CT Driver's manual: You must stop for a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your side of the road, the
opposite side of the road, or at an intersection you are approaching. You are not required to stop if the bus is traveling
towards you and a median or other physical barrier separates the roadway. After the school bus╩╝ red lights have
stopped flashing, watch for children along the side of the road and do not proceed until they have completely left the
roadway and it is safe to proceed.

(pg. 60

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