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Videos: Instructor tells trainee London bus driver to leave 1 inch passing space for every 1mph of speed

Also, cyclists see just how bad blind spots are on London buses - but one driver says mirrors are illegal

A driving instructor employed by a major bus operator in London has been shown on TV advising a learner driver to allow 1 inch of clearance for every 1 mile per hour when assessing the safe distance needed to negotiate traffic.

Meanwhile, police have been highlighting to cyclists the blind spots bus drivers are subject to – but one person who drives a bus in London for a living says that mirrors fitted to the vehicles are illegal under current laws.

The six-part ITV series Double Decker Driving School followed Arriva London would-be bus drivers and their instructors.

In 2014, the company received more than 8,000 applications from prospective bus drivers, of whom 371 went on to pass their test to drive the company’s buses.

In this clip, uploaded to YouTube by Tom Kearney, who has campaigned for pedestrian and cyclist safety around buses since he was struck by one on Oxford Street shortly before Christmas 2009, sending him into a coma, the instructor comes up with advice that isn’t found anywhere in the Highway Code.

After telling the trainee to slow down before passing a bus ahead of the vehicle he is driving, he says: “You’re going to hit this bus. The tighter the gap, the slower your speed. So if it’s about a foot, 12 inches, we do about 12 miles an hour. If it’s one inch each side, we do one mile an hour.”

The learner driver, Alvin, doesn’t quite seem to grasp the concept – to the general amusement of all.

While the footage relates to a specific situation - passing a stopped bus - the advice does seem general in nature, and could cause concern among many regarding what trainee bus drivers end up considering a safe passing distance.

The Highway Code reinforces throughout that all motorists need to take particular care around vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, and also says that they should give cyclists as much space as they would when overtaking a car.

Ahead of the first episode of the TV series, which ran from March to late April, Arriva London training manager, Jayne Steer, said: “Many people who have never driven a bus think that it is easy, but it takes a certain kind of person with skill, ability, patience and a good understanding of customer service, to qualify.”

“What is interesting is that many people join the company as bus drivers, thinking they will just do it for a short time, but when they see the opportunities there are to progress within the business, they stay and make a career with us.”

The company operates two training centres in London, in Edmonton and Croydon, which have a combined fleet of 31 buses as well as classroom facilities and are staffed by 32 full-time driving instructors plus two full-time examiners on secondment from the DVLA.

But it’s not just passing distances that can put cyclists at risk around the capital’s buses.

As this video posted by Arriva London makes clear, the design of buses such as London’s current generation of Routemasters and the mirrors they use make it difficult – and at times impossible – for drivers to see people on bikes on the inside of the vehicle.

The video shows a cyclist being talked through what the driver can and cannot see by a Metropolitan Police officer as part of the force’s Exchanging Places scheme, run in partnership with Transport for London (TfL).

In a comment to that video, Mr Kearney said: “It is unacceptable for Arriva to foist that myth about mirrors having to be deficient because they would hit people.

“There are plenty of mirrors on the market that would allow a Bus Driver to see much better on the nearside and are ‘collapsible’ upon impact with pedestrians, but they would be more expensive than the obviously-deficient mirrors TfL and the Traffic Commissioner allow Arriva to get away with.”

A guest post by an anonymous bus driver published in February on Mr Kearney’s campaigning blog asserts that the mirrors currently fitted to London’s buses are illegal under EU law.

Contrasting the situation surrounding buses with the regulations enforced at times against lorry operators, he says: “It’s ludicrous that there are some 7,000 London Buses on the road this very day and not one Bus has been stopped, not one Bus has been fined and not one Bus has been taken off the road – why?

“I want TfL and the Driving and Vehicle Standard Agency and the Police to start stopping all London Buses from today, and fine them the £1,000 per Bus and the Bus taken off the road until the correct mirrors are fitted.

“Now even with the correct mirror fitted they are only satisfying the bare legal requirement.”

Early last month, Mr Kearney launched a campaign on Twitter, where he tweets as @comadad, called #LondonBusWatch in which he appealed for users of the social network to share examples of poor driving of buses in the city.


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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