Guest Article: Struck by a City Bus in Jacksonville

Here’s a harrowing tale submitted by longtime reader and friend Abishek Mukherjee. Luckily, the story has a (mostly) happy ending…Shek escaped with only minor injuries and the Jacksonville Transit Authority (JTA) did the right thing by agreeing to buy him a replacement for his Xtracycle. Things could have been much worse, as you will see by the video feed from the JTA bus. Anyhow, read on:

On the 7th of September 2011 at 5:30 PM, a city bus hit me while I was riding my bicycle.

I was riding my Xtracycle to a North Florida Transportation Planning Organizaton meeting. Eastbound, I was riding on Riverside Ave. A Jacksonville Transit Authority bus was behind me. The city bus tried to pass me within inches and side-swiped me. If the bus was going to pass me, it had to give me at least 3 feet from the side of the bus during the pass. This is the law. This law is meant to protect me. But the bus driver failed to follow the law. The bus driver failed to be safe. I was thrown off my bike. The bike fell. The rear wheels of the bus ran over the bike.

As I picked myself up with pain in my lower-back and hip area and a bloody elbow, I noticed that the bus had stopped. As I hobbled towards the bus, the door opened. The driver said, “Rescue is coming. I called everyone.” As it turns out, he had called only his supervisor who called Rescue. When the police arrived on the scene with Fire Rescue, I gave them my story. The bus driver was not truthful. He tried to blame me. He gave them a different story, something like him going along merrily and me swerving into the bus hitting him. The city busses are equipped with cameras. Upon hearing from me what happened and viewing the video, the police officer assigned blame to the bus driver. The police officer disregarded the bus driver’s excuse for causing the crash. At the same time, the police officer did not ticket the bus driver for violating the 3 foot passing law. I worry that most police officers don’t even know about the law.

Rescue escorted me to the hospital close by. The pains in my hip area were excruciating. My left knee was swelling up and my left foot was aching. After a bucket-load of x-rays, the doctor announced that he could not find anything broken. He wrote me a prescription for pain killers and sent me home. Recovery has been slow. Between swellings, sore-points, ice packs and pain killers, I can only find relief in the fact that this could have been a lot worse. I am currently seeing a specialist about the residual pains that show no signs of going away three weeks after the accident.

(Editor’s note…look away if you get squeamish by pics of crushed bicycles):


Image courtesy Matt Uhrig of

The Xtracycle had a worse fate. It was built as a freeradical attached to a steel-framed Specialized Rockhopper. The bus ran over the freeradical and crumpled the frame which in turn twisted the rear triangle of the bike. The entire bike is totaled. My attorney, Chris Burns, an avid cyclist himself, insisted that the JTA replace my bicycle. They have given me a check for a new Xtracycle. It is a tremendous benefit to have an attorney on your side who is more than familiar with bicycling law.

It is frustrating that I was hit when I was riding safely and legally and correctly. I have been advocating for bicycles as transportation for over four years and I am intimately familiar with the law. I stop at every stop light and stop sign, even when riding in a group. I have always maintained that the law is insufficient to protect cyclists and the enforcement of the law is often lazy. It is a mere thin blanket of laws which allows bicycles on the road but fails to protect cyclists adequately. Most bicyclists own cars and/or property and are tax paying members of community. I am sure there is a lack of education to motorists about bicycle laws and better educated motorists may be more alert and accommodating on the road. On the other hand, education does not stop motorists from crashing into each other either.

Editor’s note: here’s the video feed from the cameras installed on JTA buses. As you can see, Shek was visible and in good lane position; the bus driver didn’t even try to comply with Florida’s 3-Foot Law, at least in my opinion:

September JTA Accident from Abhishek Mukherjee on Vimeo.

Matt Uhrig of Bike Jax has an excellent “companion article” that offers more detail and commentary. Take a look at it by clicking here. I will offer my own brief commentary, however; not on this incident but on the 3-Foot Law on Florida’s books. As good as this law is on paper, it is incredibly difficult to enforce. And, I am convinced that not enough people (including motorists, many cyclists, and law enforcement officials) are aware of the requirement to give a safe 3-foot passing “buffer” to cyclists on the roads. As you can read from Shek’s account, even though there was clear evidence of a violation of this 3-Foot Law, the bus driver wasn’t charged with that violation. Ironically, JTA buses have been running a “3-Foot Law Awareness Campaign” since 2008, when the law went into effect.


  1. Rider

    Replace your Xtracycle?

    Maybe you need a better attorney!

  2. Iron_Man

    I swear the bus drivers in my town are exactly the same way. They are THE MOST LIKELY, of all drivers I encounter routinely, to refuse to pass me at a safe distance. Like in Shek’s video, they are entirely too eager to get past when I’m moving into a bike lane. Is their schedule really that tight, that a five-second pause is going to throw it all off? I mostly encounter them on a street with a designated center turning lane that many bus drivers refuse to cross into when overtaking me, even when it’s just he and I on the road at the time. It really puzzles me as well, because our bus system is constantly promoting itself to cyclists to combine bus and bike trips. A little corporate reminder that every employee is involved with the marketing and branding of the company might be in order there. Our bus system is part of city utilities, so don’t get me started on how little they could care about customer service, corporate image and attention to detail.

  3. Brian Ogilvie

    I wonder whether the bus driver expected Shek to pull into the crosshatched area of pavement and hug the curb, instead of staying at the edge of the travel lane. That doesn’t condone his reckless driving but it might explain it; too often cyclists hug the curb even when it’s dangerous to do so.

    I wish Shek a speedy recovery!

  4. Mike Myers

    It’s a good thing the bus had cameras. I’m sure the city will be more than happy to buy you a brand new Surly Big Dummy to replace the Xtracycle.

  5. Ghost Rider

    @Iron Man — amen…I’ve experienced much the same, depending on which bus route I was riding on. And I have heard SO MANY similar stories from all around the U.S. Mayhap bus drivers need some additional training?

  6. Guy

    I’ve had buses pass me with just inches to spare. This includes school buses as well. Bus drivers are either very aggressive or very assertive. They’ve learned long ago that if they’re not, they’re stuck while everyone else passes them. I understand that. However, they’re safely shielded while I’m just flesh and bone.

  7. harry krishna

    the remedy is civil action, not criminal. passing a law is not enough. there will have to be a case in criminal court to set a precedent that will withstand appeal. there is a lawyer in atlanta who is very knowledgeable in this area.

  8. Iron_Man

    I did just shoot our bus department this story, along with my experiences. It’s a little.

  9. BluesCat

    Last year, I had a Phoenix police office pull up behind me as I was waiting at a stop sign to cross a busy road. He beeped at me and told me I didn’t “belong out there” in that traffic lane. It was a two-lane road in a housing subdivision and evidently he thought I was supposed to dismount and walk my bike across the road like a pedestrian, instead of waiting at the stop sign until it was safe to cross by riding the bike.

    I complained to the Phoenix PD that my understanding of the law was that “A person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is
    granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the
    driver of a vehicle…” (Arizona Revised Statutes 28-812)

    The officer’s precinct commander called me later, apologized, and explained that EVEN HE HAD TO LOOK UP THE 28-812 STATUTE IN ORDER TO KNOW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT!

    So, yeah, even the COPS in our auto-centric society don’t know the laws regarding bicycles.

  10. sara

    I am so glad that Abhishek is OK. As a bike-commuting parent, I could not help but do an extra cringe when I watched this footage, noting that Abhishek has stoker bars on his Xtra and thinking about how a little passenger could have easily been on that bike….

    I find it particularly ironic in my city when a city bus bears down on me, especially close, and I see that the bus’s back tail ad is from CT. Dept. of Transportation’s “Share the Road” campaign.

  11. Dacius

    Abishek I ride the exact same road every morning. Cars, cops, and buses expect us to ride in the parking spots, which are covered in glass and road debris. About 5 miles from you incident I was told by a cop on a loud speaker to get out of the road. This particular area did NOT have a sidewalk. So I ignored him and he sped by with a few inches of clearance. I called JSO and they asked me if I got his badge #. I gave them the car # and they said it wasn’t right. I told the where I was, the time, and the description of the car (it was one of those undercover cop cars with mo lights) and they basically said that was not good enough.

    Jacksonville will end up killing someone with their disregard for cyclist.

  12. Abhishek

    Thank your for all your comments and support.
    Thank you Jack for the venue.

    My intention was not to bring bad publicity to JTA but to bring awareness to how vulnerable we cyclists are and how critical each little law is that governs us. The video and picture are inconvenient to view but they are the truth none-the-less. Lack of understanding of the law on part of motorists and professional drivers is unsettling, but more so is the lack of understanding of the law among the enforcers. Several JSO officers have yelled at me in the past while a few actually do know the law and ride bicycles. Education is only a small part of the gap that needs to be bridged.

    Be safe out there.

  13. Chris

    That video is really disconcerting. I have had close calls with buses trying to cut in front of me to get to the bus stop (all of 5 seconds sooner than it would take them to wait for me to ride past it), but nothing quite like that.
    On the busier roads I actually sometimes take the bus now, especially if there’s a lot of traffic. It’s not always my first choice, but at least I’ve got a folding bike so I can take it on the bus wihh me

  14. John

    I don’t think the majority of people are aware of this 3 foot law, I certainly wasn’t until i saw this article.
    The best way of making people aware of this law would be an Ad campaign on the main TV station, take the video to your state representatives explaining the need for a safety Ad campaign on prime time.

    Scary video, could have been much worse, inches away from serious injury or even death!

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